What happens next will be revealing. Any person who participated in or knew about Epstein’s alleged trafficking ring should face (in addition to jail time) total public rejection. If they hold public office, they must resign or be forced out. If they are a lion of politics or public life, they must retreat, live with this profound shame, and know it will taint their legacy forever.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how we’ve treated abusive and predatory men for most of human history. While that’s changing – the #MeToo movement has made an incredible impact – it still seems that a man’s punishment remains contingent on who he is, how powerful he is, and who his allies are. It’s also looking increasingly partisan. While Democrats are far from innocent when it comes to letting badly-behaved men off the hook, the American left has largely stepped up in recent years and demanded accountability from its own. Well-loved men like Al Franken have stepped down in the wake of sexual misconduct. Men whose bad behavior has been long known, like Bill Clinton, are seeing their legacies stained as modern feminists are increasingly willing to criticize their bad acts. When it comes to Epstein, the left is ready and willing to take down anyone who let him get away with his crimes – whoever they are, and however they vote.
But is the political right ready and willing to do the same?