Power, Sex, and Politics

By | 2017-11-24T10:44:09+00:00 November 24th, 2017|
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Power,” Henry Kissinger observed, “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Men, but mostly women, have been trading erotic services for access to power since time began.

The ruling class’s recent carrying on over a supposed epidemic of powerful grabbers and gropers runs counter to common sense and experience. If Henry, who resembled less a prince than a frog even in his youth found his connections with power and wealth sufficient to satisfy his longings, so can anyone similarly placed.

Nor is there any evidence of a sudden increase in morality or restraint having cut into the supply of the willing. There is even less reason to believe that the very same arbiters of public behavior who, increasingly, penalize advocacy of restricting sex to men and women married to one another have become defenders of female modesty.

What, then, is the fuss about? It seems as the ruling class’s leadership experiences a major turnover, it is making a minor shift in tactics and in its list of enemies. Herewith, I try to explain.

Washington’s Trade-Offs
First, the basics. During my eight years on the Senate staff, sex was a currency for renting rungs on ladders to power. Uninvolved and with a hygroscopic shoulder, I listened to accounts of the trade, in which some one-third of senators, male senior staff, and corresponding numbers of females seemed to be involved. I write “trade,” because not once did I hear of anyone forcing his attention. Given what seemed an endless supply of the willing, anyone who might feel compelled to do that would have been a loser otherwise unfit for survival in that demanding environment.

This, I wager, is not so different from others’ experiences in Washington. Senior female staffers were far more open than secretaries in describing their conquests of places up the ladder, especially of senators. There was some reticence only in talking about “relationships” with such as John Tower (R-Texas) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) because they were the easiest, and had so many. The prize, of course, was Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)—rooster over a veritable hen house that was, almost literally, a “chick magnet.” Access to power, or status, or the appearance thereof was on one side, sex on the other. Innocence was the one quality entirely absent on all sides.

In the basic bargain, the female proposes. The power holder has the prerogative to say “no,” or just to do nothing. By a lesser token, wealthy men need not offer cash to have female attention showered on them. Money is silver currency. Power is gold. A few, occasionally, get impatient and grab. But taking egregious behavior as the norm of the relationship between power and sex willfully disregards reality. Banish the grabbing, and the fundamental reality remains unchanged.

The Sins of Others
What, then, are our powerful rulers’ claims of zero tolerance for sexual harassment or sexual commerce about? First, they do not involve the ruling class giving up any of their privileges, never mind what are effectively their harems. They are confessions—not of their own sins, but of the sins of others. The others whose sins they confess are not the friends of those doing the confessing—at least, not their current friends. Yet again, they implicitly validate their own behavior by signaling their own virtue vis à vis others.

The Clintons and the Weinsteins, yesterday’s ruling class paragons, are useful foils. When, inadvertently, photos implicate a member of the current ruling class leadership, such as Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) in beastly behavior, ruling class colleagues and media give him a pass (“he apologized!”) and use his case unfavorably to contrast the real enemies—always on the Right: President Donald Trump and Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. “They are disqualified from office because they haven’t even admitted their guilt!”

In short, penalties for breaches of any item of political correctness are and will remain what they have been in the past, without exception: thinly veiled excuses to harm whoever stands in the way of the ruling class’s members.

This fact ceased to be a secret some time ago and explains the difficulty of having to maintain the authority of P.C.’s strictures. Thus we have the elaborate edifice of kangaroo courts and sensitivity training that governments and corporations have imposed on their fellow Americans more or less discredited in the eyes of just about everyone. Given that, something was needed to show that the whole P.C. montage is something other than what it is—and that America should stand with the ruling class in defense of basic decency. We needed a good panic. So here it is.

But basic decency be damned. The current campaign against a few, carefully targeted butt-grabbers is specifically designed to renew ruling class authority to continue business as usual, meaning to make socio-political war on the usual suspects.

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About the Author:

Angelo Codevilla
Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).