Why it’s wrong to use #MeToo to try to topple Trump
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, became a temporary darling of the Twittersphere yesterday when she said women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault ‘should be heard’.
Haley made these comments on CBS’s Face the Nation. ‘I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up’, she said. When asked what this meant for Trump, she added: ‘I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.’
Her comments excited ‘resistance’ types on social media, who have been demanding that Trump stand down due to the allegations made against him. Over the weekend, two Democratic senators, Cory Booker and Jeff Merkley, also called for Trump’s resignation. ‘I want to be absolutely clear. Donald Trump should resign the presidency’, said Merkley. Bernie Sanders has also chipped in, suggesting that, following the resignation of Democratic senator Al Franken, Trump ‘might want to think about doing the same’.
No doubt Haley’s comments will soon be taken as a sign that Trump’s own appointees are joining in the plot to undermine him. Some are even speculating that Haley will be sacked by Trump for being the first member of his administration not to flat-out deny the allegations. When asked recently if Trump’s accusers were lying, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: ‘Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning.’
However, Haley’s pretty gentle defence of Trump’s accusers is nothing to write home about. With the #MeToo panic still raging, most politicians – Republicans and Democrats – are falling over themselves to state how proud they are of the women who have come forward.
But what is striking, and ugly, is how the allegations against Trump are so blatantly being weaponised. The anti-Trumpers now praising Haley aren’t concerned with the pursuit of justice in these cases. For them, #MeToo is the new Russia scandal. They are using these allegations as a means to undermine the president. Politicising sexual assault in this way is not only cynical and bad for justice — it is also deeply anti-democratic.
Also, it isn’t working. As Trump’s former senior counsel Steve Bannon told CBS earlier this year, when asked about the infamous Access Hollywood tape: ‘People didn’t care. They knew Donald Trump was just doing lockerroom talk with a guy. And they dismissed it. It had no lasting impact on the campaign.’ Bannon is right. And almost a year into his presidency, Trump is still standing.
There’s a lesson in this for those hoping to bring down Trump. It’s time to take on his politics, rather than obsessing over his alleged indiscretions. Haley’s comments will no doubt give some hope to those trying to drag down Trump through scandal. But, while the allegations should be taken seriously, using them to score political points is grim, and counterproductive.
Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to take Trump, and his voters, more seriously, and come up with some political challenges worth listening to.