Kirsten Gillibrand is right: Bill Clinton should have resigned

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) made waves in the political realm on Thursday when she told The New York Times that Bill Clinton should have resigned from the presidency because of his inappropriate sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Sen. Gillibrand’s remark is controversial among Democrats for multiple reasons.

Bill Clinton, despite credible allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, is still a beloved figure in the Democratic Party. Though Democrats have branded themselves as champions of women and women’s rights, Bill Clinton has never been held accountable for his sexual predation. This is particularly odd given that Hillary Clinton supporters believe that the allegations against Bill Clinton are “credible” by a 42-point margin.

There is also the issue that Kirsten Gillibrand is seen as a successor to Hillary Clinton and has close ties to the Clinton family. Gillibrand has for years named Hillary Clinton as an inspiration in her life. She worked on Hillary’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign, where she developed a mentor-mentee relationship with Hillary. When Gillibrand ran for office, she worked with many women who she met on the 2000 campaign. Perhaps most notably, Gillibranda inherited Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. Gillibrand was nominated by then-New York Governor David Paterson to serve the remainder of Hillary’s term after Hillary was nominated to be President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. In the 2010 special election for the seat, Gillibrand campaigned with Bill Clinton, staying silent on his history of sexual predation. The same went for the 2016 campaign, where Gillibrand campaigned alongside Bill Clinton to support Hillary’s presidential bid.

There’s certainly something bothersome about the fact that Gillibrand’s career is inextricably tied to the Clinton family as well as the Democratic establishment that has refused to oust Bill Clinton for his sexual predation. It is especially frustrating given that Gillibrand has been a vocal warrior for victims and survivors during her time in the Senate. I will not refute that. But we should take this moment as an opportunity. A sitting United States Senator who is in talks to run for president in 2020 is giving the Democratic Party a chance to finally reconcile with the sexual predation of Bill Clinton. This could finally break a dam that should have burst decades ago.

When news broke during the election that Donald Trump sexually assaulted numerous women, many Democrats rightfully called on him to drop out of the race. When news broke earlier this month that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore harassed, assaulted, and attempted to rape multiple young girls, many Democrats rightfully called on him to drop out. Of course, the popular understanding of sexual predation in the 90’s was not what it is today, which isn’t saying much given that both political parties harbor sexual predators and rape apologists. But I’m not here to relegate to relitigate the political atmosphere of the Bill Clinton presidency; I’m here to demand that liberals now hold their own accountable, regardless of partisan identification.

We should believe women. We should believe anyone that bravely reveals their victimhood or survivorship. So why is Bill Clinton still an established figure within the Democratic Party? If liberals truly trust victims and survivors who come forward and tell their stories, why has Bill Clinton not faced consequences for his actions? Bill Clinton repeatedly used his positions of political power as an elected official and societal power as a cisgender, heterosexual man to take advantage of women without their consent. In my eyes, he should have been ousted from the Democratic Party long ago, yet he hasn’t even received a slap on the wrist for his history of sexual predation. Where is the accountability? Yes, it is too late for the Democratic Party to force Bill Clinton to resign now, but what does it say about Democrats when they rightfully denounce Donald Trump and Roy Moore yet harbor sexual predators of their own?

We have seen something similar play out in the past few days with news breaking of Senator Al Franken’s 2006 assault of Leeann Tweeden. Rather than call for resignation as they should have, top Democrats tentatively called for a Senate ethics investigation. The only thing such an investigation could bring to light is an even darker history, which would not be surprising given the commonness of repeat offenders. If the investigation reveals nothing, Franken still sexually assaulted Leeann Tweeden in 2006. If it reveals more wrongdoing by Franken, there is even greater reason for resignation.

The Democratic Party should be undergoing a serious reckoning right now. There is no excuse for the decades-long harboring of sexual predators, but the hypocrisy is especially jarring in the face of the appropriate denunciations of right-wing sexual predators like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

Sexual predators do not deserve to feel at home in the Democratic Party, or anywhere else. If liberals truly stand for what they preach, they will expel sexual predators from their ranks. We should promptly remove sexual predators from any and all positions of power and replace them with the victims and survivors who have been irreparably harmed by men like Bill Clinton.

Jordan Valerie is a cinephile, filmmaker, journalist, political activist, and proud queer woman of color dedicated to civil rights, civic engagement, diversity, and watching at least a movie a week.

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