By Georgia Grellier | Illustration by Cate Johnson
It probably goes without saying that in the past year, Joe Biden has quickly fallen out of favor with a significant proportion of Democratic voters. Considering that his relevance after the 2016 election seemed to mainly be the product of an infatuation with his friendship with President Barack Obama on social media, his decline in popularity among young people in 2020 has been nothing short of dramatic.
It isn’t entirely shocking that cute photos on Twitter of him and his best buddy Barack would garner more public appeal than scrutiny of his policies would, but few political candidates have so rapidly lost support without even being in office. His fall from grace has been uniquely quick, but more unexpected yet is the shift in his public perception from wholesome vice president to alleged sexual assaulter and inadequate politician.
The criticism of him, at least to those who generally vote for Democrats or are considering doing so, is not exactly unfair. From his support of the Iraq war to his habit of smelling women’s hair to allegations of sexual assault, young Democratic voters are understandably disenchanted by his candidacy and party nominee status — and I am certainly one of them.
It was bad enough that his apology for crossing physical boundaries with women throughout his career was woefully inadequate. Now, with Tara Reade recently coming forward with her account of being sexually assaulted by Biden, he is not worthy of being a candidate at all. Survivors of sexual assault generally have little to gain by reporting their experiences to law enforcement, an employer, or a school, among others — reporting protocol involves the painful process of detailing a traumatic event, potentially having to interact with the assaulter, or facing social repercussions.
When a victim comes forward to accuse a public figure, they must additionally endure public disparagement and invalidation. It is ludicrous to think that such a vulnerable act is in any way desirable or could tempt almost anyone to make a false accusation. We all saw what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she publicly stated that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school: her character and achievements were relentlessly attacked by Senators at his confirmation hearing.
Moreover, the disregard for her integrity and experience resulted in her assaulter’s appointment to an institution that is ostensibly intended to protect her rights. Like Dr. Blasey Ford, Reade also has nothing to gain from coming forward with her assault from Biden. Biden’s unjust treatment of Anita Hill when she publicly accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment further emphasizes the longstanding barriers to victims who rightly want their harassers or assaulters to be held accountable.
Biden’s assault of Reade is abhorrent. Her account of what happened should absolutely be believed and validated. Beyond the trauma he caused her, the incident represents an alarming disrespect for women’s bodily autonomy. He should not have been a candidate, much less the Democratic nominee. However, he is, and it is with outrage and deep sadness that I say you should vote for him.
The 2016 election was often referred to as a choice between the lesser of two evils. That label is far more applicable to this race. However, to decline your vote as an act of protest against the only viable candidate progressive voters have is to disregard the most vulnerable and marginalized people in this country. To place principle over real life is a use of privilege that places others’ healthcare, safety, and financial security at even greater risk. Biden should not be our candidate, but he is, and four more years of a president whose negligence and incompetence have proven to be an actual life threat is far worse.
Vote for Joe. Do so with outrage, sadness, and everything in between, but he needs every vote he can get. The alternative is worse. Like staying inside during COVID-19, it’s not for you, it’s for others, and principle has no place in a race with these stakes.