Friday, May 1, 2020

Joe Biden and the Challenge for Feminism

Is the dam starting to break? Is the Democratic Party finally overcoming its flagrant hypocrisy about sexual harassment? Will it hold Joe Biden to account for what he apparently did to Tara Reade? 

Perhaps it is. After all, the Washington Post editorialized that it was well past time for Biden to come forth and explain himself. The New York Times raised the issue, as did one Don Lemon on CNN.

Before we get too excited over this new burst of integrity, we might also indulge a slight bit of cynicism. We know that Biden now leads Trump in some swing-state polls. It doesn’t mean anything, but it makes it more difficult to abandon sleezy Uncle Joe.

On the other hand, you can also imagine the anxiety attacks Democratic politicians are having over the prospect of seeing creepy Uncle Joe stand on the debate stage and, when asked about his son Hunter’s business dealings in China, say something like this:

They “were not anything what everybody that he’s talking about. Not even remotely.”

The notion that Biden can make his way through three debates without exposing his senile dementia is perhaps one wager Democrats do not want to make. 

And one notes, that the band of psychiatric propagandists who are beating the drums over President Trump’s supposed narcissism-- a dubious diagnosis from an unscientific diagnostic manual-- refuse to say anything about Biden’s mental deficiencies. And about the fact that a dysfunctioning brain is certainly not a qualification for the presidency.

Some have suggested that Hillary Clinton is waiting in the wings, but, as noted in a prior post I have yet to hear anyone in the media suggest that they wish that Hillary were now in charge of the government. Since New York is now the world epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems unlikely that its governor will be proposed as a presidential candidate.

Besides, replacing a sexual predator with a woman who has made it safe for Democratic men to prey on women would be too rich. Didn’t Hillary Clinton’s appalling record of enabling her husband’s harassment and rape neutralize the charges against Trump in the last presidential campaign? The media is always happy to remind us of all the charges against Trump, but it systematically fails to note that the mere presence of Hillary on the Democratic ticket make it impossible for anyone to take them seriously.

So, let’s examine the state of play. The New York Times reports that several women’s groups were going to issue a statement declaring that despite Biden’s support for women’s issues, he ought still to address the thoroughly credible charges leveled by Tara Reade.

As you might imagine, the Biden campaign prevailed on the women and told them to hold back their letter. Nothing like a little censorship and disempowerment to set feminist hearts aflutter.

The Times reported:

Finally, several of the women’s groups prepared a public letter that praised Mr. Biden’s work as an “outspoken champion for survivors of sexual violence” but also pushed him to address the allegation from Tara Reade, a former aide who worked in Mr. Biden’s Senate office in the early 1990s.

“Vice President Biden has the opportunity, right now, to model how to take serious allegations seriously,” the draft letter said. “The weight of our expectations matches the magnitude of the office he seeks.”

Then Mr. Biden’s team heard about the advocates’ effort. According to people involved in the discussions, the group put the letter on hold as it began pressuring Biden advisers to push the candidate to make a statement himself before the end of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Along with liberal organizers, they urged him to acknowledge the importance of survivors and the need for systemic change around issues of sexism and assault.

One feminist leader said this:

“It’s difficult for survivors to see that a woman who has more corroborating sources than most survivors have in similar situations is being tossed aside and actively being weaponized by cynical political actors,” said Shaunna Thomas, a founder of UltraViolet, a women’s rights advocacy group that is involved in the effort to push the campaign. “It would be an incredible moment of leadership for Joe Biden to show up.”

In truth, feminism did not seem to lose credibility when it went out and defended Bill Clinton against worse charges. One can only wish that feminists like Thomas will show some backbone on these issues and grow a little integrity.

Anyway, the Times is now covering the story, at length. And we will remind everyone that when the Biden campaign said that a Times investigation had cleared him of the charges, the Times immediately shot back that it had not. In truth, the Times investigation tried to diminish the impact of the accusations.

As for the reaction of feminists, Sarah Jones gets it right in New York Magazine. She argues that whatever constraints feminist politicians have, feminist intellectuals do not have the same problems. Thus, there is no excuse for their not calling out Biden. She might have mentioned that they had no excuse for not calling out Bill and Hillary Clinton, but the issue seems not to be bothering them any more.

Jones says this:

Reade has given public feminists an ideological test. Many are failing. Though some have said they’re outraged by the choices on the ballot, others rushed to discredit Reade before her story had been fully vetted by the press. “Reade seems almost engineered in a lab to inspire skepticism in mainstream Democrats, both because her story keeps changing and because of her bizarre public worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times, before the Intercept and Business Insider corroborated new pieces of Reade’s story. Goldberg, who has been critical of Biden, went on: Reade said she left politics because she loved the arts, not because Biden had assaulted her. Unlike the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, which Goldberg once called “profoundly inspiring,” Reade’s story had too many inconsistencies to be totally credible.

Days later, Nation columnist Joan Walsh launched similar accusations. “Even in the era of #MeToo, Reade’s story is problematic,” Walsh wrote. Reade changed her story “multiple times,” Walsh complained, before concluding that the woman’s story, while possible, was improbable. Goldberg and Walsh both emphasize Reade’s past writings, which cast Russian president Vladimir Putin in glowing terms. Reade has “a strange obsession” with Putin, Walsh wrote; only then, after she thoroughly poisoned the well, did she admit that Reade’s fringe views don’t make her a liar. Still others implied that Reade is a Russian plant. “I don’t buy the Tara Reade shit. I’m not here to defend any man whose shortcomings and past dumb moves are widely known. I’m here to karate-chop disinfo and dirty tricks in an election year,” tweeted editor Xeni Jardin.

Nicely stated.

Jones concludes that Joe Biden has put feminists in a difficult position. She should have emphasized that feminists who defended Bill Clinton and who worship Hillary Clinton have put themselves in a moral bind:

There is no simple way out of the predicament that Biden and his allies have created. But premature attacks on Reade boost a candidate at the expense of a movement. They tell us only that the lessons of Me Too can be set aside as soon as they are inconvenient. That strategy might serve electoral politics, but it betrays feminism. The movement exists to critique power: to identify its abuses and demand its redistribution. Accept that, and you don’t serve the political class; you’re in tension with it. That’s uncomfortable. That’s inconvenient. That’s the point.

The alternative is even more distasteful. We’ll settle for Biden, and men like him, over and over; we’ll tell ourselves the conservative is worse, that at least the Democrat will make a woman his vice-president. We’ll eat scraps, and we’ll still go hungry, and all we’ll leave to our children is a political future only a little bit better than the present. Our grand prize? To clean up after men like Joe Biden. That isn’t power. It’s just women’s work.

Hats off to Jones for some serious and honest thinking.


UbuMaccabee said...

Black racists have been calling other people racists as a racket for decades. Tom Wolfe documented this in 1970 very well. At this point, everyone with a modicum of sentience knows the drill. It's a hustle.

Feminism is no different. It's a racket designed to call other people misogynists or worse, rapists and sexual predators. It's about power. I do not believe a word of this from this woman; she's a scam artist looking for attention and a payday. But I'm glad it's happening to Joe because he has used the exact same playbook against others. The Democratic Party has lost control of its golem.

Men, do not date these women, and whatever you do, do not sleep with them (I know it looks fun, but it is a prison sentence). Don't speak to them beyond what is necessary to establish cordial relations. Wear a mask and do not let it slip. Do not hire them, and if you are stuck with them, find ways to get them removed from your teams for a legitimate cause. Feminism is cancer, and it's either you or her. Guile will carry the day.

trigger warning said...

Speaking of presidential candidates, I can't imagine either Biden, or (if he is dumpstered) Clinton, will be the candidate.

Bernie? Warren? A governor? Avenatti? Whis. L Blower?

Fun times.

Sam L. said...

Well, regarding the NYT and WaPoo, I despise, detest, and distrust the both. CNN and the TV networks, too.