The moment of political reckoning began a day after President Trump’s inauguration, when millions of marchers protested his policies and treatment of women. That outpouring of energy has rippled through elections over the last 16 months, as women have turned out in force to vote — and often to punish the Republican Party.
But for Democrats, the process of confronting sexual misconduct in politics has also grown complicated and emotionally fraught. If Mr. Trump’s election ignited this national conflagration, the president himself has largely escaped consequences for his behavior so far. And a number of the politicians exposed as predators and abusers have been men whom the left once viewed with admiration.
Mr. Trump and his advisers have reveled openly in the #MeToo-era downfall of prominent Democrats, most recently Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general who cast himself as a heroic opponent of Mr. Trump and a crusader for women’s rights. After four women accused him of physical abuse, Kellyanne Conway, one of Mr. Trump’s chief political aides, tweeted: “Gotcha.”
The White House’s exultation grated on politicians and strategists in both parties, who view Mr. Trump as a fatally compromised messenger on women’s rights. As galling as some Democrats’ hypocrisy may be, a president accused by more than a dozen women of groping and forcible kissing can only make things uncomfortable for his party by engaging in a political tit-for-tat, some Republicans outside the White House say.
Amanda Carpenter, a Republican strategist who has been critical of Mr. Trump, said the administration’s gleeful reaction to Mr. Schneiderman’s resignation on Monday had been off key and politically myopic. “There’s no expression of sympathy for those women,” Ms. Carpenter said, referring to Mr. Schneiderman’s accusers. “It’s win-at-all-costs power politics.”
But Ms. Carpenter, a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, said voters might not turn to Democrats as an alternative to Mr. Trump unless they do more to inspire confidence. “Democrats keep falling for this fantasy that because Donald Trump’s personal character issues are so awful, that voters will naturally rally to their side,” she said. “You have to give people a reason to rally.”
For Democrats, the White House’s gloating strikes the rawest of nerves: Already, there is a mood of seething frustration among liberals, who see themselves as aggressively policing misconduct on their side, while Mr. Trump and his party approach it with comparative indifference. Most of all, Democrats fear that Mr. Trump could escape political repercussions for his actions — and that accused offenders on the left like Mr. Schneiderman might ease the pressure on the president.
Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster who recently conducted a survey on the politics of sexual harassment for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, sees an opposite scenario unfolding. Far from letting Mr. Trump off the hook, Ms. Matthews contends that each new case of sexual misconduct — in either party — is likely to…