Human decency should trump politics

Will Gardner’s decision to halt his campaign as the Republican candidate for Secretary of State has revealed a lot of ugliness in North Dakota’s political circles.

Gardner, for those of you who don’t know, was convicted of a disorderly conduct charge in 2006. His crime was sneaking around outside of a female dorm peeking into windows. According to one law enforcement officer responding to the incident, Gardner had his pants undone and his shirt untucked. He’d also taken off his belt and left it on the seat of his vehicle along with his wallet.

Those latter precautions might give us cause to wonder if the incident he was arrested for perhaps wasn’t his first experience with non-consensual voyeurism. Perhaps Gardner knew, from experience, that when you drop your pants your wallet can fall out of your pocket.

Anyway, Gardner is out of the race now, but some Republicans in the state persist in defending him.

Case in point: conservative talk radio host Scott Hennen. During a recent episode of his show, Hennen wondered if the women Gardner spied on hadn’t been inviting his gaze by not completely closing their blinds or curtains. He also brought up the sexual orientation of Josh Boschee, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State who is openly gay, suggesting that it’s “sinful” just as Gardner’s unwanted peeping was.

This is reprehensible. Gardner victimized the women he looked at, and they deserve exactly zero blame for that.

Can you imagine how long it was after that incident that the women in that dorm felt safe again? Do you suppose that, even today, an open window looking out onto a dark night might give them pause to wonder just who might be out there looking at him?

As for Boschee’s sexuality, it is irrelevant both in terms of the Gardner situation and the campaign for Secretary of State in general. For my part I hope, as a fellow human being, that Boschee finds happiness and support in whoever he chooses to love in his personal life.

That Hennen would bring up Boschee’s orientation disapprovingly, in the context of Gardner’s criminal actions, is repugnant.

Were Hennen’s comments isolated, were he alone in his quixotic attempt to minimize and rationalize Gardner’s actions, we could dismiss them as the overheated rantings of a hyperpartisan commentator.

Sadly, there is a very vocal faction of Republicans in North Dakota who feel as Hennen does.

They suggest that Gardner’s victims ought to share some of the blame for his actions. They invoke Boschee’s homosexuality as though it were somehow relevant. They concoct conspiracy theories about “the establishment” or some other nefarious cabal who “leaked” the information about his conviction.

That this information was publicly available, and merely overlooked until journalist Tu-Uyen Tran found it and reported it, apparently doesn’t matter.

It’s sickening to watch.

I can understand being frustrated when a political candidate you believe in fails you. I’ve known Will Gardner for years. I was excited for his candidacy. I was glad to see him win the NDGOP endorsement over long time incumbent Al Jaeger.

But Gardner let me down. He let us all down. The only person we can blame for that is Gardner.