Steve Lebsock was expelled from the House of Representatives of the Colorado State legislature by his peers. A drastic step. But fully deserved. The vote was not even close. Rightly so.
We shall not enter into the details of his alleged behavior, as this is a family newspaper, but suffice to say that terms such as “harassment” or “abuse” don’t begin to convey the sheer gutter quality, the absolute sleaze, of his behavior. In calling it “alleged,” we mean only that they have not been proven in a court of law. They have, however, been substantiated by an independent investigation, which has convinced the majority of his colleagues.
Lebsock denies the allegations, but his behavior on the day of his expulsion reflects their sleazy qualities. If anyone had any doubts about Lebsock, it is he himself who removed them by his response to the women who came forward. He maligned them and attacked them. He went way beyond denying their charges.
As pointed out by Rep. Cole Wist in a balanced yet forceful essay in the Denver Post, Colorado’s rape shield law limits a defendant’s ability to introduce evidence or cross-examine rape complainants about their past sexual behavior. This is an important procedural protection that Steve Lebsock did not honor in his case. Though he was not legally required to do so, since the allegations against him did not include rape, he was required to act in accord with the moral standard that he set for himself by denying the allegations against him. He did not.
OK. Lebsock was not accused of being a Harvey Weinstein, but if anything has been learned from the flood of revelations that the Weinstein affair unleashed, it is that the demeaning of women need not rise to the level of rape to be damaging, unacceptable, disgusting and intolerable. Lebsock would have been fired from another work place for the tawdry behavior he engaged in, for the tone he set, for the intimidation he effectuated. The Colorado legislature should be no different; and, thankfully, it wasn’t. If the legislature had not followed the same laws it expects the rest of society to follow, it would have been a damning day indeed.
It’s still worse, and not just because Lebsock demonstrated no remorse. Lebsock confirmed the worst stereotype of the contemporary American politician: What you see is not what you get. Here is a man elected to serve the people, and what does he do to his constituents just a couple of hours before he’s expelled? He switches parties — obviously an act of spite against his fellow Democrats who did not support him. Far more significantly, however, his switch was a repudiation of the political choice of the people who elected him. When they voted for him, they thought they knew him. They didn’t. He showed his true colors — his middot ra’ot, his poor character, as we say in Judaism —in his last couple of hours of office. This is a turn-off not only to his constituents, not only to the Colorado legislature, but to voters generally. The trail of damage that Lebsock left behind enbraces far more than the women he harassed.
There is no joy here for anyone, least of all for Lebsock; and surely not for the women involved, nor for the legislature itself. But there is a measure of justice. In cases of sexual harassment or assault, a sense of justice must be the primary concern. Not that there is ever a complete restoration for the victims, but Lebsock’s expulsion is about as close as it gets.
We hope it is a deterrent. The Colorado House of Representatives could not have spoken or acted more clearly.
Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News