Talk about draining the swamp, not

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By all accounts, an Alabama senatorial candidate facing multiple harassment allegations, is successfully staring down opponents, even within his own party.


First published on Monday, November 20, 2017 in The Hill Times.

OTTAWA—The swamp runneth over. By all accounts, an Alabama senatorial candidate facing multiple harassment allegations, is successfully staring down opponents, even within his own party.

Judge Roy Moore is casting the fight as one of hometown supporters versus the Washington elite, including Senator majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has asked him to step aside.

In the midst of multiple reports of sexual harassment of a minor, polls have the judge running 10 points ahead of his Democratic opponent. Thirty-seven per cent of Christian evangelicals said they were more likely to vote for him because of the scandal.

The fact that Moore could even be considered a viable candidate is astonishing. His history as a conspiracy theorist and promoter of the far right is widely known. Moore was removed from office twice as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. His first dismissal was prompted after he ignored a Federal Court order to remove a Ten Commandments’ religious monument he commissioned for the Alabama Judicial Building.

He was re-elected again as chief justice in 2013 and then suspended for enforcing an unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The judge, with ties to white supremacy and neo-Confederate groups, was a key proponent of the birther conspiracy, a bizarre claim that former president Barack Obama was born outside the United States.

Moore is anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and pro-Christianity, believing that his religion should order public policy.

He founded an organization known as the Foundation for Moral Law, and weathered another controversy for refusing to declare $1-million it paid to family members.

None of these facts seem to influence local Alabamian supporters who truly believe their candidate is the victim of a Washington conspiracy headed by their own party.

The Hollywood harassment snare that started with Harvey Weinstein continues to widen its reach into politics.

Democratic Senator Al Franken is now being accused of sexual harassment for taking inappropriate photos and forcing a kiss on a fellow performer while he was on an Armed Forces comedy tour before his election to the Senate.

When the story broke Thursday, Franken acknowledged his actions, apologized and called for an ethics committee investigation into his own behaviour. Time will tell whether this proactive approach will staunch his political bloodletting. State legislatures have not been immune to similar claims.

On Capitol Hill, an unnamed Republican has been cited. Some legislators are proposing mandatory sexual harassment training for all staff and lawmakers.

But at the end of the day, the multiple allegations at different levels of government do not seem to have much effect on American voter intentions.

U.S. President Donald Trump was exposed on tape claiming that because he was a “star,” he could grab any woman “by the pussy.” The recorded comments were supposed to have doomed his presidential ambitions, but did not. For the most part, voters appear to discount sexual harassment as a factor in election decisions.

It remains to be seen whether the Senate race next month will be influenced by the allegations.

On first blush, key evangelical supporters are unwavering, while Moore’s strategy is to discredit those making the allegations.

If you ever wondered what makes Canada so different from the United States, just take a look at the legal harassment protections launched earlier this month by Canada’s minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Shortly after a series of high-profile Canadian entertainers were outed for sexual harassment, Canada’s federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu announced the government’s proposed framework to eliminate harassment and violence from all federal workplaces.

The proposed measures cover all private and public-sector workplaces regulated by federal law.

Hajdu, well-briefed on the issues during her stint as status of women minister, constructed a wide-ranging package tackling harassment head-on in all federal workplaces.

For the first time in history, the law will cover the Parliamentary Precinct, including the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service.

The proposed legislation requires employers to take specific action to prevent and protect employees and to respond effectively to incidents when they occur.

The law will also provide complainants with the choice of information resolution processes or neutral, third-party investigations. Complainants will be protected from retaliation and supported throughout the complaints process.

South of the border, the controversies continue, with no legal remedies in sight.

Speaking about Franken, Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, called for cultural and institutional change, saying “it [harassment] has been going on for way too long.”

She is right.

But it doesn’t appear that the American voters are listening.


Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.