Ever since the #MeToo movement exploded into the mainstream in 2017, there is increased scrutiny of men in powerful positions. For decades leading up to this time, it had been an open secret that numerous men in political office got away with acts of sexual abuse and assault.
With this now “normal” cycle of allegations flying during election years, we have to wonder how the different political parties responded to allegations of sexual assault and harassment and what those responses mean for voters as the presidential election draws closer.
The 2020 Election Cycle
The 2020 election cycle for president seems to be shaping up to be just as bizarre as the 2016 run. The fact that a crass, uncultured reality TV star with at least 25 credible allegations of rape could become president of the United States is proof enough.
Both parties have similar issues with their candidates. The presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, has received fewer allegations of sexual assault than Trump but has still been accused of a variety of inappropriate instances of touching.
The simple and immature response to the allegations against both men is to assume that Trump and Biden are equal because they have both behaved in cringe-inducing ways in the past. Creepy behavior such as lingering hugs and overtly sexualizing your own daughter is vile. There is no excuse. The truth of the matter, though, is that these two candidates have a divide between them.
Sexual Assault Allegations Against Democratic Nominee, Joe Biden
In March of this year, Tara Reade, a former female staffer of Joe Biden’s Capitol Hill team, accused Biden of overt sexual assault. To date, she is the only woman to accuse Biden of assault. Other female staffers have alleged such things as lingering hugs and touching their shoulders for an inappropriate time.
Biden’s response to Reade’s accusation has been distinctly different from responses of other politicians with similar accusations. Apart from stating, “This never happened,” which is a common response, Biden went on.
“While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated. One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny. Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways.”
One of the most telling things is Biden’s message to voters who believe he assaulted Tara Reade. NPR reported that Biden said, “If they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn’t vote for me…I wouldn’t vote for me if I believed Tara Reade.”
This response is a world of difference from the rage-filled denials and insulting outbursts that have characterized the response from Trump and other politicians.
How Trump Responds to Similar Allegations
Since the 1980s, Trump has been continually accused of a variety of sex crimes ranging from groping women in public to outright rape. These allegations have come from a wide range of people including former business partners, participants in the Miss Teen Universe, and even one of Trump’s ex-wives.
In the thirty years that Trump has been accused of rape and sexual assault, his typical responses include threatening complainants with lawsuits and heaping insults on his accusers.
The New York Times reported that Trump has said that the women accusing him of rape would, “Not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” He has also implied on multiple occasions that these women accusing him are “too ugly to rape.”
“Rape isn’t about sexual attraction. Rape is about the expression of power through sexual behavior.” – Sarah Cook
Other Politicians Have Had Similar Responses
“Rape isn’t about sexual attraction. Rape is about the expression of power through sexual behavior,” stated Sarah Cook, expert on violence against women and survivor of sexual assault.
Let’s Know Who We’re Voting For
As we continue with the campaign trail and smear ads, it’s important to remember a few things. Specifically, that the pathology of sexual predators is that they continually re-offend in a similar manner until they are caught. Also incredibly important – at least as far as politicians are concerned – is that creepy hugs are not the same thing as rape. Both are unacceptable, but they are not equal.
Let’s engage in critical thinking, research the long line of accusations–or lack thereof–and understand who we’re actually voting for, rather than just assuming that they’re all the same.