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Talking About Sexual Harassment At The Capitol

Posted: 11/12/17 17:21

by Dave Mindeman

Let's talk for a bit about the recent sexual harassment charges that have come to public attention.

It is a complicated subject and you can take it in many directions depending on your personal perspective. And let's face it, in our flawed society the expectations from male and female perspectives can be vastly different.

John Gilmore, a conservative Republican writer, wrote a column for Alpha News that brings up some interesting points as he criticizes everyone involved. He says that there is too much politics involved while emphasizing ONLY political points of view. A bit hypocritical himself, but interesting none the less.

The article has a Republican bias but a good self examination of the Republican response as well.

But let's discuss how these allegations are being portrayed. Sexual harassment in the work place is always an uncomfortable and unnecessary problem. Relationships are complicated enough - don't let the work place become part of that complication. That should be a basic tenet as we delve into this.

A lot of people ask the question, why now? And I would respond, if not now, when? This is not a new problem at the legislature. Many rumors abound about this issue and Twitter and Facebook have opened up whole new avenues of asking for trouble.

The timeline is interesting. As Gilmore points out, Schoen and Corning being outed at about the same time, makes it a bipartisan issue and should be solved in a bipartisan manner.

But look at the party responses. DFL Senators are in a one vote minority. Each Senator is something they cannot afford to lose - yet, the calls for resignation from DFL Senate and Party officials was swift and immediate for Schoen - and for Cornish when it happened a little later. But on the Republican side, condemnation of Schoen was immediate, but when the R was involved there was this unusual parsing of words and shifting positions. Daudt acknowledged there was a problem but seemed unwilling to commit to any action. After a day or two of fidgeting, he decided to have an outside body handle it so he could wash his hands of it politically.

Gilmore gives an interesting take on GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan's response....

"Carnahan needlessly exposed the Republican Party of Minnesota to charges of hypocrisy in calling for Schoen to resign but not Cornish. When challenged she went silent, except to leave the state to write gibberish on the sand beaches of California while celebrating her birthday. You know that person who uses exclamation points too much, as in all the time? That's her.

Unfortunately, Carnahan is the embodiment of low level management types: full of unwarranted self confidence but manifestly without the talent to be promoted. Her incompetent leadership, tone deaf messaging and abominable press releases have given many observers cause for concern in the upcoming election cycle."

It really was a one sided response and coming from a woman, it seemed all the more hypocritical. Carnahan's public comments were woeful and very unfulfilling as a guide to any kind of remedy.

Gilmore also argues that Schoen's physical actions were more egregious than Cornish's sexual innuendos; but both of these men have a checkered history in this regard which will probably keep this story going for awhile. And which could lead to other revelations -- because you know they are not alone in this regard.

I remember when Melissa Hortman publicly stated her disdain for her "reluctance" ......"to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room." An obvious reference to ignoring and dismissing the conversations being made by women legislators on the House floor ...especially women of color.

That was a symptom of the much bigger problem of sexual harassment.

Women have not, for a long time, been taking seriously as legislators; even though by and large they get a lot more things done for their constituents than any male representative. This is not just a Minnesota thing, it is nationwide and in the Halls of Congress. It is difficult for them to get elected, it is difficult for them to be heard, and it is difficult for them to advance. The glass ceiling may have cracked but it is still intact.

One more point I'd like to make here. I do not believe that it is an accident that both Schoen and Cornish come out of law enforcement. As we have seen with the Black Lives Matter protest, officers of the law expect different treatment. They are so accustomed to deference in their job that they tend to expect it in every other avenue of life they pursue. I'm sure that Schoen and Cornish were surprised to be called out on their behavior. They are not used to be questioned about things they do - and as we generally see, they get too much benefit of the doubt on the job.

There are many aspects of this that should be examined. And I think the call for a Task Force on Sexual Harassment is a great place to start. If both Republicans and Democrats are serious about addressing this issue, then the Task Force should get support from everyone.

Maybe even Jennifer Carnahan can agree on that.
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