There’s a refreshing honesty to this opinion piece published today by the NY Times. Unlike Times’ columnist Michelle Goldberg, who has done back flips trying to explain why she supported Christine Blasey Ford but not Tara Reade, author Linda Hirshman isn’t playing that game. Hirshman says up front that she believes Tara Reade and wishes the people looking for reasons to disbelieve her would just stop.
Let’s be clear: I believe Tara Reade…
Discounting Ms. Reade’s accusation and, one after another, denigrating her corroborating witnesses, calling for endless new evidence, avowing that you “hear” her, is nonsense. We are now up to four corroborating witnesses.
Hirshman says she hates to do it, but it’s time to “make the utilitarian bargain” and “sell out” Tara Reade:
In 1998, I was one of a few establishment feminists to argue on behalf of Monica Lewinsky, when the unofficial representative of the movement, Gloria Steinem, threw her under the bus in the pages of The New York Times to protect Bill Clinton. I maintained my position until, two decades and a #MeToo movement later, Ms. Steinem issued a non-apology for the essay. So I hate, hate, hate to say the following.
Suck it up and make the utilitarian bargain…
Compared with the good Mr. Biden can do, the cost of dismissing Tara Reade — and, worse, weakening the voices of future survivors — is worth it…
Utilitarian morality requires that I turn my face away from the people I propose to sell out: Monica Lewinsky, Tara Reade. This is agonizingly hard for me to do. Pretending not to believe the complainants — which is what is taking place with Ms. Reade — or that they’re loose nobodies, which is what much of the media did to Ms. Lewinsky, is just an escape from the hard work of moral analysis.
And it adds to the harm. How is feminism advanced by casting a reasonably credible complainant as a liar? Better to just own up to what you are doing: sacrificing Ms. Reade for the good of the many.
I’ve seen quite a few Democrats online and some media pieces arguing that Democrats should support Biden anyway because Trump’s record with regard to sexual harassment is worse. I suspect a lot of people who have already heard and seen that argument will misunderstand what Hirshman is saying here. She’s not saying we should vote for Biden because he’s a better person. She’s actually saying Biden is not a better person. He’s someone who (she believes) sexually assaulted a junior staffer and then let his office fire her for complaining about it. That’s what Tara Reade is alleging. But Hirshman is saying she’ll vote for Biden anyway because she believes he’ll be a better president.
To be fair, there probably are some Trump supporters out there who have made a similar bargain. They may find Trump’s “locker room talk” about grabbing women disturbing. They may suspect some of the stories about him grabbing women aren’t false as Trump claims. But they’re voting for him anyway because, like Hirshman, they believe the election is bigger than one man’s flaws or one woman’s allegations.
What’s striking is that, for most part of the past three years, the left has been arguing against exactly this kind of utilitiarian bargain. The many progressives who thought Brett Kavanaugh didn’t belong on the Supreme Court claimed the allegations themselves should be disqualifying. The writers of endless columns about how the GOP is complicit because it doesn’t resists Trump at every step don’t accept the idea of utilitarian bargains. Some have even suggested putting people who were ever part of Trump’s administration on a list to ensure they never live down the infamy.
And yet, suddenly, it looks like a whole lot of Democrats are prepared to do the very thing they have long faulted Trump supporters for doing: Deciding a man’s flaws are less important than his policy prescriptions or the direction he’s leading. This is a hypocrisy that goes well beyond #MeToo. If adopted by Democrats, it’s a rejection of nearly everything they have been arguing vis a vis Trump.
That said, this is definitely a dagger pointed at the heart of the #MeToo movement which was about finally holding powerful men accontable for crimes which had long been ignored. Now Hirshman is saying we should go right on ignoring those crimes so long as the powerful men in question are good for the country.
Hirshman is endorsing the same reasoning that Harvey Weinstein himself offered when he was first accused. Remember when Weinstein put out a statement saying, “I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt, and I plan to do right by all of them.” How would he do right by them? He explained, “I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention.” He went on to say that he was also making a movie about President Trump. In short, I may be accused of being a serial rapist, but I’m also a powerful progressive voice who will advance the cause.
Weinstein was counting on the Hollywood left to make the utilitiarian bargain which had allowed him and others to flourish in Hollywood for decades. And, to their credit, the Hollywood left finally said no. In fact, they said hell no. No more winking at assault and harassment because the guy’s a friend of the Clintons and on our side politically.
Now, Hirshman is saying it’s time to stop being so picky. Yes, she believes Joe Biden did what he’s accused of but, hey, he’s one of us and right now that’s what matters. Sorry, Tara Reade but we need to sacrifice you for the greater good. Somewhere Bill Clinton is breathing a deep sigh of relief.