Yes, It Does Matter

By Melissa Dawes

I have spent the last few days reflecting on this very long and exhausting election cycle. For some reason, this election feels like it has been going on longer than any other I have been involved in. I don’t mind round-the-clock coverage or reporters digging deep into the candidates lives. As a voter, I believe it is important to obtain as much information as possible about both the candidate and their ability to be presidential so once you cast your ballot, you will be making the most informed decision as possible.

Every election has undercover stories, shocking revelations and scandalous  moments. Some are worthy of the top-notch investigative journalism we have come to expect from newspapers like the New York Times or magazines such as Time. Then there are stories which are simply tabloid fodder worthy of the bottom of a hamster cage. Sorting fact from fiction is necessary and can be difficult, but I would rather have too much information than not enough.

We are at the point in the election where we should be scrutinizing the policy positions of the candidates representing each party’s ticket. There should be a compare and contrast, really honing in on figuring out which person has the most sound ideas for our country. Instead, policy has been replaced with theater and we are left to wonder what will happen when all is said and done.

On one side, we have Hillary Clinton who has been the target of international actors digging into private emails, uncovering inappropriate behavior and unethical relationships with government employees. Using the controversial Wikileaks to release the information, we have no idea if the details are genuine or if the material has been doctored to make up a scandal. As voters we should be concerned with the details emerging from the hacked emails, as well as the potential involvement of a country hoping to influence the outcome of our election.

Donald Trump is embroiled in an entirely different, but just as serious, scandal involving sexual assault and deviant behavior. We have witnessed a string of victims who have come forward with accounts that seem to corroborate the stories we have heard from the candidate’s own mouth. We now find ourselves in a discussion of whether or not this behavior should disqualify a person from the job of commander in chief.

The one problem I have been unable to let go of is the hypocrisy we are witnessing from both sides. Let me try and present this without further confusing you. In the latest attacks lobbed at Hillary Clinton, the Trump campaign held a photo opportunity prior to the second debate on Sunday, October  9, 2016. Women connected to the sex scandals of President Bill Clinton were presented by Donald Trump in an attempt to show how they were not only victimized by the former president, but by his wife, as well. We were told by Donald Trump that we must listen and believe the accusers accounts.

In the time it took for this story to make its way through the news cycle, women from Donald Trump’s past started coming forward to recount how they were sexually abused by the Republican candidate. What made their stories compelling was the time frame they covered. If they are to be believed, we have 30 years of serial behavior by Trump in which he assaulted women. Unlike the Clinton victims, Trump’s pleas of “believe the victim” do not apply to this group of women.

So now I am left to figure out why it is I should listen to one set of women, but not apply the same standard to the other set of women. It is a contradiction of gigantic proportions.

Now, back to the exhaustion I have been experiencing with this election cycle, particularly because of the aftermath of the “he said/she said” accounts. Following the revelation of video and audio of Trump admitting to sexual assault and the accounts of his accusers, the campaign sent out their surrogates and it was obvious they had all be briefed with the same message: Attack the victim, question her credibility and blame the entire episode as an attempt by the Clinton campaign to discredit their candidate. Predictably, my exhaustion has turned to anger because of a key message shared by almost all the surrogates.

A number of the surrogates speaking on behalf of Donald Trump had the audacity to ask, “What does it matter” that Trump admitted to sexual assault? Let me be frank and tell you why it matters. We are voting for a president. Even if you set aside the stories of the women coming forward and only examine Trump’s own comments over the years, there is a problem. There is nothing presidential about a man who feels he can grab a woman’s genitalia or force his tongue down her throat. A segment of the population is willing to overlook this behavior and reward him with the job of president of the United States. When did character get dropped off on the qualities we look for in a president? If all this were not bad enough, at several rallies Donald Trump held after the victims came forward, he denied ever abusing these women. His reason for not abusing them? He asked his supporters, “Have you seen these women?” So the take away is he didn’t abuse them because they were not attractive enough for his taste. He just added insult to injury.

My message to Mr. Trump, his surrogates and supporters: Yes! It absolutely does matter.

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