sexual assault

Schneiderman Shows It’s Risky to Choose a Male Candidate

Need another reason to make 2018 a Year of the Woman? Take a look at Eric Schneiderman. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As the shock wears off from the lightning-quick fall of Empire State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after The New Yorker published damning allegations of horrific and perhaps criminal behavior towards four women, it is occurring to some acute observers that perhaps we should no longer be shocked. Here’s Esquire’s Charles Pierce:

The downfall of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman completes the unholy trinity of prominent liberal New York politicians whose careers went into the acid bath because, at one level or another, they failed to see women as actual human beings. Eliot Spitzer got involved with a prostitution ring. Anthony Weiner used women as sounding boards for his own pleasure. And Schneiderman, allegedly, physically assaulted his romantic partners. And, in this, again, political pundits learn the lesson that gets drummed into every sportswriter over and over: none of us really know these guys.

It’s not like you could see Schneiderman’s disgrace coming via some misogynistic political impulse. As David Freedlander notes, he was a progressive role model:

Schneiderman was the scion of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer who donated generously to causes like Planned Parenthood and public radio. He came up through the world of public interest law, one of those do-good types who keep protesters away from abortion clinics and government running with a minimum of corruption.

But even if he is a lefty “golden boy” rather than a right-wing “good old boy,” Schneiderman is, after all, a boy. And at some point, people should begin to wonder if placing big bets on male politicians at this particular juncture of history is a mite risky, all else being equal. Indeed, if equity or fair representation isn’t a good enough reason for 2018 to be a “Year of the Woman,” the significantly lower likelihood of female candidates turning out to be abusive could be the clincher, at least until pre-#MeToo-movement generations have passed from the scene. I’m not talking about any sort of ban or crusade against members of my own gender, but just a long look at the growing number of celebrities facing a reckoning and a realistic assessment of the odds of a random politician conflating power with opportunities for coercive sex.

This is true even at the highest levels of politics and government. This isn’t the sort of thing that tends to make it into print, but I cannot tell you how many times progressive friends and acquaintances (including serious feminists) have told me that after what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats would be foolish to run another woman against Donald Trump in 2020, encouraging the same kind of sexist voter reactions and media coverage that beset HRC. From that perspective, the ontological necessity of denying Trump a second term outweighs another assault on the country’s most important glass ceiling; let Nikki Haley or (shudder) Joni Ernst become the first woman to serve as president and defang electoral sexism once and for all.

The reckoning, though, ought to make Democrats think less about the perils of a female nominee and a more about the potentially serious consequences of a male nominee who, like Schneiderman may, has a hidden habit of treating his success as a license to act in a beastly manner out of the public eye. Yes, all human beings, and certainly all politicians, are in some respects weak and fallible. But let’s face it: the kind of sins that tend to lose elections are not equally distributed between the sexes.

Schneiderman Shows It’s Risky to Choose a Male Candidate