-{HypoThursday is a latent series dedicated to your take on hypothetical scenarios. This one is for a subplot of a novel that has been bouncing around in my mind. After I get some answers, I’ll explain why it matters.}-

Bob Gaines is a two-term congressman. He got his position on a bit of a fluke, the default opponent in a year where his party had a really good showing. He also unseated his incumbent with a torrent of negative attacks on ethics violations going back to when his opponent was a criminal court judge. Prior to becoming a congressman, Gaines was a prosecutor working his way up from petty misdemeanors to sex crimes (forcible rape, mostly).

Congressman Gaines has a secret. One of those secrets out in the open for anyone that does the math. Finally, his third opponent, Jim Stevens, did. Gaines met his wife when he was 18 and she was 15. They are three years and two months apart, meaning that if they had sex at any point prior to her turning 17 (they were not married up to that point) then he was guilty of statutory rape. He doesn’t need to take the 5th because the Statue of Limitations has passed (beyond which, obviously his wife is not going to press for charges nor are her parents, who always liked him), but he’s not saying one way or the other whether he had premarital sex with his wife.

The Stevens campaign is saying that this is highly relevant because, as a prosecutor, Gaines handled sex crimes and if he was a sex criminal than that goes towards his character. The Gaines campaign responds that even that weak reasoning doesn’t work because Gaines never actually prosecuted any statutory rape cases and beyond which regardless of what happened Gaines was obviously not in violation of the spirit of the law. Stevens says the law is the law. The Gaines campaign say that whatever may or may not have happened is in the past is irrelevant because there is no legal standing for charges to be filed. Stevens says this is about character, not criminal charges.

Now, assume that you find both Gaines and Stevens to be equally good or bad on the issues. Would this (probable) revelation about Gaines’s past make you less likely to vote for him? If so, how much less likely? Does the fact that Gaines married her make his alleged crime irrelevant or is the law the law? Does the fact that it was over a decade ago make it irrelevant or is the law the law? Does the fact that Gaines prosecuted rapists make his own statutory rape relevant? Despite the fact that Gaines is not denying it, do you simply give him the benefit of the doubt and say it’s irrelevant because nothing has been proved or do you assume guilt? Does the fact that Gaines got his job on the basis of negative campaigning mean that all’s fair? Do you resent the fact that Stevens is focusing on this rather than more substantive things?

Category: Coffeehouse

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8 Responses to HypoThursday: Sex & Consequences

  1. Peter says:

    Gaines’s silence on the issue of whether he and his future wife ever Did the Dirty Deed when she was underage is going to hurt him. He’d be better off admitting that they actually did It.

  2. Maria says:

    Yeah, he should probably just take the hit. It could be like Clinton — “I tried it but I never inhaled.”

    “I tried it but I never came!”

  3. Peter says:

    Another thng: 18/15 may legally count as statutory rape, at least in this hypothetical state, but it’s not something that most people would consider morally reprehensible. All the more reason why Gaines should just admit to it.

  4. trumwill says:

    The main reason that Gaines doesn’t actually address the issue is that he doesn’t want his sexual history (which is problematic) to be considered open game. Start asking enough questions, eventually his opponents will stumble on the right one.

  5. stone says:

    I wouldn’t assume they had sex before she was 17. Unless the opponent has some evidence they did, he shouldn’t be speculating. The only way I’d care is if he’s been an advocate for prosecution of others in that exact same situation.

  6. Barry says:

    Why should anyone assume a couple who dated in high school and got married after she graduated had sex before she became 18? Contrary to popular belief, the nation’s teenagers are not completely unable to control themselves. There are plenty of kids who are perfectly able to control themselves for moral and practical reasons, and wait until they’re married (or at least until they’re out of high school) before having sex. The opponent is jumping to that conclusion based on nothing but the fact they dated when she was 15 and he was 18 – unless I missed something nothing was ever alleged that they actually did anything before she became 17.

    In fact, re-reading the scenario just now it says the met when he was 18 and she was 15. There’s nothing that says they dated or even had any meaningful contact with each other until any time later on. I knew several freshman girls when I was a senior in high school – that doesn’t mean I dated them all or had serious relationships with any of them.

    The allegations are scurrilous (to use a favorite mud-slinging word) and anyone in the public using them to form an opinion on the incumbent’s ability to govern, much less be a moral person, is an idiot.

    Just like the majority of the American voting (or non-voting) public are idiots when any issues like these come up, and take more than a cursory glance at them.

  7. ? says:

    Put me down as thinking this line of inquiry is beyond tawdry. Stevens has zero evidence for the substance of his accusation; it was, what, 20+ years ago; whatever transpired, Gaines “did the honorable thing”; and the only thing that would make it relevant anyway — Gaines conspicuously prosecuting stat-rape — doesn’t seem to have happened. So to answer your question: ceterus paribus, I would think badly of Stevens for having brought it up.

    Of course, ceterus is rarely paribus, so there could be all kinds of reasons I might hold my nose and vote for Stevens anyway.

  8. trumwill says:

    Thanks for the input everybody. Nobody seems particularly disturbed by Gaines’s possible illegal behavior, though there does seem to be some concern that he won’t just come clean with it. At least on a tactical level. Like Phi, Sheila, and Barry I would probably not assume that they had sex… right up until he refused to deny it. That would raise some flags with me… though ultimately I can’t say that I would care all that much. Of all the sexual scandals, consensual behavior between a man and his future wife is simply not something I am going to get excited about even if it were in technical violation of the law.

    My sentiments on the issue are mostly with Phi. All things being equal, I would probably have more animosity towards Stevens. But really, if I agreed with Stevens on the issues or disliked Gaines, it probably would not affect my vote much. I might be grimacing in the booth, but I would vote on the issues at hand.

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