In at least four primary races across the country, women have accused Republican candidates domestic violence and sexual violence. The details of the allegations are depressing, but even more depressing is the apparent backlash from GOP voters, which includes an apparent shrug and a growing belief that only liberals care about men who hurt women.
The defendants are running for a U.S. House seat in Ohio, a gubernatorial seat in Nebraska, and U.S. Senate seats in Georgia and Missouri. Eric Greitens, the former governor of Missouri, is trying to make a political comeback. He quit in 2018 after a woman he had been having an affair claimed under oath that he assaulted her and threatened to blackmail her with her nude photos he had taken without her permission.
Some level of victim-blaming and gaslighting has become the routine response of Republicans accused of harassment, abuse and violence.
This past scandal would be a political minefield to navigate alone. But last month, Greitens’ ex-wife alleged in affidavit related to their custody dispute that the former governor physically abused her and their youngest son before their divorce. Sheena Greitens claimed that in April 2018, “Eric ran me over and confiscated my cell phone, wallet and keys so I wouldn’t be able to call for help or pull myself out. and our children, from our house”.
Additionally, she alleges that her “behaviour included physical abuse of our children, such as handcuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the table in front of me and pulling him by the hair.”
Greitens denied the allegations and said he loves his sons. Saying in a statement that he hopes Sheena Greiten “gets the help she needs,” he said. hinted that his ex-wife is mentally unstable. In this same statement, he accuses his ex of conspiring with “political agents”.
In previous elections, Greitens’ resignation and his ex-wife’s allegations that he abused her and one of their sons reportedly fueled campaign ads and stump speeches by Greitens’ rivals. Instead, as The New York Times recently catalogedthe response from his opponents has mostly been crickets.
The same phenomenon can be observed with Charles Herbster, the candidate vying to succeed Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who is serving his second and final term. Last week, eight women accused Herbster of sexually assaulting them. One of them, Julie Slama, is a Republican state senator who said Herbster pulled up her skirt and groped her in 2019 at a local Republican Party event.
And yet, despite these serious allegations, Herbster, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in October, does not content itself with continuing its course; he runs as a victim. “They did it with Brett Kavanaugh. They definitely did it with Donald J. Trump, and now they’re trying to do it with Charles W. Herbster,” he told a local radio station, according to the Times, while claiming the allegations are merely an attack by his rivals, including, he says, Governor Ricketts.
Herbster has even posted a new ad saying the same thing: “Just like the establishment attacked President Trump, now they’re attacking me.”
This level of victim-blaming and gaslighting has become the routine response of Republicans accused of harassment, abuse and violence. The idea that we should”believe womenis something only Democratic voters say and believe.
The types of accusations against Greitens and Herbster have “become deeply partisan in terms of beliefs about what is acceptable and what is appropriate,” Kelly Dittmar, a professor at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, told the Times. “And now it’s fallen into the discourse of ‘cancel culture’ in society at large.”
More troubling, there was no corresponding reaction from GOP voters, not even from Republican women, Erin C. Cassese, a professor of political science at the University of Delaware, told The Times. :
The #MeToo movement and the current debate over transgender rights and education only widens the gap between Republican women and women who identify as Democrats and independents, Professor Cassese said. For female candidates, calls for gender solidarity or attacks on misogyny don’t seem to work in Republican primaries.
“It is very difficult to make these appeals, even for candidates who appeal to women,” she said. “We have no idea what messages might work.”
It’s a horrifying situation, one that was largely inspired by Trump’s “no apology, no resignation” strategy in response to numerous the women who accused him assault or harassment.
You can see in Max Miller, Trump’s White House aide running for Congress in Ohio, an example of the former president’s lesson being taken to heart. Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote in his 2021 book, “I’m going to answer your questions now: what I saw in the Trump White House,” that his relationship with Miller has turned abusive. Not only does Miller deny punching Grisham during their 2020 breakup; he sued her for defamation. Miller was received with open arms by Trump at Mar-a-Lago in February.
We are witnessing the use of a well-rehearsed playbook designed to help supposedly dangerous men gain political power.
The refusal of their fellow Republicans to address such serious allegations facing candidates is by no means a phenomenon for which Trump deserves all the blame. Few people epitomize the so-called establishment more than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and he was more than happy to endorse Herschel Walker’s Georgia candidacy, despite claims that which Walker”repeatedly threatened the life of his ex-wife.” (Walker, according to The Times, does not deny the allegations “and said he suffered from mental illness.”)
The result of this willingness among Republican leaders to defend themselves is that the GOP electorate as a whole does not want to judge their favorite candidates on the merits of the charges. Instead, they are more than willing to believe that someone (but not an accused candidate) is spreading lies: the Democrats and RINOs who want to topple Trump-backed “true conservatives”, the liberal media or the women themselves, whom they paint as the real bad guys.
We are witnessing the use of a well-rehearsed playbook designed to help supposedly dangerous men gain political power. Their opponents see no political advantage in highlighting their potential unsuitability for public office. I can only hope, however, that they see and feel the moral gravity of their silence.
Because in their silence, they ask us to accept a world where violence against women is only something worth talking about in a general election, if it is. Accepting this premise would vindicate every woman’s fears that reporting her would only make the pain worse. Calling out GOP opponents who have been accused of abusing women may not be a winning message, but if there remains a spark of decency in the GOP, the voices of these women will not be ignored and suppressed. in the name of party unity.