For the last week, I’ve been meaning to write an article begging Bernie Sanders to get out of the presidential race and support the putative Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. My thinking was that Sanders’ supporters need time to go through all the stages of grieving before they can deal with the reality of the 2020 election: that progressives must support and vote for whomever the Democrats nominate or end up facilitating the reelection of the despicably immoral and criminal Donald Trump.

Now I find myself in the odd position of having the tables turned on me. I’m going to advocate vociferously that Joe Biden give up his quest for president and throw his support either to another Democrat or to Bernie.

21st century Democrats just cannot nominate a rapist, and there is now credible evidence that Citizen Joe raped one of his campaign staffers, Tara Reade, years ago. 

Reade says that in 1993 when she was working for Biden, she took his gym bag to him at someone’s request and once in the office, he pushed her against the wall, started kissing her, immediately moved his hand to her crotch and penetrated her with fingering. The context is very important, because before the age of “Yes means yes” I could imagine a scenario in which the essential action—digital penetration—would not be rape. Sorry for the explicitness, but imagine if Tara and Joe were making out furiously on the couch for twenty minutes and Joe was, with consent, rubbing the outside of her panties and then slipped a finger inside and Tara pulled away and said no. Assuming that Joe stopped right then, there was no rape, at least to those with common sense. Of course, if Joe continued, even for two seconds, after hearing a “no,” that would constitute rape. 

The scenario Reade describes leaves no room for such ambiguity. She rejected and fought against the push against the wall, the kissing and the groping that achieved momentary digital penetration. It was completely against her will and it went way too far. The fact that it happened in 1993 and not 1973 makes it just a little bit worse, because workplace sexual assault and harassment were in the news in the early 1990’s.  

Biden supporters and others have vilified Reade, hinting that she is a paid Russian operative. Maybe so and maybe no, but one fact stands out in all of these sexual assault cases: All studies show that 90-98% of women who accuse someone of rape are telling the truth. Yes, guilty until proven innocent, but also yes, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire when it comes to sexual assault. Clichés aside, though, the Democrats should be nominating someone who has a completely clean history when it comes to sexual assault. Believe it or not, there are a lot of male and female politicians who have always treated people decently. 

What Biden did is much worse than what animated the Democrats to force Al Franken to resign his Senate seat. I have not changed my mind that Franken got what he deserved because he should have known his antics were making women in the workplace uncomfortable. If Franken deserved his fate, then Democrats should be loudly demanding Biden withdraw from the race. Nominating a rapist is akin to nominating someone who used to go to KKK rallies.

Apart from the moral degradation of nominating a rapist is the simple fact that Biden’s history, while nowhere as vile and misogynistic as Trump’s, is still enough for Republicans to equate Biden’s behavior with Trump, thus giving Trump a free pass.

If Biden heeds these words, recognizes his crime, and resigns, he and the Party have lots of options: He could support Bernie, who has the second most votes from primary and caucus voters. But Citizen Joe could also throw his support behind another right-leaning Democrat. The first name to come to mind is not any of the former candidates such as Booker, America’s favorite small-town mayor or Klobuchar, but the current hero of the corona crisis: New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Between the corona virus disruptions and the withdrawal of the frontrunner, the remainder of the Democratic race would of course be a hot mess, but taking moral action often complicates situations. 

Let’s say Biden does not withdraw from the race and the Democrats ignore this very serious and probably true accusation, what should we do?

That’s an easy call: When given the choice between a rapist who is also a virulent racist and mentally ill and wants to gut environmental and safety regulations, support fossil fuel development, work against developing a green economy, lower taxes even more on the wealthy, gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, end a woman’s right to an abortion and exchange our traditional allies for authoritarian governments OR a rapist who will essentially work to implement the left-leaning Democratic platform?

There is no doubt that rape or no, if Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, we have to vote for him. Staying home is a vote for Trump. Voting for a write-in or third party candidate is a vote for Trump. For progressives (especially after being teased by a Warren or Sanders candidacy), supporting Biden has always involved holding our nose a little. We’ll just have to squeeze the nostrils together a little tighter now.

Having said that, however, I make a pledge that the day after Biden is inaugurated, if the Tara Reade accusation has not proven to be false, I will get on my soapbox and advocate an immediate impeachment and conviction of the new president. 

When Trump and others call for opening the economy even if the corona virus is not tamed, they are just being good capitalists

The “cull the herd” strategy for addressing the corona virus epidemic in the United States has emerged in public discourse this week, touted by Donald Trump, some minor politicians from southern states and a few Fox News pundits. Essentially the “cull the herd” strategy revitalizes the specious economic argument against environmental regulation—that doing something to protect the health and well-being of people will destroy the economy. The argument is completely fallacious when it comes to transitioning to a green economy, but does have an element of truth when applied to the corona virus pandemic: fighting it will hurt the economy, even if only in the short term.

These protectors of the American way of life believe that the cure for the pandemic—social distancing and shutting down the economy for a few months—is worse than the disease itself. They wonder whether more people will die because of the temporary economic decline than would if we just let the epidemic play itself out. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick claimed that Americans over the age of 70 are willing to sacrifice their lives so that the American economy can thrive. Speak for yourself, John Alden! 

Note that behind Patrick’s comments is the idea—still not completely proven—that the disease kills primarily the elderly and the infirm. Together with the poor, those two groups are the primary targets for the long-term Republican program to line the pockets of the wealthy by cutting taxes for themselves while gutting social programs. Beyond that, labelling a group for sacrifice always makes it for easier for Americans to approve of inhumane actions, e.g., discrimination, racial profiling or our several wars against Islamic countries.

What the promoters of returning to economic normalcy and letting the virus run its course are not telling us—perhaps because they themselves are ignorant of the facts—is that letting Covid-19 run rampant in the population could lead to as many as 3 million people dying, plus a whole lot of unnecessary suffering among those who can’t get medical attention because the disease overwhelms our healthcare capabilities.

But as despicable a solution as it is to let millions of people die years if not decades before their time, it nonetheless is keeping with the capitalist traditions. 

See, behind the idea of returning to normal is the basic capitalist strategy of risk analysis. Here’s a simple example: Do we add a safety feature that will cost another 50 cents a car, or do we risk a 180 people being burned up every year in rear end collisions? The actuaries and lawyers get together to estimate how much the company will pay out to the families of the dead people and when it turns out to be a few bucks less than putting in the part, they decide to do the right thing…for the business, which means keeping the part out. This scenario describes exactly the Ford decision-making process in the 1960’s and early 1970’s regarding the death trap named the Ford Pinto. Highly immoral, but good business. 

The dirty secret behind the free market is that every week companies make decisions such as the Ford decision not to fix the Pinto’s safety problem. Many of these decisions involve transferring the hidden costs of making something to the public at large. That’s what pollution of all kinds does. Instead of paying to keep pollution out of the environment, companies pass the cost on to consumers in terms of higher medical costs, lost and shortened lives, and a degraded environment. 

The Trump Administration is not the first government to make cold-blooded calculations that value money over human life. The same calculation has driven most of our wars of imperialism, i.e., the Mexican, Spanish-American, Vietnam, Cambodian, Grenada, Iraq and Afghan wars. Is it worth X number of dead on our side to topple a regime that dissed the father of the president and help our Saudi ally? Is it worth Y dead to hold up a corrupt, repressive regime in a southeastern Asian country with no strategic value but lots of contracts with American manufacturers? 

Reading Thomas Piketty’s recent Capitalism and Ideology this week reminded me of two well-known examples of governments acting in full knowledge that their actions would lead to the death of millions. The British authorities consciously did nothing during the Irish famine of 1845-1848, leading to the deaths of 1 million and the emigration of 1.5 million, for a total loss of more than 30% of the population of Ireland. The British essentially sat on their hands and watched it happen, some articulating the advantage of reducing the population of the poor and potential rebels. The British repeated this atrocity at the end of World War II, letting 4 million out of a population of 50 million Bengalis die of starvation rather than release stores of rice. To quote Piketty, “…while adequate food stores existed in both cases, authorities refused to arrange for immediate transfers to the distressed areas, in part on the grounds that prices should be allowed to rise in order to signal to sellers that the time had come to respond to market demand.”

In other words, let’s value the marketplace over people. That decision always conceals the naked truth: let’s value the interests of a small number of wealthy people over the good of everyone else.

The Bengalis and the Irish were considered by the British to be lesser people. That won’t work with the American economy. We won’t sacrifice parents, grandparents and those with diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s and cancer so that the stock market recovers in time for the election. 

At least I hope that’s true. A good 25-35% of the population seems to support Trump, no matter what atrocities or stupidities he proposes. A good number of people may believe that the death of Uncle Hiram was god’s will. Let’s hope that the overwhelming number of our elected officials in Washington, in State houses and locally value the lives of all our Uncle Hiram’s and Aunt Mathilda’s.

Bernie versus Biden. It’s not an easy choice, even for progressives

If we were judging only on their ideas and proposals, I would make a strong recommendation that every Democrat give their primary or caucus vote to Bernie Sanders. Biden, like Bill Clinton and Obama, is a conservative Democrat who has always been too quick to give away the store to Republicans, whereas for decades Sanders has taken progressive stands (which usually means the position backed by the facts) on war, equality of wealth, education, the environment, taxing the wealthy and healthcare. Used to being a strident voice from the back bench, Sanders has not developed his policies as much as Elizabeth Warren has (who has?), but his ideas are stirring and right-minded.

But there’s more to deciding between two candidates than where their hearts lie. Two other factors are of equal, and perhaps greater importance in the current election: One, who is more likely to beat Trump? Two, who is more likely to accomplish the wish list of progressives and left-leaners?

Surveys show just about every candidate beating Trump, but Bernie having the biggest lead. If we carefully analyze the Super Tuesday results, however, we get a different picture. Across the board, the more likely a Democrat will win the state in November, the better Bernie did on Super Tuesday; the more likely Trump will win the state, the better Biden did. It’s very possible that Bernie’s lead over Trump is greater than the other candidates’ in the national surveys because he got more votes in California and New York. So what would we progressive rather see? A candidate win California by 4 million votes and lose North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin by a total of 100,000 votes OR a candidate win California by 3 million and also win these important swing states.

As far as the campaign goes, there can be no doubt that Bernie destroys Biden as both a debater and a speechifier. There is also no doubt that Bernie carries more real baggage. The Trump campaign will inundate social media with lies and exaggerations about either candidate. But whereas the Hunter Burisma scandal is made up, Bernie Sanders really has said he was a socialist and he really is a Jew. As a Jewish socialist, I personally identify with Bernie, but understand that many people hate and fear both. Most candidates have scandals and dubious relatives. Few have won as socialists. The very label turns off the dying breed called “moderate Republicans.” Several of the swing states have long histories of fringe and not-so-fringe anti-Semitism. 

I have no idea who is more likely to beat Trump.

But I am reasonably confident that whichever of the B Boys the Dems select, if elected he will get just about the same things done. As I’ve written before, both will move quickly to reverse Trump’s dangerous loosening of environmental and safety regulations. Both will bring competence and science back to government. Both will rebuild bridges with our allies. Both will appoint left-leaning judges. Both will have much less power than Nancy Pelosi when it comes to drafting and passing legislation. 

There are a number of other similarities between the candidates. Both are in the late 70’s with a history of health problems. More significantly, both are likely to name a woman who is a minority as his running mate. Thus, the election of either Biden or Bernie will likely lead to the first woman president.

What to do? Who to pick?

I’ve thought about it a long time, and I’ve decided to do whatever Liz does. Elizabeth Warren, far more competent, experienced, organized and dynamic than either of the B’s, will crunch the numbers and weight the arguments with the very highest level of intellectual rigor and heartfelt empathy for all Americans. Her decision will reflect what she thinks is best for the country. I trust Warren, more than I’ve trusted any presidential candidate since Clean Gene McCarthy.

If Liz endorses Bernie, I’ll support Bernie.

If Liz endorses Biden or decides to make no endorsement, then I’ll support Biden. My reasoning: her ideas are so close to Bernie’s that staying silent is really a nod towards Biden.

Let me close by expressing my disappointment on how the Democratic race has gone. At the beginning of the campaign, I made a list of how I ranked the two dozen or so candidates and found 14 competent to be president (Beto and America’s favorite small town mayor did not make the cut). Warren was first on my list, followed by Inslee. Sanders (because of age and baggage) was 10th and Biden 14th, or the lowest rated of the 14 who made the competence cut. Very disappointing. But either of the B Boys will still better than the ignorant, racist sociopathic and venal autocrat now roaming the White House.