There are lots of reasons why feminists and other liberals were in fact correct to defend Clinton during the impeachment saga. One is that the charges against him—lying about a consensual if still wildly inappropriate affair—just didn’t rise to the level of impeachment, the way Nixon’s constitutional crimes in Watergate had. To have countenanced Clinton’s impeachment or resignation would have dramatically lowered the bar for cashiering a president and legitimated the already rampant process of using scandal-mongering as a proxy for electoral politics. A second reason, newly hard to recall in this feverish moment, is that the claims of assault that a few people now regret downplaying were never established as true, and not even Starr saw fit to include them in his referral to Congress.
But perhaps the most profound if subtle reason for rejecting the retrospective support for impeachment or resignation is that it substitutes the norms of 2017 for those of another time. It’s one thing to wish that society had overall taken sexual harassment more seriously in the past (though it was hardly ignored in the 1990s, as some seem to think)—an innocuous though historically meaningless assertion. But it’s another to selectively readjudicate one specific political crisis by the standards of a different historical era—an act that risks distorting our understanding of how and why people acted as they did.