Joe Biden is in a bit of a pickle at the moment, to put it mildly. As accounts have recently come out supporting Tara Reade’s accusation that Biden sexually assaulted her while she was a staffer for him during the 1990s, Biden has had to fend off calls for him to step down as the Democratic Nominee for the President of the United States. Though it is perhaps waning, the #MeToo movement is still a potent force in American politics, and one of the core mantras of the movement is “believe women.” That phrase means different things to different people. For the more thoughtful supporters of the movement, the phrase refers to the notion that, whereas in the past women who came forward with sexual assault accusations were routinely dismissed or denied fair treatment, nowadays, women’s accusations should be considered fairly. For the less thoughtful supporters of the movement, however, the phrase boils down to this: women should be believed before sufficient evidence is produced to warrant such belief, and the accused should be treated as guilty until they are proven innocent. Unfortunately for Democrats, Biden must now navigate these treacherous waters.
The #MeToo movement has not been characterized by nuance or balance or the rule of law, but rather a potent combination of mob justice and sensationalism that often leave accused men little recourse. Until now, that approach has generally worked out well for Democrats, with a few exceptions, most notably Al Franken, who got the boot from his Senate seat after a questionable photo surfaced of him pretending to assault a sleeping soldier while he was on tour in the Middle East as a comedian. A few other Democrats have also taken some heat, but for the most part, the majority of the #MeToo movement’s high profile targets have been in Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey – the list goes on. Dozens of men were taken down by the wrath of the movement, most with relatively little interaction with law enforcement. In many cases, these men were simply "canceled."
Canceling those men was relatively easy because the stakes aligned with the targets. It helped the movement to take those bad guys out. It showed that the movement was working, that progress was being made. And it didn’t cost liberals anything to cheer the movement on at that point, so it didn’t bother too many liberals when the Twitter mobs showed up to take down various men in less than fair ways. The men themselves were not given much of a chance to share their sides of the stories. After all, the accusations seemed credible, and the thinking was, “Who wants to give a rapist air time? They’ll just deny it anyway.”
That way of operating made intuitive sense to many liberals until the Biden situation cropped up. For liberals, the problem with using the same mob justice cancel culture against Biden is that, if they cancel him, they would not only disenfranchise millions of voters who voted for him but also risk handing Trump an easy win in November. Suddenly, the stakes didn’t align with the target.
The result has been a series of cringy denials from across the Democratic sphere. Many longtime #MeToo movement luminaries have seemingly faltered in their once steadfast commitment to “believe all women.” With shocking self-awareness, Democrats have engaged in a level of hypocrisy that threatens to morally bankrupt the party. Far from the swift mob justice that has characterized the #MeToo movement, liberals, in general, have spent the past two weeks carefully gauging their response to the crisis, digging through Tara Reade’s personal history, and carefully weighing the various options for a response. Part of this conversation has involved lots of cringy compare and contrast sessions with other prominent men who have been accused of sexual assault: Al Franken, Trump, and the all-time favorite, Brett Kavanaugh. Liberals have pondered whether Biden’s case reminds them more of Al Franken’s groping gesture or Kavanaugh’s drunken assault. “Which sex offender does Biden remind you more of,” is not the question Democrats want to be dealing with during an election year, especially not when the very act of taking enough time to ask the question reveals the very biased, partisan nature of many liberals’ commitment to the principles of the #MeToo movement.
The question that the movement has repeatedly failed to answer since the beginning is this: how do accused men respond properly to the accusations? This is a nuanced and tricky question even though on the surface, the most obvious answer seems simple: if they did it, they should apologize and make amends, and if they didn’t do it, they should support any investigation without reservations to demonstrate their innocence. But things are not so simple. The problem is that time and again, there does not seem to be any place in the movement for apologies. Up until now, there has been no clear path to redemption or rehabilitation for the accused. Until now, the stakes have always aligned with the target well enough to eschew such concerns. When nothing is lost by denying an offender the opportunity to come clean and apologize, the Left has callously chucked the accused into the dustbin of history and moved on. No matter how much a man might protest that he “is just not that guy anymore,” no one would believe him or care. As a result, apologies are rare.
It is no surprise then, that Biden has meticulously avoided apologizing. Of course, Biden insists that the accusations are false, but even if they are true, Biden cannot realistically apologize and seek redemption. The movement has so far not made any room for such wholesome personal growth or spiritual salvation. If Biden apologized, the Democrats would immediately see it as an admission of guilt and begin the process of swapping Biden out for one of the other moderates who ran in the Democratic Primary. Liberals would certainly not have sympathy or accept Biden’s apology. They would simply toss him out.
Whatever happens, perhaps some good will come out of this moment if the conversation about redemption and forgiveness gets going in earnest. With so many sexual assaults happening every year, we need to make room in our culture for men to right their ways and seek forgiveness for their offenses. It is unfortunate for the #MeToo movement that this part of the conversation is happening so late in the game and is only being motivated by naked partisan interests. But if the outcome of the conversation is that as a society we acknowledge that people can forgive and be forgiven, and if we begin to move in that direction now with Biden, then future generations might look back and thank us.