After weeks of messy allegations and the potential to uproot the 31-year-old mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, Alex Morse’s, political campaign by revealing “sexual assault” allegations, the whole debacle comes into the light as nothing but a false smear campaign against a progressive candidate in the Democratic party looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Richard Neal.
The allegations began when a letter to Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, written by the College Democrats of Massachusetts, claimed the mayor had “inappropriate sexual relations” and went so far to accuse him of using “his position of power for romantic or sexual gain.”
According to an article published by The Daily Collegian, there were three issues the College Democrats of Massachusetts had with Morse’s behavior.
The first issue being that Morse frequently matched with students on popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr. People have complained some of these students were as young as 18 years old, and included members of the College Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats and other groups in Massachusetts.
The second issue was claiming that Morse frequently used College Democrats events to meet with college students, add them on Instagram, and then DM'ing them. This action has, supposedly, made “young college students uncomfortable.”
The third and final issue the College Democrats of Massachusetts took with Morse’s behavior was supposedly having sexual contact with college students, and, according to The Daily Collegian, includes UMass Amherst students where Morse teaches.
The allegations came only three weeks before polls were to open on Sept. 1st, causing many people to question Morse’s campaign in the race.
According to BuzzFeed News, the Justice Democrats, a group of progressive leaning Democrats who seek to push the Democratic party left of corporate or centrists Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, etc. and have elected congressional officials through grass roots movements such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, “the powerful Justice Democrats group that had backed him said they were ‘disappointed’ and evaluating their ties, and fellow progressive Jamaal Bowman said he would ‘pause’ his endorsement of Morse as he learned more.”
As Morse said in a statement published to Twitter on Aug 9th: “I want to be very clear about this. I have never, in my entire life, had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone. I have never used my position of power as Mayor and UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students.
“I have never violated UMass policy. Any claim to the contrary is false. As I’ve acknowledged, I have had consensual relationships with other men, including students enrolled at local universities that I’ve met using dating apps.”
In the rest of the statement Morse calls out the double standard of how his campaign is being handled as someone who identifies as gay, an apology if he had made anyone uncomfortable, and confirmation to his followers that he move forward in the race, despite allegations made against him.
But despite such an attack by the College Democrats, no student or form of evidence had come forward. And after weeks of online debate on every social media platform and what it means to wield political power while also still having a personal life, an article published by the Intercept revealed the whole thing to be nothing more than a smear attempt on Morse’s campaign.
As revealed in the article, the smear campaign against Morse’s campaign began back last October when Andrew Abrahmson, a student who would eventually become the college club’s president, was messaged by Morse on Instagram. Morse stated, according to The Intercept, that “it was a pleasure meeting.” Prior to their interaction, the two had previously matched on Tinder, though they never met up.
Despite Morse being maybe a “bad flirt,” there seems to be no signs of any abuse of political power. Only two gay men making small talk.
And despite the obvious convenience of timing for Morse’s opponent Richard Neal, the College Democrats have completely denied any and all connections to Neal’s campaign. “To suggest that our decision to send the letter to Mayor Morse was a quid pro quo with Rep. Neal, his campaign, or anyone else is untrue, disingenuous, and harmful.”
Neal’s spoke person, Kate Norton, has also denied any connections between the College Democrats and Neal’s campaign. Though, Norton did go on to “commend” these “courageous students.” Courageous for what she did not specify.
“I think it’s certainly suspicious this has happened three weeks before the primary,” Morse said. “I think power stops at nothing to hold on to power and given the new revelations that are coming to light, I will let others come to their own conclusions.”
Despite the false allegations against Morse, his campaign donations have recently spiked. In one day on Wednesday his campaign received $130,000 in donations from an estimated 3,300 donors and even the Justice Democrats were re-promoting Morse’s campaign. And despite Pete Buttigieg not commenting directly, Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s former top adviser during Buttigieg’s presidential run, tweeted, “This is a pretty terrifying weaponization of stereotypes of gay men. There has yet to be a single allegation against [Morse], but still groups that endorsed him were calling on him to drop out. Shameful all around.”
“This is exactly what people don’t like about politics and the politics of personal destruction,” Morse said. “I think it’s why a lot of people, and a lot of young people, shy away from running for office.”
He had gone on more in detail in his statement, saying, “Too often, elections aren’t about issues and ideas; they’re about personal destruction. As I move forward, I vow to keep speaking up for the cause on which this campaign was built: the cause of building a true and just democracy in this country.”
The allegations reveal a scary flaw in the fight against injustice systems. In the age of #metoo, BLM protest, and other popular social movements, it’s all too easy for corrupt people, groups and or corporations to hijack the language of these movements to seize power in the current moment.
It begs us as citizens to look more carefully at who is releasing statements of solidarity with social justice movements while, behind closed doors, contributing to larger systemic issues and doing very little for their minority citizens and employees. It reminds us that symbolic acts of social justice and statements of solidarity are nothing in the face of real activism and systemic changes. This is not a one-party issue, but a bipartisan one.
And it comes as no surprise that a progressive candidate looking to change the system has been so easily personally attacked, while the horrific personal and political deeds of some incumbent politicians are largely ignored. After all, it’s easier for people to personally attack a new politician whose platform is based on systemic change rather than reckon with politicians who have either participated in or have remained complicit in injustice and abusive systems of power throughout their career.
It reminds us that we as citizens are not cheerleaders rooting for politicians as if they’re our favorite sports team, but that the power resides in the citizens and that we must constantly hold politicians accountable to push them to do good for the people, even the ones who we side with and who we think are “good.”