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Sexual misconduct and the 2020 election

Both President Donald Trump and presidential candidate Joe Biden have been accused of sexual misconduct.
Illustration: Owen Swallow · The Sentry

Balancing the vote and moral quandry

Political candidates with histories of sexual misconduct and sexual immorality are nothing new, whether the context is American politics or any civilization’s politics. Could psychopathy explain the propensity for these behaviors, especially with American presidents? Psychopathy correlates with testosterone, which itself correlates with high libido and dominant male behaviors. Studies have suggested that there is a lot of overlap between the traits of effective leaders and the traits of psychopaths. Psychologists tend to view disorders and personality traits on a spectrum-like scale rather than a dichotomy. Thus, it makes sense that a successful leader has particular psychopathic characteristics, such as charisma, calm in the face of chaos, and emotionless logic, but is still overall functional and productive.

Research shows that certain professions that have given us many presidents and politicians also tend to attract people with more psychopathic traits: CEOs are most attractive, lawyers are second, and civil servants are tenth. When we look at the backgrounds and careers of our presidents, we see that 26 of all our past presidents have also been lawyers, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is a lawyer as well)[4]. Donald Trump, George Bush, and George H. W. Bush have all run large businesses and had analogous positions to that of the CEO.

While sexual misconduct is clearly and objectively wrong, the fact that it is now nominally linked to both leading 2020 presidential candidates compels us to examine how it should factor into our decision to vote.

Sitting president Donald Trump has faced a slew of sexual assault allegations of varying degrees. Various outlets report the number to be between 16 and 23 allegations. Some of the allegations have only been made as public accusations; some are anonymous accusations; some are the subject of lawsuits.  Many of these allegations have repeating themes, the most common being forcible kissing. Some incidents are corroborated by witnesses confirming that the victim confided their stories to them. One exhaustive list (there are many) of these can be found on Wikipedia. It is important to note that none of these accusations have been taken to criminal court, and so none of them have been tested by the rigorous scrutiny of law. Each allegation merits being reported to police and undergoing a thorough legal investigation.

There are two consistent lines of thought regarding the “Me Too” movement – perhaps the only ones devoid of cognitive dissonance. One line of thought is to believe all women. The alternative line of thought is to take the woman’s claims seriously but make a final judgement based on facts and evidence, especially when tested in the court of law. Joe Biden currently has sexual harassment and assault allegations from seven different women. This is in addition to an abundance of photos and videos circulating online for years where Biden is shown in strange or uncomfortable positions with children. It was questionable enough that, in 2015, left-leaning comedian Jon Stewart even commented on it. In the case of Joe Biden, the accusations of sexual harassment by his former aide Tara Reade are jarring. Perhaps even more astonishing is the initial lack of media coverage of the accusations and subsequently the hasty dismissal of those allegations, specifically by left-leaning media outlets.

For many days, the story was only reported on by The Intercept, and it is only now receiving more mainstream attention. This is in spite of the extensive coverage the same media outlets gave to Brett Kavanaugh, conservative nominee to the Supreme Court. If anything, Tara Reade’s allegations may have more credibility than Christine Blasey Ford, because Reade has witnesses confirming that she shared her story with them from years ago. Yet the people Blasey Ford claimed she was with during her incident denied the incident ever occurred. Regardless of the facts and evidence, even Joe Biden himself said to believe all women, saying, “you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.” The negligent complicity of the mainstream media, by the way, should encourage us to include grassroots citizen journalists in our news source repository.

With the internet serving as an easy-to-access and permanent “paper-trail”, America is witnessing the egregious double standards and flip-flopping of many of the loudest purported feminists in real time. Democrat political commentators and celebrities such as Joy Reid and Alyssa Milano are willfully disregarding their own prior statements on the #MeToo movement just to get behind the presumptive candidate. These mental gymnasts deserve a place in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Progressives continue to call them out, rightfully so

This election, Bernie supporters will be told by the Democratic establishment and their Democratic sympathizers that a vote for a third party candidate or the choice to abstain from voting is a vote for Trump. Conversely, Republicans may be telling their Trump-doubting constituencies that not voting will be like handing a vote over to the Democrats. This argument is weaponized by both parties in order to guilt-trip and gaslight and emotionally blackmail an on-the-fence voter to vote in someone’s favor. So isn’t this argument a wash?

More discouraging news has come out this cycle. Bernie Sanders has joined the rest of the former Democratic presidential candidates in endorsing Joe Biden. Tara Reade’s allegations have not shaken any of the former candidates, including the more progressive women, like Kamala Devi Harris and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom doubled down in supporting him while being vocal critics of Kavanaugh. Progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while acknowledging the need for Biden to be questioned, also eventually endorsed him. Was Bernie truly invested in earning the candidacy, or was it a surreptitious means of sowing seeds for progressive policies in the Democratic establishment? Regardless of intent, the betrayal of principles leaves a bitter taste for progressives.

There are a few ways to strategize one’s vote. If choosing to abstain, remember that not voting is meaningful political expression, too. Kyle Kulinski, a left-leaning political commentator, argues that not voting is a way to assert the importance of the progressive voter bloc. If one decides that a longer path that still bends towards progressive policies is better than the current trajectory, then a vote for the Democrat may seem more reasonable. If the urge to vote is strong but the moral objection to the two-party candidates is equally strong, then it may be worth considering third party candidates. The Green Party has welcomed many progressives, and the Libertarian Party may be suitable for those who identify with classical liberalism. And if a progressive Democrat decides that voting for the Republican party as a form of political protest is appropriate, this would also be a well-justified and cogent reaction.

At the end of the day, what someone else says about another’s vote should remain a trivial factor as to how one votes. One’s vote is their voice, and silence can be powerful and deafening, too.

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