Earl Ofari Hutchinson
There are three issues, or better yet, concerns, for Democrats in the allegation by Joe Biden’s former staffer Tara Reade that he sexually harassed and assaulted her. They all have direct bearing on Biden’s chance to oust Trump. The first is how Trump will use the allegation against him. He wasted no time in mocking and lambasting the Biden-Reade flap in tweets.
This is an easy one for Biden to get around. Nothing that arch serial harasser, womanizer, and panderer Trump could ever say about another guy’s alleged sexual misconduct could ever be taken seriously.
So, a Trump broadside about sexual misconduct against Biden can be quickly laughed away. However, the second issue can’t be so easily laughed away. That is how top female Democratic Party leaders and women’s groups, who form the heavy underpin of the party, will deal with the allegation over time. There is already some finger pointing and hectoring of them as being hypocrites for relentlessly ripping Trump for his stupendous serial abuses while allegedly giving Biden a pass.
Initially, some of the former leading female Democratic presidential contenders were stone silent about the allegation. When they did break their silence, their comments were cautious, guarded, and mostly disbelieving about the allegation. That is appropriate given that the allegation surfaced decades later. There have been multiple investigations cited in the press. None found anything to corroborate the charge. Other former Biden’s staffers who knew and worked with her at the time said they saw no evidence of any wrongdoing on Biden’s part toward Reade or other women.
Biden did take some heat and admit that he was maybe a bit too touchy feely with some women. He apologized for that behavior. He publicly promised it would never happen again. This conduct, though, hardly rose to the level of sexual intimidation, let alone sexual assault.
There’s still the hypocrisy and double standard charge that the #metoo movement got slapped with about Biden versus Trump. This is a red herring. Trump’s abominable conduct toward women is well-documented and even admitted by him, complete with multiple lawsuits and payouts. The allegation against Biden is just that, a very unsubstantiated allegation that just conveniently happened to surface and has been jumped all over by Trump, Fox News, and conservative bloggers at the moment Biden has clearly emerged as the Democrat who can topple Trump.
The timing and the suspicious nature of the charge is more than enough for #metoo movement and women’s group to fix a jaundiced eye on the the accuser without compromising in any way the all-out fight against sexual abuse and misconduct by rich, famous and even politically well—connected men. That certainly includes Biden too.
The third issue is by far the most worrisome for Biden and the Democratic Party. That is that it could cause added trouble for Biden in the handful of swing states that will decide the White House. Trump won the White House by the thinnest of thin vote margins in 2016. A shift of a relative few votes in those states could again make a huge difference. Trump and the GOP almost certainly will openly and subtly drag this up every chance they get to try and make the case that Biden is not the prim, strait-laced guy he appears.
If enough voters give Biden’s alleged sexual misdeed any credence, it could be problematic. The counter that Trump is a world class sexual abuser won’t cancel that out. Why? Because Trump backers have long since acknowledged that he is what and who he is when it comes to his sexual wallow in the dirt. This behavior on his part shocks no one. As the 2016 election and subsequent rabid idolizing by his base of him showed, any charge of sexual rapaciousness against him is meaningless to these backers.
This loose, give him a pass attitude, toward guys like Trump is hardly new. Bill Clinton got the same pass. The Lewinsky debacle didn’t detract one bit from his popularity. In fact, it probably enhanced it. Clinton like Trump was not viewed by anyone as a choirboy given his well-documented history of philandering. Like Trump his sexual dalliances were almost expected of him.
There is little doubt that as the Reade allegation is continually looped by Trump there will be more heat put on Democrats, and #metoo advocates to forcefully reiterate their condemnation of sexual misconduct by Democrats, with Biden at the center of that call and maybe even controversy.
The Hillary Clinton campaign was continually blindsided by the endless dredge up of her emails, even though there was absolutely no proof that she did anything wrong with them. In the end the emails were a factor in her election loss. Now, the issue is an old allegation of sexual misconduct, no matter how unproven and unprovable the charge, sadly the danger is that it could still be an issue.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of COVID POLITICS—Trump’s Deadly Game (Amazon) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network