Joe Biden is a bad candidate for the Democrats.
Toward the beginning of the primary, we didn’t know how bad. But after a long campaign, with his nomination still looming ahead, we now know: pretty bad. There’s not only the bad record — previous failed runs, plagiarism, squishiness on abortion, Iraq War cheerleading, Anita Hill, the 1994 crime bill — but, in recent months, a bad run of bizarre public speaking, yelling at voters and insulting entire demographics he needs to win.
Yet it is the rote hypocrisy of the liberal order that best defines both the man and the party. Making noise about the middle class while taking donations from Wall Street, or saying in the midst of a global pandemic that testing and treatment for the disease should be free, but you’d veto Medicare for All. It’s posing as the moral antidote to Trump, a president accused of profiting from his office and sexually abusing women, when your own relatives have enriched themselves through your political power, and multiple women have alleged your misconduct with them, with one telling a corroborated story of assault.
If you aren’t familiar with Tara Reade’s Biden allegations, I’d recommend you look them over. With this election shaping up as a referendum on “character,” it’s the absolute least you could do before voting for “the lesser of two evils.”
I can’t convince you to believe Reade, let alone treat her with some kind of dignity, though I will dare to suggest you stop yourself in the rush to explain why she’s not credible, or why her experience is not relevant. Many Democrats are set to come down on that side of things, or have already, and this, too, is out of my control: All I can do is let them disappoint me, much as the Democratic machine has dismayed me for the span of my adulthood and, before that, disheartened my liberal parents. But it is hard, when those people formerly embraced the spirit and language of the #MeToo movement, to witness their mental gymnastics in defending Biden from any reasonable call for closer investigation.
To state the obvious: When you discredit Reade because it’s essential to beat Trump, or say she’s a Russian agent, or you have a fuzzy feeling that Biden’s fundamentally a good guy, you are not harming an individual. You are abandoning a long line of survivors, along with every survivor to come.
Republicans say Dems use sexual violence as a channel to cynically “score points” against their enemies, and here is the evidence — an unwillingness to confront the problem of “Creepy Joe,” or hold the leadership accountable. You think they went crazy for “Hillary’s emails”? Enjoy the next six months of them hammering this. Some of them emphatically like that Trump said “grab ’em by the pussy,” and now the other side is stuck voicing their disgust at his behavior while refusing to acknowledge that their guy may, in fact, be guilty of similar deeds.
And for what? To back a candidate who claims he’d be the “most progressive” president in history, but collects endorsements from the likes of neocon scrubs Bill Kristol and Rick Wilson? Who attacks Trump by dabbling in the Trumpian style of racism? Who can’t seem to connect to the future of the party, nor steer it to the policies that matter?
You’ll decide for yourself whether that trade-off is worthwhile, and what complicity you are prepared to shoulder. Afraid of Trump, afraid for the coming years, you may find it imperative to line up and close ranks for Biden. That, however, is precisely backwards: He is meant to earn your support, except the system is really organized to default toward a “safe” pick ordained by some absurd calculus where voters blindly guess what other, theoretical voters want.
Punch your ballot for him if so moved, just don’t pretend he represents anything more than a slight deceleration of American decay, or a tolerable holding pattern for the elites bankrolling him. “He’s not Trump” is straight-up sad as the branding pitch, a truly anemic flex, and you don’t even owe him that minimum of PR work.
Perhaps it’s hopeless to dream of a political body that embodies the social justice it touts, or renounces the members unfit to carry this fire. But given the years the Democrats had to stage a serious challenge to Trump, it’s despicable that they’d eventually smear a traumatized woman to drag their man to the finish line, and downright vile for them to suggest that abuse survivors opposed to his nomination are guilty of “enabling” Trump.
All this might have been avoided by giving people equal say and opportunity in the selection process — of course, then you wouldn’t have your fun narratives about momentum that usually congeal into a grim, enthusiasm-killing consensus. In that way, the party exists to sell its soul, over and over, loss upon staggering loss. You have the right to ask, and to demand, that we quit suffering the compromise of humiliation.