A month ago, after the Senate delivered its impeachment verdict, I wrote a column talking smack about Ben Sasse over his post-verdict Facebook statement. Sasse voted to convict Donald Trump, so he was getting a lot of mainstream cred at the time, and some of his statement was unobjectionable, but then he got to the part where he wrote that “if we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug…”
The point of the column was that no, Democrats would not behave toward a Democratic president who incited an armed siege against the temple of our democracy in anything like the same way Republicans behaved toward Trump. I thought it was a strong argument, but of course, since there was no Democratic chief executive accused of serious wrongdoing, it was largely hypothetical.
Well, now there is a Democratic chief executive accused of serious wrongdoing. And what are Democrats saying about Andrew Cuomo? Are they coddling him? Are they making excuses for him? Are they rushing past reporters, pretending that they didn’t read or hear the governor’s latest comments?
Of course not. They’re investigating him and calling on him to resign. Senator Sasse, have you taken note?
Now, Republicans and conservatives will note the differences. Funny how they love to point out differences when it helps their shaky case, while in fact 90 percent of the time they blur distinctions so they can cry, “See, Democrats do it too!” But anyway, yes, there is one big difference, which is that Trump was the president, while Cuomo is just a governor. But he’s an important governor of an important state. If the Democrats’ reflex were to defend and excuse, rest assured they’d be doing it here.
But that isn’t their reflex. They actually have a few principles, which include the belief that men should treat women as equals. What a concept. It’s obviously quite alien to the Republican Party, which nominated and elected a man with 20-something sexual assault allegations hanging over his head.
In fact, if anything, Democrats have sometimes gone too far in the opposite direction when the allegations are of a sexual nature. You know that I’m talking here about Al Franken, who was denied his due-process rights in a stupid rush to win a Senate seat in Alabama that everybody knew the party was going to lose two years later anyhow.
And yes, by the way, the Franken case proves that Democrats can behave expediently, too. The real reason they sacrificed Franken was that Minnesota had a Democratic governor, so Senate Democrats knew that he would name a Democratic successor, which he did. If the state had had a Republican governor, Senate Democrats would have been pounding the lectern insisting on Franken’s due-process rights.
So I’m not saying anyone is perfect here. Politicians respond to political pressure. In the Democratic Party, politicians get pressure from women’s groups and feminist groups to take certain actions in such cases. In the GOP, there is no such pressure. But the bottom line here is that Democrats aren’t just blindly defending Cuomo. Indeed, quite the opposite.
Personally, I think Cuomo—like Franken; like any accused person in this country—is entitled to his due-process rights. Let’s wait for Attorney General Letitia James’ report. I get that that may not be politically realistic, but ideally, I’d like to live in a world where we don’t rush to judgment and where we defend due process, even for people who are unpleasant and have made a lot of enemies.
I know everyone won’t agree with me on that. The broad point is the Democrats are grappling here with competing important principles: one, the principle that powerful men cannot treat women in the way Cuomo is alleged to have treated his accusers; two, respect for due process. These principles are in conflict here. Some will privilege the first, others will privilege the second. Both positions are defensible and understandable.
But with Republicans and Trump, there weren’t competing principles. There was one “principle”: don’t give in to the libs. The same was true with regard to Brett Kavanaugh and Jim Jordan, cases in which Republicans showed no interest whatsoever in trying to determine whether the allegations had any merit to them.
And it’s true right now in the case of freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn. The recent sexual allegations against Cawthorn, the man whose bucket list included a frolic in Berchtesgaden, are every bit as serious as those against Cuomo. And what are national and North Carolina Republicans saying about them? Nothing. Not a peep. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Republican Party did officially censure Senator Richard Burr—for voting to convict Trump.
It is a morally corrupt political party that we’re dealing with here. As I pointed out in the column last month, the Republican Party wasn’t always this way. Barry Goldwater told Richard Nixon he had to go. But that was two generations ago. Now, the party has no principles at all; just its commitment to power and to anti-modernity in all its manifestations.
We can’t let people like Sasse get away with casual and mendacious both-siderism. He’s correct that tribalism is a hell of a drug. But only one of the two major parties is a junkie.