Arizona State Representative David Henry Stringer (R-Prescott), resigned his office this week, just hours before a police report obtained by legislative leaders was set to be made public in the hearings calling for his removal from the Arizona House.
Stringer was, by both national and Arizona standards, an “ultra-conservative”, alt-right, far right political figure and legislator. A man whose racial and anti-immigrant view are on par with and in some instances even exceed that of Iowa Congressman Steve King and another House member from his own state, Representative Paul Gosar. His voting record during his term in office garnered perfect and near perfect ratings from various conservative special interest groups, including the American Conservative Union.
Along with all of that, part of the mix is what we have heard described as “American Values”, “Traditional Values” and “Family Values” The G.O.P. and the political right self identify and promote themselves as the exclusive guardians and defenders of ‘traditional values’. Mr. Stringer himself acknowledged this in saying to a group attending a meeting in his district in January 2018, “I’m not just running to get re-elected, I’m fighting for our values, I’m fighting for our people, I’m fighting for our future not just of our country but of the state of Arizona.”
As such, the Republican party was in a state of panic regarding the latest disclosures concerning Rep. Stringer. Why? Because the police report that was to become public – and subsequently was released to the media, describes sex crimes committed by David Stringer in Baltimore, Maryland in 1983. Stringer was arrested and charged with engaging in sex with young men who were minors at the time of the arrest.
The Arizona Republic recounts the details:
The report states police arrested Stringer in September 1983, after a boy told detectives that Stringer had met him and a friend in a park a year earlier, and asked them to come back to his apartment to have sex. Stringer allegedly paid the boys $10 after he performed oral sex on them and had them perform the same act on him, according to the report.
“(Name redacted) said that about a year ago he was in Patterson Park with a boy (name redacted) when a man stopped and asked if they wanted to go to his house and have some sex,” the report states. “They did perform the sex act on Mr. Stringer … After this the boys were given ten dollars ($10.00) a piece and they left.”
Stringer was able to negotiate a pre-trial plea deal allowing him to be placed on probation in lieu of prison time. The judge later expunged the court records following completion of the probation terms, which reportedly included a counseling arrangement for sex offenders. It is remarkable that Stringer was not prosecuted, given the fact that the child rape was not a single occasion and that one of the victims was sodomized. Child pornography charges were also quashed with the plea arrangement. Of note, as Phoenix New Times observed,
Earlier this year, he (Stringer) was one of just three members of the Arizona House of Representatives to vote against expelling Representative Don Shooter, who was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. (The other two were Stringer’s seatmate, Noel Campbell, and Shooter himself.)
This, only the latest episode in what has become a regular feature of the political landscape for decades, has a particular resonance in light of just what we’ve seen since 2016. In 2017, Alabama Republican candidate for the special election to replace former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, Judge Roy Moore, was defeated, largely based on credible allegations of sexual involvement with minors, earlier in his career.
Moore’s situation was perhaps more profound, given the fact that most of Moore’s appeal to Republican voters in Alabama centered around moral considerations. Moore was the founder of Christian based nonprofit legal organization Foundation for Moral Law in 2002.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Moore expounded that, “The moral foundation of our country is under attack,” and that the “government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law.” Moore waged a battle with Alabama and federal judicial authorities to retain a stone monument of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. Among the Ten Commandments, is the provision “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness”. Ironically, Moore was found to have lied when he asserted that he did not take a salary from the Foundation for Moral Law. In fact he did, to the tune of a million dollars over a 5 year period in which the foundation also paid for numerous personal expenses .
The social conservatism and moral imperatives of the right as it relates to the G.O.P., was at one time just one of several cubbie holes of the identity of Republicanism, along with fiscal conservatives and defense hawks. Since the full blooming of the Tea Party movement, there is an intersectionality between all of these silos that have been combined. Notable now, are the exceptions.
Moral crusading is not an a la carte item – it comes with the meal, no substitutions, particularly in geographic regions such as the South and Southwest and the Midwest plains states. Now, the rhetoric of traditional values is pureed together in the political Cuisinart along with anxiety about immigration and multi-culturalism.
But there is a marked disconnect between what the politicians who carry the banner of biblical morality champion and their personal conduct. The public record in replete with examples of political figures who trafficked in the moral majority / social conservative movement – or who merely rode the wave, that have been arrested, tried and convicted of moral and sex crimes.
Have only Republicans been caught in various acts of sexual assault and misconduct? Of course not. For example, the most notable sex scandals from 1970 to 1979, without exception, involved Democrat elected officials. Things changed dramatically in the 1980s coincident with the rise of the Christian Right political movement as this litany recited by Wikipedia illustrates:
Donald “Buz” Lukens Representative (R-OH) Convicted of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor for having sex with a 16 yr old girl. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500. (1989)
Robert Bauman, Representative (R-MD), was charged with attempting to solicit sex from a 16-year-old male prostitute. Upon completing an alcoholism rehabilitation program, the charges were dropped. Bauman apologized to voters for his indiscretions but was defeated for re-election. (1980)
Jon Hinson, Representative (R-MS), resigned after being charged with attempted sodomy for performing oral sex on a male employee of the Library of Congress. (1981)
Thomas Evans, Representative (R-DE), went golfing in Florida with nude model and lobbyist Paula Parkinson, who later suggested her lobbying techniques had been “unusually tactile”. Though Evans apologized for any appearance of impropriety, he was voted out of office in 1982. Future Vice-President Dan Quayle and Congressman Tom Railsback went on the golf trip too but were not implicated in the sex. (1981)
John Schmitz, Representative (R-CA), leader of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, admitted to having a second family, but refused to accept or support the two children he produced who became wards of the state. (1982)
Dan Crane, Representative, (R-IL), was censured July 20, 1983, in the Congressional Page sex scandal for having sex with a young congressional page. (1983)
Amazingly, the most egregious sins, adultery, homosexuality and pedophilia have all featured prominently in the history of hypocrisy among the Republicans.
Former President Bill Clinton, of course is the poster boy for the Democrat problems in this arena. A handful of G.O.P. legislators including House members, Bob Barr, Dan Burton, Robert Livingston, Newt Gingrich, Pete Domenici and Henry Hyde – who were all championing the impeachment of Clinton, themselves all left office in disgrace when the truth of their own conduct surfaced.
Representative Burton, referring to President Clinton’s situation, stated in 1995 that, “No one, regardless of what party they serve, no one, regardless of what branch of government they serve, should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties….” Three years later, it emerged (in advance of an impending expose in Vanity Fair magazine) that Burton had fathered a child in 1983 that resulted from an extramarital affair with a state employee.
The difference chiefly has to do with the premise of Democrat versus G.O.P. optics as selling points to voters. Democrats don’t lead with piety and assertions of restoring “family values” – Republicans do. There is an implicit message that the politician advancing these positions are in strict conformity with them. Such is seldom the case. Former U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Florida state Representative Bob Allen, and Mississippi Congressman Jon Hinson were all Republican lawmakers, and were all arrested for sexual misconduct in a public bathroom.
Evangelical voters – a key constituent of Republican politics, have reversed course in recent years. Whereas the Clintons were anathema to them, ostensibly on the grounds of moral failings – they have now, to reference a biblical expression, “strained a gnat and swallowed a camel” in their unbridled acceptance and unshakable support and enthusiasm for all things Donald Trump.
It seems that the impulses of moral reprobates for holding political office as conservatives are as soundly linked as the attraction of careers as youth athletic coaches or positions in the priesthood are for pedophiles.
What accounts for this? It’s difficult to assign a specific psychological underpinning to it, because motives are not consistent in all instances. However, one of the themes appears to be that for some individuals attracted to the perks and lifestyles of political office, social conservatism provides a cover for their disposition towards and personal history of sociopathic behavior, including sex offenses.
It’s the strategy of cultivating an image with voters that reinforces the preferences and prejudices of those voters. But it also invites suspicion among non-partisans. “the lady (or man) doth protest too much, methinks”, is an apt Shakespeare reference in this context. That or, another aphorism believed to have originated with the glorious bard – a line from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant Of Venice” – “all that glitters is not Gold”.