I don’t know exactly what Herman Cain did that resulted in sexual harassment allegations during his time at the National Restaurant Association. And no matter how much anyone might speculate, neither do they. The details remain under wraps, and so we are left with two very different sides of the story. On one side, the NRA paid women a financial settlement to compensate them for the trauma of having their boss compliment their hair. On the other, Herman Cain used to run around putting his hand up ladies’ skirts. My guess is the truth lies somewhere in between.
Since the allegations surfaced, Democrats have barely been able to hide their scandal boners. They’ve been wringing their hands and clutching their hearts and getting the vapors at the idea that a sexual harasser could end up in the White House. It’s terrible. It’s awful. And they could not be happier.
And Republicans, on the other hand, are quick to dismiss the entire thing in a jumbled slur of every excuse ever.
But something about this whole cycle feels very…familiar. Haven’t we been here before?
Whether we realize it or not, the accusations and resulting media frenzy around what Herman Cain may or may not have done put us all in a weird place. For it was not so long ago that the roles were reversed, and that Democrats were parsing the meaning of the word “is” the same way Republicans find themselves dissecting the legal differences between “settlement” and “agreement.”
I noticed this awkwardness yesterday, when a left-leaning Facebook friend posted a link to a story about Herman Cain’s latest accuser. A friend of his quickly responded, “Why was it O.K. when Bill Clinton did it?” Other friends rushed to defend Clinton and indict Cain which, it turns out, is logically impossible. Because they did the same thing. It’s just that one is our guy, and one is yours. And that is the definition of hypocrisy.
But here’s where I think this whole scandal could be a good thing. For what is hypocrisy, really, if not empathy with a healthy side of judgement. Hypocrisy is saying, “I’ve been here before. And even though I’m judging you for doing exactly what I did in that situation, I do know how you feel.” And isn’t empathy exactly what this country needs right now?
So I propose this. Democratic readers, turn to the nearest Republican and say: “Hey man, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to defend something indefensible just because I didn’t want to scrape the bumper sticker off my car.”
And Republicans, you guys should respond with, “And I know what it’s like to go digging around in someone’s past for a scandal and then act shocked – SHOCKED – that said person could commit such a terrible grievance that I actually don’t care about.”
And maybe, just maybe, something will change. The floodgates of understanding will open. Republicans will admit that they don’t want to shut down the EPA because they like drinking water that’s not made of cancer. Democrats will reveal that they don’t actually want to pay higher taxes. We’ll all share a drink and agree that gay marriage won’t ruin this country and immigration laws should be better enforced. And we’ll come together over the realization that when people on opposite ends of the political spectrum are put in the exact same situations, they behave in the exact same way.
We can finally, as a nation, admit that politicians, regardless of their political persuasions, are often terrible people that you should avoid wearing skirts around. And that sexual harassment, corporate donations and the race card always seem worse when perpetuated by the other side. Perhaps this is the moment, when all sides are revealed to be hypocritical jerks, that we will all realize we’re not so different after all.