Good on Mika Brzezinski for asking presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden this morning, on Morning Joe, whether he sexually assaulted his former staff assistant, Tara Reade. It is the obvious thing to ask him right now, weeks and weeks after she came forward with the allegation that, in 1983, he pushed her up against a wall and felt around under her shirt and her skirt with his hands. “No, it is not true,” he told Brzezinski. He went on to string words together in an order that now feels familiarly Biden-esque: “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 1, 2020
And now comes the part when Democratic leaders urge voters to consider the matter closed. Since she went public with the accusation in March there has been so much hemming and hawing over the “credibility” of the allegation that I feel about ready to chop my fucking head off. Why did she wait so long to say anything? (Perhaps she tried to avoid going public until she felt she had to, when Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee in March.) Did she tell anyone at the time? The answer turns out to be yes. Did she report it at the time? One way to possibly find out would be to open the file of Biden’s Senate papers housed at the University of Delaware, which they aren’t going to do.
Then there’s the familiar unspoken question: Can’t we just let this go?
The allegation is immensely inconvenient, not just to Biden but for all members of the party establishment, who are now singularly focused on defeating Trump in November to the exclusion of absolutely all else. Primary voters in some—but certainly not all—states decided Biden was the man for the job. Alex Pareene points out over at The New Republic that we still could, in theory, choose a different guy, but in our hearts we know we’re sort of stuck with him. For this reason, I detect a desire on the part of many Democrats for us to just be cool about it.
But it’s not only because he’s our guy now. It’s also because Trump is historically bad, and there’s nothing historic about asking women to choose between two crappy choices and be chill about it. It’s something women are used to doing, and now, with a madman in the White House, we’re supposed to do it again. I don't know if Biden did what Reade says he did. But I can see clear as day that fundamentally, many of the people cheerleading Biden right now think it doesn't ultimately matter if he did or he didn't. And that is making me lose my cool.
It’s a universal requirement, when you’re a girl who likes to hang out with boys, to not get bent out of shape. Don’t ruin a good thing. Don’t make him release the papers. Don’t ask what happened during beach week. It’s really the only way you get to hang out with boys. It’s also the only way you get to hang out with men, which is very often where the power is. Indeed, the resounding message of this primary has been: politics is for men like Joe Biden. White, powerful, the type who can pet hair that belongs not to an animal but to a person with complete impunity. The type who can not just weather a sexual assault allegation, but find himself surrounded by powerful friends telling the girls to just be cool.
But I’m not gonna be cool about this. I’m going to vote for Biden, and I hope he wins. But I’m going to be annoyed about my choice right on through to the end. If Democrats wanted me to be cool about this, they should have nominated someone who didn’t have a history of creepily sniffing women’s hair, a charge that has been dismissed over and over again as weirder than it is predatory.
I’m pissed that this is what it’s come to, and I think you should be too. I urge you to resist writing Reade’s allegations off as political theater in the name of political expediency. I want to know what happened. I’m tired of not knowing. I’m tired of being told I shouldn’t care. I don’t want to be cool anymore. Reade’s allegation is a massive political liability for Biden, and if we’re lucky, it’s going to dog him all the way to the finish line.
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