Since the Lauer news broke this morning I’ve seen a half-dozen variations of the joke that he’s now qualified to run for Congress. But there’s more to it than that. Unlike “Today” host Lauer, Congressman Lauer would still have his job today. You’re about to see why. Here’s James Clyburn, the number three Democrat in the House, fielding a good question. If Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Bill O’Reilly and Charlie Rose and now Matt Lauer were all held accountable for their misdeeds by losing their jobs, why shouldn’t Conyers lose his?
To which Clyburn replies, without missing a beat, “Who elected them?”
You don’t often see arrogant power displayed as grossly as that in front of a camera. Kathleen Rice, the first House Democrat to call for Conyers to step down, walked out of a Democratic caucus meeting this morning because she knows a sham when she sees one:
Rep. Kathleen Rice leaves House Dem meeting early, saying harassment wasn’t being addressed seriously. “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real.” pic.twitter.com/hoB6lAmBqX
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 29, 2017
Essentially Clyburn’s arguing that democratic government makes public servants *less* accountable than employees in the private sector, which is certainly true descriptively but should not be true prescriptively, which is what Clyburn’s suggesting. I wish I could huff and puff about that being an example of the liberal big-government mindset at work, in which the administrative ruling class exults in getting to play by special rules, but all he’s doing here is previewing the argument you’ll hear from 99 percent of conservative media next month if Roy Moore wins. “The people have spoken.” If the voters of a given jurisdiction are comfortable being represented by someone who’s been credibly accused of preying on women and/or girls, who is Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell to tell them they’re not allowed to be? We just elected a president based on that logic, in fact. I’d be surprised if there’s any member of Congress, left or right, who holds a safe seat that doesn’t embrace Clyburn’s reasoning privately.
In fact, here’s a fun detail from that caucus meeting Rice walked out of — courtesy of a woman Democrat, allegedly:
In the closed-door Democratic caucus today, Rep. Linda Sanchez complained re: sexual harassment that elected members shouldn't "be held to a higher standard" than others. That should boost Congress's approval rating!
— Robert Draper (@DraperRobert) November 29, 2017
Which is to say, what you’re about to watch is a civic catastrophe with Clyburn as the effect, not the cause. It’s possible, even likely, that Moore will win; it’s possible, even likely, that if Conyers’s district held a snap referendum today on whether he should continue to hold his seat despite the harassment allegations against him, he’d win with 85 percent of the vote. Accountability is a casualty of tribalism and Americans of all political stripes have turned exceedingly tribal. “This was the national argument we had in 1998, and it was settled in [Bill] Clinton’s favor,” writes Ben Shapiro. “Character doesn’t matter. Only agenda does.” Correct, and you’re looking at the wages of that here. Public outrage can reach the rich, the famous, and the powerful but it no longer reaches the people who ostensibly work for the public. We’ve created a kakistocracy.
I think Conyers will end up going, though, not so much for the harassment but because he’s 88, allegedly not all there anymore, and stands to face tremendous public embarrassment given the number of potential accusers there might be after 52 years in the House. His friends should want him out, the sooner the better. For his own sake.
CBC Chair Richmond asks for ex. of ppl leaving jobs faster than Conyers when face sexual harassment claims; Clyburn asks "who elected them?" pic.twitter.com/FGDNbvBUcg
— Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) November 29, 2017