It’s Election Day, and, for many people, the opportunity to vote comes with a desire to know how other people have voted — especially famous ones. GoogleTrends released a list of the top searches about how prominent people have voted, and in second place: “Who is Monica Lewinsky voting for?” OK, friends. I know it’s been a crazy election, but it’s time to stop asking about Monica Lewinsky’s vote.
This morning, GoogleTrends released a list of the top searches for “Who is ___ voting for?” Taylor Swift earns the top spot (I never realized people were so into her political views!), with Lewinsky coming in second, followed by three major political figures. I get the impulse to want to know how famous people are voting, especially in an election as contested as this one. Obviously, no one, no matter how famous, is obligated to share their political leanings, but I do understand having curiosity about someone else’s vote, to see what that decision might tell you about who he or she is as a person. But Monica Lewinsky is a different case.
Famous for her role in a political sex scandal in the late-‘90s, in which she, at 22, had a sexual relationship with then-President Bill Clinton, Lewinsky has been pulled into the 2016 election again and again as a weapon against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, for example, has repeatedly referenced Lewinsky and Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals when attacking the Democratic nominee. All the way back in 2015, he retweeted a tweet that said, “If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” before deleting it. In the first debate, he made an oblique reference to the Lewinsky scandal, suggesting that he could bring it up, but wouldn’t. (Obviously his "Not Bringing It Up" was a way of bringing it up). At the end of September, CNN reported that the Trump campaign was advising supporters to bring up Lewinsky as defense against concerns about Trump’s conduct toward women. These lines of attack are insulting and unfair to both Lewinsky and Clinton, slut-shaming Lewinsky for a mistake she made as a 22-year-old, and shaming Clinton for her husband’s conduct.
The real irony here is that, in the wake of being publicly excoriated and humiliated for years for her part in the 1998 scandal, Lewinsky has become a dedicated anti-bullying activist. She’s spoken publicly about what she went through following the scandal. “I felt like every layer of my skin and my identity were ripped off of me in ’98 and ’99,” she said in a 2016 interview with the Guardian. “It’s a skinning of sorts. You feel incredibly raw and frightened. But I also feel like the shame sticks to you like tar.” Now she works to combat bullying and advocates for more empathy and compassion online, even as she's being used as a prop in a national election.
Fortune reports that at a recent talk she delivered in London, it was obvious that Lewinsky doesn’t want to be involved in the election. When Jon Ronson at the Guardian asked her if she was “worried that Trump is going to make hay with [her],” Lewinsky responded simply, “I’m affected by what happens on the world stage. But I don’t let it deter me.” It’s clear that Lewinsky wants to leave the past in the past and move on with her life — so let’s leave her vote alone and allow her to do that.