Biden controversy has clarified touching rules between people who are not related or involved. But should Joe get a free pass?

Many people are giving Joe Biden a free pass for his past touchiness because his intentions were never sexual. That’s absurd. He invaded the personal space of a lot of women and it made them feel very uncomfortable. Plus, even in the benighted days of Joe Biden’s youth, when grabbing someone’s shoulders from behind and rubbing them was perceived as a sign of encouragement, it was never okay for a man to kiss a woman’s hair unless she was a close relative or a paramour.

And just like Al Franken, he should have known better. In all of his years of hanging around well-educated, liberated, articulate and outspoken women, you’d think Joe Biden would have encountered at least one person who told him his touchiness creeped out a lot of people, and that the younger the person, the more likely she would find his little lip musses to the hair repulsive. Let’s remember that the #Metoo movement is now two years old. A politician more attune to the times than Citizen Joe would not have waited until an accusation to change his hugging ways.

The Joe Biden controversy has gone a long way to clarifying what the rules should be regarding public interactions between people who are not related or involved. Touching and hugging should never be allowed unless preapproved by both parties, but we’ll forgive everyone older than 75 for all past public non-sexual touching without prior permission. I’m happy to give Joe Biden a free pass for past actions because his intentions were always noble, which essentially means that I’m happy to welcome Al Franken back into the fold, too.

But then there’s the little matter of the Anita Hill hearings. I saw about 80% of the hearings live and at the time was disgusted by Joe Biden’s behavior towards Hill. He treated her with a great deal of disrespect and suspicion, which made no sense since Clarence Thomas represented judicial values far to the right of the centrist Democratic Party of the early 1990’s. You would think Biden would have wanted to sink the confirmation, not run interference for a pervert. But Biden took it upon himself to serve as prosecutor trying a case of false accusation and perjury.

Biden, like Bernie, is of the generation directly before the Baby Boomers—a generation that used to be called the “Silent Generation”—and thus out of step in many ways, not just with Gen Xers and Millennials, but with Boomers, too. His touchiness symbolizes the generation gap that leaves people on either side of the age divide with different attitudes about race, women, LGBTQ, mass media and music. The Biden controversy has demonstrated how inappropriate it is for Citizen Joe and Bernie Sanders to run for president because they are out of touch to some degree with what will attract young people to the Democratic Party in a way that Baby Boomers Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee and Kamala Harris are not. Biden was already in his thirties when feminism became a political and cultural force, whereas Warren and Kamala Harris (the oldest and youngest Boomers running) were among the first women to take advantage of the doors feminism opened. Inslee is young enough to have had to confront women’s issues from the very beginning of his career.  

The Democrats have a number of qualified candidates from which to choose this election cycle and the differences between them are narrow compared to the vast gap between their views and the Trumpublicans. There is no rational reason for Biden to siphon off resources from younger, more dynamic, and frankly more qualified candidates.

On the other hand, if Biden runs and wins the nomination, we should be ready to support him with enthusiasm. No matter who heads the Democratic ticket, we must send her-him money, talk her-him up to our acquaintances and vote for her-him on Election Day.

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