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. 

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