In the cases before us — if you believe the credible testimony of the accusers — the rights and dignity of women have already been violated. Ignoring or playing down those violations in the pursuit of other social goals — conservative or liberal — is an additional form of victimization, this time by the broader society. By politicians such as Ivey. By voters willing to downplay the abuses on their own ideological team. All are making the statement that some lives, when weighed in the balance, really don’t matter.
None of this is to make light of the difficult task of applying appropriate punishments for differing degrees of guilt. But various traditions of ethics rooted in religion — as well as the Enlightenment theories that informed America’s founding — place a primary emphasis on the rights and dignity of individuals protected against the shifting interests of the majority.
This is the firm moral ground upon which our debate on sexual harassment should be conducted. Political figures guilty of coercion, exploitation, dehumanization, cruelty and the abuse of power should not be trusted with power. Even on our own side.