October 26, 2016

Politickin’ me off: In Webster Groves, political power should not give you the right to disrespect women

It hasn’t been politics as usual lately in Webster Groves, with a city council member drawing attention to the town by threatening women who have disagreed with him.

Greg Mueller was criticized for commenting on school board issue in his role a city councilman and for sending mailers about it to people on a Catholic church mailing list. Elyssa Sullivan, a Webster Groves resident, commented unfavorably about it on Facebook.

Then Sullivan received a letter from Mueller at her home. In it, he told her that she was lying about him and threatened to sue her for defamation of character, saying she needed to “remedy” the supposed damage done by posting on a private Facebook group.

“Do not ignore my request,” Mueller wrote. “You do so at your own peril.”

It’s wasn’t the first occurrence – at least one other woman has also received a threatening letter from Mueller.

Mueller actually defended himself by saying he had sent three letters like that, but the third target, political opponent Cory Kleinschmidt, said he never actually received one.

“Maybe he included me so it didn’t look like he was just intimidating women,” Kleinschmidt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s bullying. I think it’s inappropriate for a state representative candidate to threaten constituents.”

Mueller’s behavior is, on its own, disconcerting. He clearly believes that, as an elected official, his responsibility to his constituents extends only as long as they stay on his good side.

In this year’s political climate, however, Mueller’s behavior seems to be part of a larger trend.

Of course, there’s Donald Trump’s persistent trouble with women. The Republican presidential candidate couldn’t get through a debate without bringing up his negative opinion of a woman’s appearance. He’s faced allegations of sexual assault and almost all of his attacks on opponent Hillary Clinton carry an overtone of sexism.

On a more local level, Missouri’s state house has already been rocked by a scandal involving two members who haven’t even taken office yet.

Incoming house representative Cora Faith Walker wrote a letter to house leadership informed them that she had been sexually assaulted earlier in the week – by, she says, another representative-elect, Steven Roberts, Jr. She has asked that Roberts not be allowed to take office until a criminal investigation into the incident concludes.

While it’s unclear so far whether Roberts will take office, it’s disturbing that he is another man using his involvement in politics to victimize women.

Politicians, from the local to the presidential level, need to remember that their position does not give them the right to disrespect women. As voters, we should all be wary of men who seem to enjoy using their status to bully, harass or abuse.

Mueller is clearly unfit to hold office, either as a state representative or as a Webster Groves city council members. Voters should reject the idea of giving more power to a man who is clearly prone to abuse it.

Mueller, of course, doesn’t even think Webster Groves voters should have a chance to reconsider him.

“I don’t think it’s proper for public servants to labor under the threat of recall — for expressing constitutionally protected speech,” he told the Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Of course, threats aren’t constitutionally protected speech, making Mueller’s shaky grasp of the First Amendment another point against him.

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