Viewpoint

Leaders of both parties lack courage on sexual assault

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is the subject of a probe into allegations he sexually harassed female staff members.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is the subject of a probe into allegations he sexually harassed female staff members. AP

They say Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on anything.

But it seems we have found the one thing that career politicians can agree on: protecting their political allies who use their power to prey on and harass others. That’s a new low, even for Congress.

Time and time again in this rotten era of American politics, we’ve seen Republicans and Democrats violate the values they ran on while clutching onto political power. On one side of the aisle, many Republicans have danced around the deeply disturbing accusations against Donald Trump or, more recently, Roy Moore, who is running for the Senate in Alabama.

And when Democrats had the chance to take the high ground in recent days after learning about the abuses of Congressman John Conyers, Nancy Pelosi used moves from the Bill Clinton-era playbook, initially defending Conyers instead of condemning sexual assault.

Both Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan have protected a system that forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for Congress’ foul behavior while keeping that behavior secret. Between 1997 and 2014, Congress oversaw 235 workplace settlements. Although not all were related to sexual harassment, those settlements cost American taxpayers $15 million of their hard-earned dollars. That money could have been used for infrastructure, or on Medicare, but instead served to benefit politicians in power. That system is an injustice to the victims, an insult to the taxpayer and a disgrace to the nation.

The American people deserve answers about any attempt to cover up sexual harassment in Congress, any misuse of taxpayer dollars, and how this mess can be fixed. We need a full investigation and a public report that examines who has been accused and how much was paid in settlements. Most importantly, we deserve to find out what congressional leadership, including Pelosi and Ryan, knew and when.

Fortunately, all across the country, hundreds of men and women are running for office for the first time. Many of them have served our country in the military, run successful businesses, or served their communities and are not part of the political establishment. These are the types of people we need representing us in Washington, people who will be unafraid to stand up against those who try to protect abusers and silence victims.

Accountability and justice might be hard concepts for Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to understand. But there’s a new generation of leaders ready to take the wheel in Washington and show them what real leadership looks like.

Dan McCready, a Democrat, is a Marine Corps veteran and clean energy entrepreneur running for Congress in North Carolina’s 9th District.

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