(CNN)Here's the scene: A Washington Post reporter asks Democratic Reps. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina why they -- and their colleagues -- have been comparatively slow to call for the resignation of embattled Michigan Democrat John Conyers amid a series of sexual harassment allegations. Richmond asks for examples. The reporter names Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer. Clyburn, who is the third-ranking Democrat in the House, turns to Richmond and asks sarcastically: "Who elected them?"
3 words that reveal how incredibly out of touch Congress is on sexual harassment
Who. Elected. Them.
Those three words tell you absolutely everything you need to know about why people like Weinstein, Spacey and Lauer were forced to resign or fired almost immediately after revelations about their inappropriate conduct emerged while the likes of Conyers and Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat -- not to mention Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican -- remain in Congress or in a race for Senate.
There's a massive sense of entitlement among (most) members of Congress. Most times, you can't see it. When the chips are down, however, it rears its ugly head.
At the heart of Clyburn's dismissive response is a) he doesn't think he needs to answer questions from a reporter as he's waiting for an elevator and b) he doesn't see any real comparison between Conyers' plight (or that of any member of Congress) and that of someone like Weinstein or Lauer.
Clyburn, like the vast majority of elected officials, believes that having won the votes of the public grants them a special sort of status when it comes to these sorts of scandals.
"Politicians are essentially self-employed," explained Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. "They are up for review only in even-numbered years, usually in November. That's a small window for firing folks. And most people would be averse to firing themselves, especially politicians."
Added one senior Democratic pollster, granted anonymity to speak candidly about his own party: "At the end of the day, politicians can use the 'out' -- 'I will let the voters decide,' and the nature of politics (and politicians) allows this to happen."
It's how Moore continues to soldier on in Alabama despite the fact that he faces allegations from several women that he pursued sexual relationships with them when they were between 14 and 19 years old and he was in his early 30s. It's how Franken continues to stick by an I-take-lots-of-pictures-with-lots-of-people defense even as the number of women who accuse him of groping them rises. And it's how Conyers, who faces a series of allegations of sexual harassment, not only continues to hang onto his job but remains defiant about calls for him to resign.
"She sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave," Conyers' attorney Arnold Reed said of House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who called on the Michigan Democrat to resign just five days after praising him as an "icon" in an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd. (Clyburn, too, has reversed course from his initial annoyance at being questioned over Conyers, according to CNN's reporting, and now is calling on Conyers to resign.)
Those reversals are rightly understood as two long-serving members of Congress seeing which way the wind is blowing. The reporting on Conyers suggests that this isn't an isolated indiscretion but rather a pattern of behavior. The maneuvers of Pelosi and Clyburn on Thursday are best understood as getting off the tracks before the train runs over you.
Which is fine. Politicians do political things. But no matter what Clyburn says today, it doesn't change what he said on Wednesday. Or what that tells us about how he -- and lots of his colleagues -- think.
And, to put it mildly, it's not a great look.