TPM Cafe: Opinion

My first experience with sexual harassment happened in elementary school. A group of boys became fascinated with me and my sister: They pulled our hair, knocked over our crayons and enjoyed putting their index finger through the zipper of their jeans as if it were a penis. No matter how often I informed the counselors of the boys’ behavior, their punishment was always tepid: “Boys, stop it.”

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When I moved to Washington, DC as a recent college graduate back in 2006, I had no intention whatsoever of working in Congress. Like most Americans, I had a profound lack of respect for the institution (Congress received an approval rating of only 18 percent in Gallup’s latest poll, and in June 2014 Americans ranked their confidence in it far lower than banks, the criminal justice system, big business, and even television news). Because I wanted to look like I was doing something with my free time while I applied for job after job at respectable organizations, I swallowed my pride and got an unpaid internship in one of my senators’ offices. I hoped that I would soon be able to drop that embarrassing mark from my resume and never mention it again.

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Mea culpa time.

A couple of weeks ago, Avengers stars Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans were the topic of that day’s social media outrage. Renner had jokingly called Black Widow, a character played by Scarlett Johansson, a “slut”, in response to a reporter asking about Black Widow hooking up with the Hulk when fans had previously ‘shipped her with Renner's Hawkeye and Evans' Captain America. Chris Evans laughed and replied that she was “a complete whore."

I publicly rolled my eyes at the social media outrage on Twitter, and asked everyone to stop playing to ugly and untrue stereotypes about feminists being humorless.

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I had been in South Africa for five weeks before I heard someone try to justify apartheid.

It was at a wine festival in the farming town of Paarl, a cradle of Afrikaner heritage in the winelands of the Western Cape. Pieter had been pleased to meet a young American and recounted with nostalgia his many decades living in the town. But when I told him that I was in South Africa to study history for a semester, his demeanor turned grave.

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It’s no secret that white non-college educated voters have become a solidly pro-Republican demographic category. In the last three presidential elections, these voters tilted to the GOP by an average of 22 points. That margin ballooned to 30 percent in the 2014 midterms.

This phenomenon has been a constant source of frustration for, and agonized discussion among, Democrats, who feel a sort of moral responsibility for appealing to the white working class, its bulwark for so many decades, even if they are convinced gains elsewhere offset these losses (as they increasingly do given the shrinking percentage of white voters who do not go to college).

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Liberals generally contend that a robust safety net and a progressive tax system are not just economically sound policies, but that they are also characteristics of a moral society. At the federal level, Democratic politicians generally push policies aligned with this core liberal belief. However, at the state level, many Democratic politicians are less prone to implement this type of policy. While liberal states in general tend to have fairer tax systems and thicker safety nets than conservative states, three solidly blue states have the opposite.

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When the Texas legislature met to debate a bill that would reorganize some of the functions in the Department of State Health Services, few people were expecting a battle over abortion rights to occur. After all, Texas has already passed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation, resulting in the closure of many of the clinics in the state, an effective ban on medication abortions, and a lawsuit winding its way up to the Supreme Court.

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On the fifth floor of the federal courthouse in Newark before the same judge who heard David Wildstein's guilty plea in the BridgeGate case on Friday, Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly today both entered not guilty pleas to the nine-count indictment against them that was unsealed.

Both camps signaled that their clients would take the stand in their defense at a trial set to begin in early July. And Bridget Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley signaled that he would soon put the so-called "Mastro Report" – the investigation by the law firm Gibson Dunn Crutcher done at the behest of Gov. Chris Christie to clear Gov. Chris Christie – under a microscope. He also left open the possibility that the governor may be called as a witness in the trial.

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As the NFL draft began, all eyes were on Florida State University’s controversial but talented quarterback Jameis Winston, the highly anticipated number 1 pick. The intensity of that gaze was, and is, focused as much on his stellar playing ability as it is on the many transgressions that have increased his time in the public eye–theft, public embarrassment on campus, and a persistent rape charge. This time last year, critical eyes fell on a young man who struggled to behave off the field as much as he excelled on it: former Texas A&M quarterback and current Browns player Johnny Manziel. While his mistakes were less severe in many ways, the worries that accompanied them pushed the talented prospect to the near end of the draft’s first round. What caused minor off-field antics to weigh so heavily on one of these young men, while major ones seem so dismissible in another? That question invites another question: Who do we expect to be able to behave?

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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