Democratic lawmakers running for reelection in 2018 are making an effort to avoid association with former President Bill Clinton out of concern that his history of sexual impropriety poses a significant political risk in the current climate.
As sexual harassment perpetrated by powerful men captures an increasing share of the national consciousness, many Democrats believe Clinton’s involvement in the midterm elections might derail the party’s effort to present as a party of and for women.
“I think it’s pretty tough,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told Politico. Clinton’s presence “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was.”
Democratic leadership ousted Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota in the final weeks of 2017 after at least ten women accused the former comedian of forcibly kissing and groping them. The move was arguably an effort to distance themselves from the party of President Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than ten women.
Clinton’s new found political toxicity represents a sharp departure from eight years ago when he made over 100 campaign stops for Democrats during the 2010 midterms.
“People are crass about it and will look to see where his numbers are,” a Democratic member of Congress in a competitive race told Politico. “He’s still Bill Clinton, and he’s still a draw to certain segments of the party.”
While are many are reluctant to appear beside Clinton — whose approval rating is down five percent since the end of the 2016 election — many lawmakers still recognize his draw for a certain segment of the Democratic base.
“Depending on the audience, there will definitely be people … [who] will be uncomfortable,” said Rep. Grace Meng of New York. But there will also “definitely be people who want to see him.”
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