By Jonathon Van Maren
There has been a tsunami of commentary washing over us since Patrick Brown’s career was immolated earlier this week, with some heralding his ousting as a victory for the #metoo movement, and others claiming that Brown was the victim of a grave injustice. Quite a few pundits have responded to the situation by claiming that Brown was wrongfully convicted without due process in the court of public opinion, with some even using the term “vigilante” to describe those who came for his head in the early hours of January 25. But many of those defending Brown are, in my view, missing a couple of essential facts about his career and downfall that significantly alter that narrative.
First, Patrick Brown was not “tried in the court of public opinion” and then turfed as a result. Most of the public didn’t even hear about his train wreck 9:45 PM press conference until the morning, when his caucus and mass resignations from his own top staff had forced him from his position as leader. It was his colleagues, his staffers, people he hired and trusted that forced Brown out, not the public. And why? It is because, as PC staffers and even politicians are now admitting to the media, everyone knew that Brown was a creep. Everyone knew that Brown had an “m.o.,” as one source put it—he plied girls, generally much younger, often even teenagers—with alcohol, and then he aggressively propositioned them. As Adam Radwanski explained in the Globe and Mail:
Well before Mr. Brown’s 2015 ascent to the leadership, rumours about his relationships with women flew around political circles. As a federal MP, he and a few Conservative colleagues styled themselves “frat boys,” and made a show of partying with much younger women.
This was often in places where alcohol flowed heavily, despite Mr. Brown never drinking. Among Mr. Brown’s crew was Rick Dykstra, subsequently installed as provincial party president, who lost his federal seat after a report about him buying drinks for underage girls.
The whispers about Mr. Brown potentially having inappropriate interactions with young women were strong enough that he or his staff were asked by other Tories whether there was anything they should worry about. While attributing it solely to knowledge of how many sexual partners Mr. Brown had, not of any wrongdoing, one of his advisers said this week that he and his team had run drills for how they would respond to any related controversy.
That is precisely why Brown’s colleagues threw him out so swiftly: Because when the rumors and anecdotes that had been circulating for years—as I mentioned earlier this week, I heard many of them myself—were finally reported by a mainstream media outlet confident enough in the facts to take the story public, it was a confirmation of what many of them had already suspected. Many commentators seem to overlook the shocking fact that the caucus vote to dump Brown was unanimous. When Christy Blatchford bemoaned the fact in that Brown had been axed “purely on the say-so of two women,” that is not actually true. He was thrown out because his own colleagues and staffers had every reason—including the fact that Brown himself had been preparing for such allegations—to believe those women, and to suspect that there might be many more. A quick survey of the stories now coming out of Brown’s home riding of Barrie being posted to social media by girls and women indicate that this is, in fact, the case.
The second point that is being overlooked by some in all of this is that while Patrick Brown is probably not a criminal—there’s generally nothing illegal about being a creepy sober guy trolling bars for young girls—he is a repulsive and predatory man. The public has a right to know about the moral character of those they are expected to vote for, and they have a right to know if a significant political leader is perennially dogged by accusations of moral sliminess so credible that his own party terminated his career in a matter of hours. Whether Brown broke the law is a matter for the courts to decide. Whether his repugnant sexual career renders him ineligible for higher office is a matter for his colleagues, and for the public to decide. As Chris Selley so eloquently pointed out, the idea that “due process” is something that applies to the fortunes of politicians is a bit ridiculous. Affairs and other sexual practices of some politicians have been tanking careers for nearly as long as politics has existed. As Selley put it over in the National Post:
This isn’t just about the #MeToo movement, either. At most points in history, surely, at least some partisans of any conservative party would be alarmed by accusations that their unmarried teetotaler leader was hanging out with 18-year-old girls, plying them with booze and then trying his luck once they got suitably sloshed. The main difference now, I suspect, is that we’re actually hearing the stories that would in the past have gone untold.
That’s precisely it. Unlike their American counterparts, Canadian journalists have generally stayed far away from reporting on the sexual improprieties of our political class, and so one of the reasons that the Brown story is such a bombshell is because generally, “open secrets” about our politicians remain just that—secrets. Anyone involved in provincial politics or residing in the “Ottawa bubble” could tell you many stories about prominent men that would probably shock you, but until now, these have generally been ignored or considered beneath the dignity of the Ottawa press corps. That may or may not be the case, but it certainly shouldn’t be argued that Brown’s moral character should have remained hidden from the public because to inform the voters of things that most of those in political circles knew or suspected is somehow grossly unfair to him.
My suspicion is that Brown will never be charged in court because his creepiness probably did not rise to the level of criminality. Be that as it may, it is in the public’s interest to know what sort of man he is before they are asked to vote for him.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.