Thursday, August 16, 2018

Petty Tyrants




Once upon a time, we valued oratory. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered the best speech given by a US president, followed by JFK’s inaugural speech. Alas, those days are behind us. In  2018, presidential oratory comes to us over the social media platform Twitter, in 280 characters or less. What will the Trump Presidential Library look like?

 This week, Donald Trump launched a tweet referring to former staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman as a dog.  Ms. Manigault-Newman is African American. Imagine the response if President Obama had referred to a white woman as a dog?  Trump managed to hit the racist and misogynist dog whistles in a single tweet. I wonder how we’ll ever come back from this presidency, if we can, or even if we should.

We have a president who has said horrible things about women throughout his arrogant, white guy life. We’ve all seen the Access Hollywood tape where he boasts of grabbing women by their private parts. On The Apprentice, he routinely referred to deaf actress Marlee Matlin as retarded. He told Howard Stern that his own daughter was a real piece of a**. When his third wife was giving birth to his fifth child, what was he doing? Stormy Daniels. This is not a man who has any respect for women, including the women in his own family, yet Republican women still support him. The closest I can come to an explanation is that he pisses off the people they hate. What they don’t seem to grasp is that he hates them, too.

There’s a lot of that going around. NH State Senator Jeff Woodburn (a Democrat) was recently arrested and charged with domestic violence. He’s refused to resign, and his name will be on the ballot in November. Imagine the trial, and how that will reflect on our state. Also refusing to resign is State Representative Eric Schleien, (a Republican) who is going to trial for molesting a teenaged girl. The judge in the case refused a plea deal, because he wants Schleien to serve some time in jail. 

At the beginning of August, the NH House released files of State House harassment complaints received since January, in response to right-to-know requests made by various media outlets.  The complaints are made to the House Chief of Staff, Terry Pfaff, who is also in charge of investigating them. One complaint was filed by a House staffer, who reported that a male lawmaker had a pattern of abusive behavior, referring to her as “the old bat,” or “the granny in the corner.” He told another legislator (in front of her) that, “she hates men.” We now know that this complaint was made against State Representative Dan Eaton, a Democrat serving his 14thterm. Eaton claimed it was good-natured banter. The woman felt otherwise. Witnesses found his behavior “immature.” Representative Eaton is 62. There was an investigation, it was recommended Eaton go to training, which he said he’d consider doing. No word on whether he actually did. State House staffers are not members of the state employees union, so they are reluctant to come forward, knowing they could be fired in retaliation. 

In another instance, a female legislator reported that a male legislator stood in front of her while she was seated in Rep’s Hall and made an “offensive pelvic gyration” in front of her. Representatives are squished in like sardines, and getting in and out of their seats and out of the rows is challenging. Apparently too challenging for the third grade boys disguised as adult men in our legislature, unable to comport themselves with dignity. 




These complaints should not be investigated internally. An outside agency should be retained for these investigations, so that there can be no question of political motives or retaliation. Even then, there will be no consequences. There are no ethical standards with any teeth. There are no disciplinary measures that can be taken, short of expulsion, which never happens. The prevailing attitude is always, “let the voters decide.” These are the same voters who aren’t going to learn about the behavior of their legislators unless it becomes a national story. The only real avenue available to a victim of ongoing harassment is legal action. 

Abusive and harassing behavior toward women has always been lurking behind the scenes, but thanks to Trump, it’s back on the main stage. It’s behavior that is not confined to a particular party. It’s behavior related to power.  Abigail Adams reminded her husband in 1776, “All men would be tyrants if they could.” Not much has changed since the all male Constitution was written.

Imagine what the US Constitution might look like if women had been included in the process.  Would President Trump have been possible if women had been (or were now) regarded as equal?

If you’re weary of petty tyrants who can’t even get out of a chair without pelvic gyrations, change the power dynamic, and vote for women. 





Published as an op-ed in the August 18, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

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