The accusations against Scott Stringer remind me of the student molestation charges leveled against the Mayor of Holyoke during his ill-advised campaign against Representative Richard E. Neal, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
Alex Morse was asking for trouble when he challenged Mr. Neal; the Chair of House’s tax committee does a lot of good for Massachusetts. Having a local official occupying such an important position is an asset no State should forfeit. Imagine what would happen to someone who challenges Chuck Schumer. He holds the position for Democrats that Mitch McConnell once held for the GOP, His position brings immeasurable benefits to New York State. The Covid-19 shutdown drastically reduced State revenues, but when the Rescue America Plan passed and we got the $1400 checks, Federal aid made the State’s cash problems manageable. That is how important Chuck Schumer is to New York.
This digression has a point: the false charge that Mayor Morse dated college students is predictable; he violated a sensible political rule – don’t challenge successful leaders who are assets to your state. Morse challenged a major Washington player and Democrats played hard ball.
Morse met people including college students on dating apps, he is 31 well within the range that undergraduates find attractive. The accusation was a college professor was dating his students and it was totally false. He was a man meeting other men on gay dating apps. His sin was challenging the Chair of Ways and Means, the accusations exploited homophobia to punish Morse.
Gov Cuomo faces a grave threat, a mounting drum beat, that he is bad for the state. The attacks make him look odious but are provoked by an intense dissatisfaction with the Governor from within his party. With great relish he bullies his allies. During periods of prosperity, he refused to raise taxes and back new government initiatives like allowing drug users to consume drugs in health facilities to reduce overdose deaths. Education and health care stagnated under his false frugality. Opportunities to reduce property taxes and win the friendship for Democrats in upstate counties were lost.
If dissatisfaction with Cuomo is widespread, a multitude of misdeeds are bringing him down including mounting charges of sexual harassment. In December, Lindsey Boylan, a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, tweeted about her tense relationship with the Governor quickly other women added their voices saying it’s true. His callous treatment of seniors in nursing homes who were sent to live up close with others infected by Covid-10 revealed an astounding negligence. These allegations are matters of life and death. Quickly the Assembly opened an impeachment inquiry. Cuomo is watching while his levels of popular support erode. The objective is to make it difficult if not impossible for Andrew Cuomo to win again in 2022.
The point is that accusation of sexual harassment can be political, sometimes well-reasoned, sometimes exaggerated.
Ending sexual harassment is essential to establish women’s equality and pay equity, it also offers an opportunity to ease the pain and hurt that come from learning that it wasn’t your work but your body that was being judged. It also satisfies the anger for those deeply disgusted by the men making the passes. A dramatic change in enforcement and office mores is in the works. Dating is moving onto to the web and negotiations often precede the date.
The behavior that Jean Kim alleges “Scott Stringer repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs,” exposes her deep disgust. A video from a zoom meeting shows her with a great smile telling the group “I had to ‘me too’ a politician because he couldn’t keep his thing in his pants.” She is clearly pleased that she hurt him as much as he hurt her.
This abuse occurred 20 years ago.
The story is personal, but the timing is political. Ms Kim a lobbyist who worked around Scott for years recognized that two months before the election was a point of maximum vulnerability. There is no escaping the sense that part of this story is revenge is a dish best served cold. This payback is critical for women because equality requires the ability to inflict pain as well as receive it.
The story creates a political crisis for Scott Stringer who is the leading candidate for Mayor among the pro-labor left Democrats who are intensely devoted to ending sexual abuse.
Ms. Kim did not answer any questions at her news conference. The scandal is awaiting corroboration from others. I’ve known Scott for nearly forty years. I’ve seen him learn issues and then turn into a persuasive advocate for those asking for help. Left groups and businesses have rallied to his support. He would push NYC in a progressive direction.
This one charge of abuse flipped the Working Families Party. It withdrew its endorsement even after Stringer said he was staying in the race and denied the accusation. Stringer’s posture infuriates activist who want men to accept responsibility and confront the hurt they cause. The Mayor’s race is entering a bitter phase.
Elected officials who have taken an active role in women’s issue, decriminalizing prostitution and helping the poor also withdrew their endorsement.
As the drama plays out, these groups and individuals confront a risk. An endorsement means that after careful evaluation a decision was made that Scott Stringer is the best person among all the candidates. A political campaign has its ups and downs; in politics loyalty is a necessary quality. Those people who dropped Stringer at the first sign of trouble will face problems down the road if the accusations don’t hold up. It is not a good thing to be a fair-weather friend.
The question of whether Scott Stringer is an Alex Morse facing exaggerated political charge or Gov. Cuomo facing a multiplicity of misdeeds isn’t decided, but major players like the UFT, the teacher’s union, are standing firm. I belong to the Three Parks political club which hasn’t changed its mind. Campaigns run into fire storms and seasoned political players appreciate the virtue of patience. Scott Stringer has taken a punch, but he has not been knocked out of the race.