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Biden Should Not be Kept from the 2020 Presidential Race

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Biden Should Not be Kept from the 2020 Presidential Race

Former Vice President Biden has been accused of acting inappropraitely with women, but should still enter the race. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Former Vice President Biden has been accused of acting inappropraitely with women, but should still enter the race. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Former Vice President Biden has been accused of acting inappropraitely with women, but should still enter the race. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Former Vice President Biden has been accused of acting inappropraitely with women, but should still enter the race. (Courtesy of Flickr)


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By Ned Sheehan

In recent days, former Vice President and potential 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden has faced criticism over his conduct around women. Lucy Flores, 2014 candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, accused Biden of putting his hands on her shoulders, smelling her hair and kissing her on the back of the head.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, feminists have decried this sort of behavior, which Biden has been photographed engaging in regularly, in addition to his handling of issues like the Anita Hill hearings and his pro-life stances in the 1970s.

Many in the media have stated that these controversies will cripple Biden, but I am unconvinced that this will have a major effect on his potential candidacy.

First, I am suspicious that the Democratic Party has shifted towards feminism to the extent that some in the media believe it has. The Democratic Party has always been less a political party based around a single political platform than a squabbling, big-tent organization of different groups with semi-compatible goals.

Yes, feminist groups have been mobilized by revulsion at President Trump’s vile conduct towards women over his career, but they remain just one group within the coalition.

Has the Democratic rank-and-file, especially those not in tune with the ever-faster news cycle, truly withheld support from Biden based on these accusations? I remain decidedly unconvinced. I’m not writing this article to defend Biden from these accusations, but from what we know there has been enough ambiguity in his behavior to allow many to justify it in some way. After all, being a little too close to someone isn’t the kind of vile, blatant behavior that President Trump has confessed to.

Furthermore, Democrats have over the years shown a mixed record in regards to allegations of sexual misconduct.

During the height of #MeToo in 2017, Al Franken was forced to resign over such allegations, but Kirsten Gillibrand, the first senator to call for his resignation, has since faced anger from many Democratic voters and struggled to win over some donors.

And, of course, there’s the elephant in the room in this area, the Clintons. Now, it may never be clear what exactly Bill Clinton has and has not done, but we do know that many ostensible feminist leaders have for decades been quick both to defend Clinton and to smear those who have accused him of misconduct.

Have the voters who tolerated that changed so drastically that they would never tolerate such a thing today? And this behavior is not a partisan issue. Millions of Americans, regardless of political stripe, have either seen or engaged in this sort of behavior. Are we really in an era of fundamental cultural re-examination, or just a phase of sound and fury from the media and other cultural elites while in most circles things carry on as before?

In my opinion, the discussions of identity that will mark this post-Trump primary could be so overwhelming and confusing (and, all too often, wielded in bad faith to undermine various rival candidates) that many will flock to the safe, avuncular former VP.

To be clear, I do not support Biden. On the contrary, I think he has a 40-year track record of taking dubious positions for the sake of political expediency, on issues ranging from criminal justice to foreign policy.

I think he is old and tired and entirely devoid of ideas and that the personal charm he’s leaning on is dubious at best. I also think his conduct around women is certainly strange, if not outright concerning.

But to assume these allegations will cripple his potential campaign would be a real error for opponents of Biden within the party to make.

 

Ned Sheehan, FCRH ’22, is a history major from Needham, Massachussetts.

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Biden Should Not be Kept from the 2020 Presidential Race