Over the past week or so, I’ve been reading on Facebook of various opinions of the Tara Reade allegations against Joe Biden. My first response upon hearing of the allegations was “Oh, no!”
I think because of my politics and because of the stakes of the 2020 elections, it’s very difficult for me to look at the allegations with unbiased eyes. I despise Trump and I do not want him re-elected in 2020. And on a personal level, I like Joe Biden. My preferred Democratic candidate was Elizabeth Warren, but I have no animosity against Biden. Unlike some progressives, I see moderates like Biden as competing friends and not as implacable foes. Because of those built in biases, I can’t help but see Tara Reade’s allegations through a political lens.
The problem of these hyper-partisan times is that we often view the sexual harassment allegations against powerful political leaders through a very biased political lens. Whether it’s Joe Biden, Brett Kavanaugh, Al Franken, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton or some other political leader, we too often are tempted to judge sexual harassment allegations based on whether it helps our political cause or not. We’re biased to assume a political leader is innocent if we agree with this person’s politics or see this person as vital to our cause. Or we’re biased to assume a leader is guilty if we disagree with their politics.
This is inherently unfair to both the accuser and the accused. It makes having a fair hearing impossible. They become the targets of death threats and harassing emails and phone calls. Their personal lives become political fodder for Fox News, MSNBC, or some other political group.
After seeing how Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey and others got away with sexual harassment until recently, it’s important for women and men who have been sexually harassed by powerful individuals to see that Tara Reade’s allegations get a fair hearing.
But Joe Biden should be given a fair chance to defend himself too. The case of the Central Park 5 and many cases of the Innocent Project have shown that innocent people have been accused of sexual assault. And in this poisonous political atmosphere where people are not to content to winning an argument, they try to destroy a person as well, it’s important to give the accused a chance to defend themselves.
I think that’s the only thing one can ask for, a fair hearing of both the accuser and the accused. But I don’t know if that is possible in this time. especially with Donald Trump’s history of exploiting partisan divisions and making everything about partisan politics.