There are more than enough categories to judge our politicians on already. We should judge them on whether they remain true to their campaign promises. They should be assessed on whether or not they’ve lied to the electorate. Their competencies, their level of knowledge and experience, and their apparent ability to perform the tasks being asked of them should also be factors in how we feel about them. None of these considerations were taken into account when it comes to the sad tale of Katie Hill.
The deposed Santa Clarita Congresswoman is only 32 years old. She may have gone on to be one of the most important politicians of her generation, or she may have gone on to achieve nothing at all. She’d started well – she was the first bisexual candidate ever to be elected to represent California. We’ll now never know how she’d have followed up on the platform that gave her. She’s been forced to resign in the middle of a scandal about nude photographs, and a potentially inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
We’ll come to the relationship with a staffer in a moment, but we should talk about the nude photographs first. As we all know, they’re a curse of the age we live in, and the majority of people under the age of 35 have sent or received at least one during their time on this planet. So long as the people depicted in said photographs aren’t breaking the law, they shouldn’t be used to form verdicts about their moral character. More troublingly, Hill claims she didn’t share these pictures herself. She says they were uploaded to shame her by her husband, who she’s in the process of divorcing and has called ‘abusive.’ Normally, when someone is the victim of an unauthorized nude photo leak, we refer to them as the victim. For some reason, in the case of this young Democratic Congresswoman, they’ve been used as evidence that she’s somehow unsuitable for office.
Another factor that’s come into play in the press is that Hill was, in the past, in a three-way relationship with the staffer and her husband. This is unconventional, but again not illegal. Nobody was harmed in the process of the three consenting adults having a relationship together. As with the nude photos, the angle that some of the press have taken with her is akin to ‘kink-shaming – attacking what they don’t understand or don’t agree with, despite it having nothing to do with her suitability to continue in her role. A caricature of Hill has been built in the conservative press. She’s been presented as stupid because she posed for nude photographs. She’s been painted as somehow deviant because she was in a three-way relationship. Neither accusation is true, and neither allegation should have been sufficient for her to be forced out of her position.
The majority of people have vices, and the majority of those vices are connected to alcohol or other substances, gambling, or sex. In all three cases, there isn’t an issue so long as the law is being respected, and the person with the vice doesn’t have an issue. If a political candidate spends their free time logged into a mobile slots website, that’s nothing to do with the electorate. Even if that political candidate loses the majority of their money playing mobile slots, they still haven’t broken the law. Only when they’re using campaign money to play mobile slots, or they’re playing mobile slots when they should be working, does it become an issue. The same is true of alcohol. The same is true of sex.
Now we move onto the relationship with the staffer. This may or may not have violated congressional rules. The House Ethics Committee has begun to investigate that possibility, and it’s in light of that investigation that Hill has resigned. It’s certainly not a clear cut case that she broke the rules – if it were, the investigation wouldn’t be necessary. There’s no suggestion that Hill passed sensitive information on to her love, and nor is there any suggestion that public money was misused during their relationship. If Hill has violated the rules, it will have been a minor transgression. The Committee may ultimately decide that she didn’t violate any rules at all. It won’t matter. Hill has already resigned, and her political career appears to be over. Most people expected her to resign. We can’t help but wonder if the same expectation would have been placed upon her had she been male.
Let us not forget that if we create a set of subjective moral rules by which we should judge our politicians, they should be applied to all of our politicians equally. If you believe Katie Hill’s sexual conduct is immoral and, therefore, an offense for which she should lose her job, then how do you feel about the President’s confession that he likes to grab women by their most intimate area without their permission? How do you feel about the fact that he partied with Jeffrey Epstein, and noted the convicted pedophile’s appreciation for young girls? We know both those things are true because he’s told us they are. Going further than that, how is it that Anthony Weiner had to have a confession for his (undoubted) bad behavior dragged out of him, and was then able to attempt to return to politics in the New York mayoral elections barely two years later? Where’s the consistency? Where’s the parity?
These questions are not new, and nor do we expect them to be answered any time soon. In the meantime, Katie Hill is fighting for her own rights and the rights of wronged women everywhere. She’s suing the British tabloid newspaper that her stolen nude photos were originally published in, and has vowed to be a zealous advocate for victims of so-called revenge porn – compromising images shared online by a jilted former partner in the aftermath of a breakup. We wish her well on both fronts, and we hope to see her again one day. Our political processes need more people involved who understand the trials and tribulations faced by those who are under 40, not fewer.