Cain’s Alleged Affair Turns Off Voters More Than Sexual Harassment Accusations

Apparently voters don’t mind sexual harassment. A candidate who illegally degrades and even assaults women in the workplace is electable. What voters will not tolerate is a consensual affair.

Herman Cain is losing support because a woman accused him of having an extramarital affair with her, according to today’s New York Times. The paper quoted Mike Huckabee saying that the allegation of an affair “is one that could upend his presidential campaign.” Apparently all the prior allegations of sexual harassment were not “ones that could upend” a campaign.

The paper also quoted “a conservative” from West Des Moines who, it reported, had supported Cain “through the accusations of sexual harassment,” but considered the allegation of an affair “different.” Because of the alleged affair, she said, “I would guess Herman Cain is not electable now.”

These two aren’t alone. The Times found that the “support from many conservatives, which poured in after reports of sexual harassment were first made against Mr. Cain nearly a month ago, was significantly muted.”

How to explain the combination of equanimity in the face of multiple sexual harassment accusations on the one hand, and communal backing away from the suggestion of one affair on the other? Perhaps conservatives just don’t believe sexual harassment happens but know that affairs do. But the sad truth is that some men cheat on their wives, some men harass women they have power over, and some men do both.

Both types of accusation reflect on Cain’s fitness for office. Having an affair means he broke a promise, which, while not a desirable trait in a politician, is an inevitable one. Sexually harassing subordinates means he abused his power in order to hurt people. Call me wild-hearted or a bleeding eye or whatever, but I think that is worth voting against.

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