In 2018, The #MeToo movement brought to light a quiet epidemic of sexual harassment and assault going back generations. Movie moguls, famous celebrities, and politicians have seen their careers go up in flames after credible accusations of sexual misconduct. It has been a painful, long-overdue reckoning, and perhaps the dawning of a more just age.
Liberals are set to do an injustice to the movement with their endorsement and nomination of former Vice President Joe Biden for president. Biden faces a credible accusation of serious sexual assault, but Democrats are plowing ahead regardless. If he actually is nominated, a tremendous amount of the work of #MeToo will be undone.
Alexandra Tara Reade was a Biden staffer in his office back in the 1990s, when, she says, he pinned her to a wall, reached beneath her clothing and penetrated her with his fingers. One friend from back then recalls Reade telling her of the assault soon after, and another says she got the story a few years later, as does Reade’s brother. She says she was forced out of Biden's office some months later.
This week, on Monday, a former neighbor of Joe Biden's accuser Tara Reade has come forward, on the record, to corroborate her sexual assault account, saying Reade discussed the allegations in detail in the mid-1990s. Lynda LaCasse, Reade’s neighbor in the mid 1990s, is the first source to corroborate Reade’s account in detail, on the record. LaCasse is a longtime Democrat and says she will still vote for Biden. But says “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it.” Interesting that she says she will STILL VOTE BIDEN!!
All this, coupled with Tara's mum's phone call, makes for a strong case that Reade did not make up the story simply to sink Biden's campaign - and why would she make it up? (One study found that false sexual assault allegations are quite rare, at about 2-10 percent of claims.) While her accounts to the press have changed, that is very common among #MeToo stories. Victims often struggle to come forward at all out of shame, or fear of backlash or that they won't be believed.
Furthermore, Biden was already known to have a history of being creepy around women - touching their hair and shoulders, leaning in too close to visibly-uncomfortable women and girls, and so on, often in public with cameras rolling. Politician Lucy Flores wrote in 2014 that when she was the Democratic candidate for Nevada lieutenant governor at an event, Biden smelled her hair and planted "a big slow kiss on the back of my head." She was mortified: "I couldn't move and I couldn't say anything. I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me."
It's worth noting that what Biden is accused of is, if anything, even worse than the Kavanaugh story. Kavanaugh was 17 years old when he allegedly drunkenly pinned down Ford and tried to take her clothes off - this was however not corroborated. While awful, minors are generally not liable for normal prosecution because they are not fully responsible adults. Biden, by contrast, was a sober, extremely powerful, 50-year-old United States senator when he allegedly committed his crime - and unlike Kavanaugh, he is accused of actually raping Reade.
The effective strategy of #MeToo is to create a new social norm around sexual misconduct. Since the criminal justice system has so obviously failed to stem the abuse, social sanction can take up the slack. Exposing and punishing powerful people who exploit their position to harass and assault others might make other elites think twice.
This progress will be grossly undermined if Democrats choose to look past Biden's allegations for political reasons. If Democrats dismiss Tara's allegations for political reasons - for the leader of their party, Biden, it will do a great deal to move us back to the pre-#MeToo past, when far too many people looked the other way at abuses committed by powerful politicians. One cannot create a broad political norm against sexual misconduct if the issue becomes a partisan football for both parties.
What's more, this story gives Donald Trump a huge weapon in the general election - either to dismiss the even more numerous accusations against himself, or to attack Biden as the real predator, or both. It was criminally irresponsible of Biden's primary opponents not to attack him vigorously on this issue.
However, it is not too late. Though all his opponents have dropped out, Biden has still not been officially nominated. He could still drop out for the good of the party, and arrange for someone else to take up his delegates. Or the Democratic establishment could bull ahead with a damaged, unfit nominee, whose opponent will gleefully exploit their shameless hypocrisy, and dramatically set back the feminist causes they claim to believe in. It's up to them.