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.
Contemplating the act makes me feel a little like Gloria Steinem, circa 1998. I was so sure I’d never do what she did, and I still think saving Mr. Clinton for two years at the cost to Ms. Lewinsky was a terrible move. Denigrating Ms. Lewinsky denied all women’s vulnerability to powerful men, and replacing Mr. Clinton with another Democratic centrist, Al Gore, would have been a perfectly acceptable outcome. But it also makes me remember why Ms. Steinem did it.