RECENTLY something has happened that seems to have become a regular thing in elections: there have been historical allegations of sexual assault made against a candidate. During the 2016 presidential election it was prominent as an attack against Donald Trump, but it was obviously not effective in losing him the election.
However, this time it’s on both candidates. We now have accusations from a former senate staffer claiming she was assaulted by Joe Biden whilst working as a senate assistant to him in the 1990s. This is obviously a very serious allegation, but something about it just feels different. It seems to now have gone beyond whether you believe its true or false, and now there is almost an uncomfortable consensus of ‘this may or may not have happened, but the other guy has done worse so we should just focus on beating him instead’.
Sexual assault cannot be an issue only if its partisan and it is the candidate you do not like. They must always be taken seriously and there should be consequences for them.
It has not even been two years since Brett Kavanaugh was nominated and appointed to the US Supreme Court with allegations of committing rape in college. The nomination process turned in to a mass media fanfare because of the allegations that Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, had made. She was seen as someone who had changed history and was given near saint status. However, the Senate voted along party lines and Kavanaugh was appointed to the highest court in the land.
While that is another issue entirely, where is this fanfare and level of interest for the Biden allegations? Senator Kamala Harris was given acclaim for her forensic questioning of Kavanaugh in his senate hearing, owing to her legal background… Where is she now? Is she just going to stay quiet because Kavanaugh could not be in a position to offer her the Vice Presidency? Before she dropped out of the running for President she said “I believe [Biden accusers] and I respect them”, but now she is not running, and appears to be vying for a different job, her mantra seems to be “we need to do everything possible to get Joe Biden elected”. Is this just how we have to go into an election, our candidate at any cost?
Biden has said he completely denies the allegations but has made a point of saying they should be taken seriously and investigated as all claims should be taken seriously. He implies that he has always believed this, but has he? When Biden was a senator in 1991, he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and heard testimony from Anita Hill in the confirmation hearing of another Supreme Court nominee. The situation is near identical to that of Kavanaugh and Ford in that a female made allegations against a nominee and reluctantly went before the committee to give evidence. Hill has said Biden refused to hear corroborating evidence of her account and refused to call witness that could support her case.
Biden obviously knew Hill would be an issue in his campaign as he contacted her a month before announcing his candidacy. However, this was not a satisfactory showing that he had learnt his lesson, as Hill said his words did not reflect a case of ‘I am so sorry for what you went through and how I could have caused that’, and were more along the lines of ‘I am sorry you feel you were not treated correctly’. Does this just show a long standing indifference to sexual assault allegations from a man who says they should be taken seriously? Does it show a pattern of only listening when its politically convenient?
Should this have come up earlier? There have been arguments by Biden supporters that the allegations could not be true because he would have been relentlessly vetted for his position as Vice President under Barack Obama. But then, if you do not know what you are looking for, how do you know where to look? Did Biden assure Obama that is was a non-issue because the MeToo movement had not happened, and it used to be the case that women’s allegations of sexual assault were always just pushed under the rug? Perhaps, but to assume Obama is a saving grace in this situation may be ill placed. After all, his daughter did intern for Harvey Weinstein; it does not look as though Obama was a particularly astute individual in picking out sexual predators or being a voice of morality.
Is this just what we have to contend with? Both candidates have allegations, but it does not end there. Michael Bloomberg was for some short time an alternative candidate in the democratic ticket. However, Elizabeth Warren made sure this was not the case. Whilst it may have actually been more comfortable to watch Warren gun Bloomberg down on live TV, she asked him excruciatingly uncomfortable questions about his past in regard to allegations of sexual assault and harassment of women.
Whilst she did not kill Bloomberg that night, she did kill his campaign. However, in doing so she made another excellent point to consider. In her concluding remarks about Bloomberg she said, “This is not just a question of the mayor’s character, this is also a question about electability”. If the allegations are proven to be true, should that mark the end of Biden’s run at the presidency? It does not seem to be the case for Trump.
Even then, is rolling over just so the least bad sexual predator is in the white house the correct way to go about this? Was criticism of Hillary Clinton on her emails from both sides part of the reason we have had four years of Trump already? And is saying ‘we accept the allegations, but it’s just a bit of hassle to rally around a new candidate’ really enough for victims?
Is this just something we will have to accept for a generation of elections until the understanding of the MeToo movement has meant that sexual predators cannot be high achievers without due process? Perhaps, but that is to assume the MeToo movement will successfully stop the issues it exposes.
If Trump has more allegations, should we take count and go from there? But then does Trump only have more because more people have come forward? Is this something that could have been coming?
Biden has a reputation for being very handsy with women. He has been seen on camera putting his arms around journalist’s waists or below their breasts. Even while he was VP, there was an allegation of him approaching a journal from behind, smelling her hair and kissing the back of her head. Arguably, Biden should have seen this coming. Is this just where the flood gates open and we realise Uncle Joe is actually as deeply flawed as Trump?
Biden has asked for the Senate to release all records regarding this complaint. Does this show his innocence because he is so sure there is nothing to find? Or does he know the Senate is not allowed to release these for a specific reason? Or is he certain this specific example did not happen but another individual in another year does, but the senate will not release that as he has not asked for all reports to be made public? Perhaps Biden is making biggest political gamble in American history.
As much as Biden seems to be painted as a dithering grandfather figure, he has been in public office for decades. He will know how to manipulate the workings of this system to lead to a situation where he can say “I wanted the records released, but the senate said no”.
Whilst these allegations need to be discussed and given the same footing as if they were against a candidate from a different party. It would seem that we do not even need Russia to interfere in these elections, Biden seems very capable of losing on his own with an issue that will not go away soon.