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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: The #MeToo message is loud and clear, but so many in charge still can’t seem to hear it

Littwin: The #MeToo message is loud and clear, but so many in charge still can’t seem to hear it

As you may have noticed, the #MeToo movement has marched into the state legislature and doesn’t seem ready to leave any time soon.

As I write this, there have been five recent cases — that we know of. There may be more. We have no idea because according to the legislative rules, such as they are, they can’t tell us. Or won’t tell us. It’s not really clear.

What is clear is that we have a problem here. There are 100 legislators, 62 of them male, and five cases. You can do the math. It’s a very big number. Or let’s just put it this way — over the past few months, at least one of every 12 males tasked with writing the laws for our state has been accused of sexual harassment.

This is a crisis.

The question is whether the legislature understands that. And, at this point, it’s not clear at all.

To put this right, there needs to be more disclosure, there needs to be more accountability, there needs to be more urgency. There needs to be action.

There are two reasons we even know about these cases. The first is the people who have stepped forward in what is fast becoming the #MeToo tradition, in which one revelation is followed by another, in which one story is heard and often believed and is followed by another story heard and often believed. It’s remarkable how the dynamic has begun to shift in such a short time.

And the second is the great reporting done by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland, who has owned this story from the start. Birkeland just broke the story of the fifth case, in which state Rep. Susan Lontine accused Sen. Larry Crowder of harassment — of pinching her buttocks and making a lewd remark — and a third-party investigator has substantiated the claims.

Lontine made the complaint in November but came forward this week, she said, because after a ruling that her allegations were “more likely than not” to be true, she wanted an apology from Crowder. She got one, but Lontine felt it was insincere and felt that Senate President Kevin Grantham hadn’t taken sufficient action.

Grantham, a Republican, is now under attack from a few sides. Sixteen of the 17 Democrats in the Senate have demanded that Senate Republican Randy Baumgarder resign. This follows another third-party investigation, in which accusations that Baumgardner had repeatedly slapped and grabbed the buttocks of a legislative aide during the 2016 session were found credible.

The report came weeks ago, and, as far as we know, Grantham has done nothing. Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman has said she dropped out of the disciplinary process because of the inaction. Grantham tells The Denver Post that Guzman’s decision prevents a bipartisan resolution. And there we are.

One problem, there is no settled disciplinary system. Another problem, there is no system of disclosure. Two Democrats in the House have been stripped of their chairmanships — one of them, Steve Lebsock, has been asked by leadership to resign. Three Senate Republicans have, as far as we know, received no punishment.

Disclosure is the key here. I’m a fan of great reporting, but we can’t just depend on Birkeland breaking stories that should be publicly released.

As Jeff Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, told me, “In a regular workplace, in a case like this, the boss would handle it, and that would be that. In this case, we’re the bosses of the people we’ve elected, If we don’t have the information about people who work for us, how are we going to be informed when it’s time to vote?”

All the laws that now seem a little confusing were, in most cases, written to protect the accuser (which, of course, would stay in place) but also the offender, which has to be changed. Due process is important, but so are the results of that due process. And we know how gets this changed. The legislature passes a bill; the governor signs it. I think I learned that in seventh-grade civics class.

To see the problems with non-disclosure, all you have to do is turn on your favorite, non-Fox cable news network to see the story of Rob Porter, the top White House aide who was accused by two ex-wives and one former girlfriend of physical and emotional abuse. You’ve probably seen the picture of the black eye. It took that photograph, for which Porter seems to have no alternative explanation, to force his resignation.

On Friday, in his first remarks about Porter, Donald Trump said it was “a very sad” time and “tough time” for Porter and that “I certainly wish him well.” He added: “He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well.”

No mention of the three women who stepped forward. No mention of the abuse. No mention of the black eye. No mention of how long it took for this to come to light. Only that Porter says he’s innocent, in much the way, it should be pointed out, that Trump insists he’s innocent. And that Trump hopes it all works out for the wife beater.

The lesson here is easy to understand, and it’s one that every Colorado legislator must take to heart. The #MeToo movement can’t survive on its own. The people who are finally listening now have to act in support of those who are finally being heard.

Photo of Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner by John Herrick for The Colorado Independent

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

22 Comments

  1. Byron on said:

    It is obvious to anyone with a pulse that republicans really have no interest in being honest and open about the many claims of sexual misconduct that is rampant in their party.

    Please VOTE this November.

  2. Vicki Lindner on said:

    One thing I wonder: What is it with men in politics pinching and slapping women’s butts? It seems humiliating–like your parent sneaking up and spanking you from behind, sexual, yes, but more designed to make you feel like a stupid child. As in, “In case you thought you were important, take this!”

  3. Bob Arrington on said:

    Since when is there no clear path of discipline? Were the laws of assault or assault with battery rescinded?

  4. Jay on said:

    That poor gentlemen’s hairline is slowly migrating to encircle his mouth.

    Makes me think his hair is trying to tell us something.

  5. Jay D on said:

    @Jay & Jim – I get it that most people who read Mr. Littwin’s column are way left of center and can’t stand anything or anyone on the conservative side, but must you resort to criticizing a person based on their looks? Go after their positions and their records – that’s fine. But when you resort to elementary school tactics, you only diminish yourself and your arguments.

  6. Jay on said:

    I actually thought my comment was an ingenious way of calling him an a-hole…which of course he obviously is because of his abusive, misogynistic behavior…just like much of his ilk in the WH and Republican ranks in Congress…again…very obviously.

    Those abusive misogynistic politicians are a-holes too, in case their was any doubt.

    If someone is an abusive misogynistic a-hole or a racist, while we’re here, why in the world would you care what his policy stances are? Who cares about his record? If you’re into knowingly supporting abusive misogynistic or racist a-holes because they share a position with you, then you’re complicit in their misogyny and abuse and racism, no?

    Does that not also define the complicit party as also an a-hole?

    Might be the question most needing to be answered by Conservatives right now.

  7. Jay D on said:

    If name calling is your thing, so be it. I would have hoped for a more adult diatribe, but apparently that isn’t going to happen.

  8. Don Lopez on said:

    Jay D,

    I agree with you 100% especially, “But when you resort to elementary school tactics, you only diminish yourself and your arguments.”

    It’s difficult to believe that anyone (A-N-Y-O-N-E) who reads Mr. Littwin could criticize anyone’s personal appearance.

    Have these people looked at Mr. Littwin’s picture? I mean really looked at it? He looks like the third guy from the left on the evolutionary chart!

  9. Jay on said:

    I guess we disagree that abusive misogynistic or racist politicians qualify unequivocally as blue ribbon a-holes. I find I disagree with a lot of Trump voters on that point.

    My question still stands, if you have the intellectual honesty to muster an answer.

    Does supporting misogynistic, abusive, racist, seditionist politicians who happen to share your policy positions, make one the complicit in said misogyny, abuse, racism and sedition?

    Comrades Don’s been running for weeks from that one…let’s see if you can do better.

    Again, I’d think that’s a big question for conservatives brave enough to answer….with those pesky midterms coming up.

  10. Don Lopez on said:

    Jay D,

    Don’t let the kids get you down. They operate on emotion not logic and they are hell bent on getting in the last word.

    Regardless of what you may have heard the term “liberal tolerance” is an oxymoron. They especially dislike those who disagree with their parochial political views. They are on the outside looking in and know it’s permanent.

    You hit the nail on the head and hope you’ll continue to contribute.

  11. Jim on said:

    Word Don. If we paid more attention to the words and actions of Donald Trump I bet we could all learn to become more tolerant in this world. He’s there to show you the way; you just have to accept him and let him in to your heart.

  12. Don Lopez on said:

    Jim,

    Exactly, and it was that quality that enabled President Trump to defeat the egregiously intolerant Hillary Clinton.

    Remember her?

  13. Jay on said:

    And that’s the crux of it.

    The refusal to answer the question and all dancing aside, Republicans believe that taking positions against misogyny, bigotry, abuse and sedition is an example of “intolerance”.

    If you’re not on the side against these things, what does that make you?

  14. Jay D on said:

    @ Jay – I don’t recall stating what my policy positions were – at least not on this topic. I have stated in the past that I have no use for either party and that I am a Libertarian. I enjoy reading Mr. Littwin’s columns and while I seldom agree with him, I do find them thought provoking. Some of the comments posted come across as though they were written by an angry child and those usually make me laugh and therefore make them extremely difficult to take seriously.

    @Don Lopez – I will certainly continue to read and will contribute when I have something to say.

  15. Jay on said:

    Keep running from that pesky question, JD. I truly hope you can scrape together enough intellectual honesty to answer it. I for one have no problem being intolerant of bigotry, abuse, misogyny and sedition…and quite obviously have no qualms calling out those who don’t agree with me.

    I guess it’s tough for you to say the same.

    Libertarian: Republicans too ashamed to admit as much and/or who are unable to coherently defend Consecutive positions.

  16. Jay D on said:

    Go back and read what I wrote. I never said that I was tolerant of anything you mention and I will not be baited into an fruitless argument with a childish name caller.

  17. Jay on said:

    That’s what I thought. So just for the cheap seats…calling someone who abuses women an a-hole is “childish name calling”.

    Gotcha.

    Too easy.

    Next!

  18. Jay on said:

    Honestly, it’s just super sad that in the age of Trump we get this kind of waffling on what should be a clear cut issue.

    For the record:

    Wife beaters, sexual abusers, racists, misogynists, bigots, etc are a-holes.

    Period.

    Full stop.

    If snowflakes are squeamish about that, it speaks volumes about their motivations…and why we’re even having this discussion.

    Which of course brings us right back to that pesky question still standing in the corner (who knew it was so scary)….does supporting misogynistic, abusive, racist, seditionist politicians make one then complicit in said misogyny, abuse, racism and sedition?

    That’s a question that is going to keep coming up, especially with the midterms and Mueller getting closer by the day…might as well come up with a good excuse…I mean answer.

    Fortunately for the majority of the voters in this country…that kind of stuff doesn’t weigh on our conscience because we can answer that question in half a second.

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