Tara Reade and Partisan Politics

The recent article in Nation Magazine, We Should Take Women’s Accusations Seriously. But Tara Reade’s Fall Short, by Katha Pollitt, demonstrates how partisan politics smother an accusation of sexual abuse. And this article discourages all victims of sexual abuse from reporting. It says that partisan politics is more important than their rape.

Disbelieve Women

The reasonings used to diminish the accusation against Joe Biden are many and varied. We hear that Ms. Reade: changed her story, she likes Putin, she waited to report the abuse, her story changed, some people don’t like her, etc. 

Keep in mind this has nothing to do with the accusation! Besides, Trump is worse. How could an accusation by Ms. Reade compare in magnitude to the sexual crimes of Trump? So, sure, the article can point out the various ad hominem deficits of Ms. Reade. There seem to be several. But, so what?

Partisan Intervention to Believe or Disbelieve

Yes, we have seen exploitation by the Republicans and those friendly to Trump using the accusation for partisan reasons. They are hypocrites of the first order by failing to look at the dozens of accusations of rape and sexual abuse by Trump. Instead, they attempt to use the Tara Reade accusation as ammunition to demolish Biden. But Ms. Reade’s accusation is not diminished by the piggy behavior of Trump and his acolytes.

If He Is a Nice Guy, Then, OK

The author, Ms. Pollitt, states that 74 staffers love Joe Biden, that he would never do such a thing, etc. Well, I can point to many instances where hundreds of parishioners swear that their priest is not a sexual predator, even with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They would share similar glowing referrals of the predator priest.

We have seen this many times with public figures, such as teachers, coaches. We also see how families deny, dismiss accusations of sexual abuse of children by predators, i.e., the charming ‘Uncle Charlie’ is such a nice person, he would never do such a thing! Victims hear such despicable excuses all the time. 

We call it grooming when the accused sexual predator grooms the victim, co-workers, and supporters. We call it gas-lighting when acolytes attempt to deflect attention or dismiss an accusation by misdirection.

Whether there are 74 or 500 supporters of an accused sexual predator, it does not disprove or diminish an accusation!

Believe Women, But Only When It Helps Our Guy

The article fails to address the spectacular cowardice of the Democratic Party to take action. Other candidates are available: Warren, Sanders, Booker, Harris, and others. Ms. Pollitt’s essay describes the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party, their apologists, and supporters. Maybe an example of party loyalty is more important than the respect and dignity of women.

Open the Books! Or Deflect?

But where is the call for an investigation, full disclosure of records, interviews, due diligence? Where is the call for Biden to step aside until the investigation is complete? Instead, expediency, conscious evasion, and moral cowardice by Democratic apologists and die-hard supporters opt for victim bashing and circling the wagons. And as faithful servants of Biden, they repeat the mantra: everybody loves Joe. 

So they use all the tricks, even the bankrupt diversion of ‘whataboutism’ of comparing Biden’s accusation with that of Trump’s numerous sexual crimes. According to them, no matter the severity of the abuse, there are worse crimes.

A Dozen Blind Men

I have read many articles about Ms. Reade. I am reminded of the Hindu folk tale of six blind men describing an elephant by touch. In reading those many articles, I am struck by how each author perceived the issue. A result is that we have a whole mosaic of stories, interpretations, and analyses, each with its unique perception. 

If Biden were courageous and principled, he would call for an investigation and open all the books. If the Democratic Party were principled and courageous, they would call for Biden to step aside until a full investigation was completed.

Victim Statements Must Not Be Treated as an Academic Test

I am well aware that disclosure of rape and sexual assault is not a smooth or easy process. History and memories are uneven. Guilt, shame, humiliation, and outside public shaming all deform the presentation of sexual abuse. This causes the victim to disclose part of the abuse to one friend, disclose other parts to others. A victim is likely to share even less with public entities and organizations.

Such mixed disclosure of circumstances is very common with those sexually abused. It is not a refutation of the facts, just the human experience of trauma diffused in the telling.

Culture and Ideology Reproduce the Power Structure

We need to reject the dominant ideologies of misogyny and elitism that cover up the truth. Instead, we see how the political power structure wielded that power to squash Tara Reade and her accusation. Too often, we see the dominant culture ‘circle the wagons’ to protect one of its own, i.e., Biden supporters excuse Biden’s transgressions, Trump supporters excuse Trump transgressions. It steps dismisses the issue of sexual abuse ‘for the greater good.’ 

In this case, Biden was more important than Tara Reade.

Who Loses by Partisan Whitewash and Exploitation? All Victims of Sexual Abuse

Victims will see how attacks can squash them. Apologists for Biden need the whole quiver of arrows to attack Tara Reade: victim shaming, ‘circling the wagons,’ ad hominem attacks, questioning her ethics and moral standing. Victims silenced by these practices will learn that 74 friends and supporters of Biden are more important than a victim of sexual abuse because “he such a nice guy.”

When I was twelve, I was raped by my parish priest, who was a charming, jovial Irish priest. I suppose some thought he was nice as well. He probably could have gotten 74 parishioners to say, “he is such a nice guy.”


May 20, 2020