Two major events took place on Sunday that provide a spotlight onto the increasingly toxic culture of modern politics. Former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) died, and Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) resigned from her seat over allegations of sexual misconduct. While these individuals share little in common other than their roles as public servants, both serve as examples of what happens when a political party portrays itself as a moral arbiter.
Conyers completed almost 26 terms in the House, making him the longest-serving black official in congressional history. His legacy includes numerous accomplishments from participating in the Civil Rights movement to co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus, but when the #MeToo movement caught up with him, the representative’s career ended in ignominy.
He was forced to resign from Congress over multiple allegations of sexual harassment from former staffers. Despite denying all accounts, as he lay in a hospital bed at the height of the storm, he saw no choice but to step down from the party he had served for so long.
Katie Hill’s career may serve as an example of what happens when rules are made for the purpose of pursuing public approval and the moral high-ground. The California representative who served on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team resigned due to apparently verified allegations that she had inappropriate sexual relations with a staffer in her office. She denies this particular liaison but admits to involvement with a campaign staffer before she was elected.
Having won her seat in just 2018, she does not leave quite the legacy of Conyers.
At least in the case of Hill, all relationships were consensual. Nonetheless, the idea of powerful people applying indirect pressure to achieve sexual aims was behind the impetus of the #MeToo movement – and it was a concept that Democrats embraced with a passion. What the posturing party didn’t realize was that movements that could be used to beat its opposition could also be used to damage itself.
How far will this movement go? Not all work relationships are inappropriate, even when there is a disparity in power. How many people have met their spouses or partners through their jobs? In an age where career-minded folks spend the majority of their waking lives engaged in work, it is not only likely but probable that the person someone chooses to spend their lives with would operate in the same field.
From Al Franken through to Hill, the #MeToo movement has left a legacy that may eclipse that of even Conyers himself.