For Elite Democrats, Joe Biden’s Candidacy Means Ditching #MeToo

The Democratic establishment’s response to the latest allegations of sexual harassment against Joe Biden show the cynicism of a party elite that switches its feminism on and off whenever it’s expedient.

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Hotel Du Pont on March 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer / Getty

When it first became clear that Joe Biden was launching a 2020 campaign for president, a lot of us were amazed that centrist Democrats would, in the #MeToo era, be stupid enough to back his candidacy. But we shouldn’t have been surprised: their feminism is fleeting and opportunistic.

This week, Tara Reade, a former Biden aide, detailed her 1993 experience of sexual assault on “The Katie Halper Show” after trying for years to get someone to listen. Reade has, predictably, been smeared as a Russian agent, because that’s how mainstream Democrats respond to anything they don’t want to hear. But she’s just one of seven women who have accused Biden of horrible behavior, charges that have been public for years.

Democratic elites have known for years about Biden’s shabby, boorish treatment of Anita Hill, the dignified law professor who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991. Hill brought workplace sexual harassment into the public eye years before #MeToo. Biden was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. He has since said that he “wished he could have done something” to ensure that her claims got a fair hearing, a pretty inept apology considering he was in charge of the proceedings.

From mainstream feminists, we’re hearing little about Biden’s #MeToo problems. In fact, some have flatly declined to be involved. As the Intercept reported this week, the feminist legal group Time’s Up had refused to take Reade’s case. In a twist, Anita Dunn, a top Biden adviser, is managing director of Time’s Up’s PR firm, SKDKnickerbocker. In another twist, Dunn also advised big Democratic donor (now convicted rapist) Harvey Weinstein on how to handle his own rape allegations. Another partner in SKDKnickerbocker, Hilary Rosen, has also been advising Biden’s presidential campaign.

The allegations aren’t getting much play in the mainstream media either. Sure, it’s a busy news cycle. And everything about Biden is boring, even his sexual assault allegations. But the day Reade’s charges went public, CNN ran an “analysis” by Chris Cillizza about Biden and gender. Its theme? “The Top 10 Women Joe Biden Might Pick as VP.”

By contrast, we’ve heard for years from these same quarters about the supposed mean, sexist tweets of the Bernie Bros, and about Bernie Sanders’s alleged tone-deafness on gender issues. But Sanders is the only candidate now running for president with no sexual assault or harassment charges against him. That’s obviously a low bar, and it’s unfortunate we have to mention it. But, perhaps relatedly, Sanders is also the only one in the race who has always been pro-choice, has always been committed to full abortion access regardless of income, and has been fighting for universal childcare for decades, as well as for advancements that benefit working-class women even more than men, like the $15 minimum wage and Medicare for All. Yet if you relied on the mainstream media for information, you’d assume that Biden was the feminist candidate in the primary, while Sanders was “problematic” for women.

Let’s be clear. If Joe Biden had a personal history of dismembering grandmothers and feeding them to children as an after-school snack, he would still, in my view, be far preferable to Donald Trump or Mike Pence, or whatever Koch-funded revival meeting is running the executive branch at the moment. But the fact that centrist elites were so afraid of social democracy that they did everything they could to advance Biden’s candidacy reveals their contempt for women. They’re happy to use feminism as a way to temporarily divide and conquer the 99 percent, but if they had any sincere commitment to the advancement of women as a group, they would have lined up behind Bernie Sanders. Failing that, if they were even sincere about advancing female elites, they could have backed one of their many qualified centrist women, who now find themselves in the undignified position of vying to be this clown’s vice president.