Alex Morse, 31, is just the kind of Democratic candidate progressives usually love. The young, gay mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts is challenging a corrupt, centrist incumbent, Richie Neal, for Congress. Backed by the Squad-making Justice Democrats, Morse is a supporter of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
And the Left did love him — that is, until the College Democrats of Massachusetts figured out a brilliant way to take him down: make absurd sexual allegations against Morse and watch the Left lose its collective mind.
Last Friday, just a couple weeks before the primary, the College Democrats — who received $1,000 from Rep. Neal, Morse’s opponent, in April — launched the scandal with a letter disinviting Morse from all their future events. The missive, which was given to the Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts’s student newspaper, made three accusations against the insurgent candidate.
The College Democrats alleged that Morse, who became mayor at the age of twenty-two, “matched with” students on dating apps. They also claimed to be upset with him for
using College Democrats events to meet college students and add them on Instagram, adding them to his “Close Friends” story and DMing them, both of which have made young college students uncomfortable … [and] feel pressured to respond due to his status…
The horror! He “matched” with students? He added them on his “close friends” stories? What a monster.
No one ever came forward as a “survivor” of any of Morse’s heinous acts of Instagramming, but in one case, according to the College Democrats’ letter, a young man hooked up with Morse and found out later that Morse was the mayor and felt weird about that. (This would appear to be a comically ineffective use of his “status.”)
The letter also accused Morse of having sex with students, some of whom attend the University of Massachusetts, the large university where he has taught as an adjunct professor. No one has accused him of having such relations with any of his own students. (University policies take varying views of sex between students and faculty who have no academic relationship; UMass sensibly requires professors to keep it platonic with students they supervise or teach.)
The fallout was swift. Fellow Justice Democrat endorsee Jamaal Bowman put his own endorsement of Morse on pause, waiting to learn more. Socialist Twitter was full of condemnation for Morse, with many on the Left apparently convinced that any age difference between partners is “creepy,” and, perhaps homophobically, equating the young men’s alleged discomfort with victimization.
Liberals at media outlets like the Daily Beast indignantly denied that the attack on Morse was homophobic, insisting we must attend to the “power dynamics.” The Western Massachusetts chapter of the Sunrise Movement stopped campaigning for him, saying in a written statement, “We see and honor the people who experienced harm by Alex’s actions” and deploring the “unequal power dynamic” between Morse and the unnamed younger men. (Another Sunrise group in the area, Sunrise South Hadley, as well as the Sunrise national group, disagreed; they stood by their original endorsement of Morse and said they were waiting to learn more about the accusations.)
It turns out the Left got played. For days, agonized online discourse parsed acceptable behavior for consenting adults and trafficked (disgracefully) in stereotypes about predatory gay men. Thankfully, the Intercept’s Ryan Grim stepped in to reveal that there weren’t even any “victims” of “discomfort” or “power dynamics.” Messages Grim obtained show that the College Dems planned the whole thing deliberately, as one of the group’s leaders was hoping to get an internship with Rep. Neal, Morse’s opponent.
The College Democrats “honey-trapped” Morse into one Instagram chat, in which Morse exchanged friendly and wholesome pleasantries with a young man. (“Don’t mind my leading him on,” the young man commented as he passed the exchange on to his fellow College Dems. “This will sink his campaign,” wrote his colleague approvingly.)
It turns out there was no pattern of Morse even attending College Democrat events, much less using them to meet men. The conspirators had tracked his dating app activity relentlessly, looking for something incriminating and found…that he had matched with some people.
Obviously these College Democrats are corrupt scoundrels. But the Left shouldn’t be so easily manipulated.
Such accusations, which couldn’t have been better calculated to excite a left prone to sex panic, should never have disrupted a Congressional campaign, even if they had been true. Morse was not accused of sexual assault. He was not accused of preying on children or even of consensual sex with underage teens. Morse was not accused of having sex with students in his own classes, or interns in his office. What most people focused on was this: the young mayor was accused of having sex with — and sometimes even Instagram-friending! — people who might have less power and status than he has.
Wait till these kids hear about heterosexuality.
And let’s not forget that people of some races and backgrounds have more social “power” than others. Should the Left be against interracial dating now?
Also, wait till the College Democrats hear about capitalism, a system in which anyone with access to more wealth has more power. Be careful out there!
Speaking of capital — it’s a big supporter of Rep. Richie Neal. As Donald Shaw reported in Jacobin, the health care industry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Neal’s campaign, an understandable investment since he is a stalwart opponent of Medicare for All.
He gets even more money from the securities and investment industry (real estate is close) with the Blackstone Group as his biggest corporate contributor. Neal has racked up almost a million dollars in “large” individual contributions. He’s been accused of corrupt, “pay-to-play” fundraising, or, as a Boston radio station put it “wining and dining wealthy donors, some of whom have business before the powerful congressional committee he heads.”
Hopefully the Intercept’s reporting will restore sanity to the situation. But in a close race where the left candidate faces a well-funded opponent, a few days of damaging news, even fake news, can do a lot of damage. If the Left’s inability to stay out of its feelings on this matter ends up hurting Alex Morse’s campaign to unseat Neal, the big winners will be these predatory industries and one-percenters.
And who will suffer the most “harm”? Anyone without “power.”