In October 2016, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton met for their second presidential debate. I can still recall how it felt to watch a man accused of sexual assault and harassment debate a former first lady and former secretary of state. I watched with a mix of dread and rage as Trump said accusers "probably just want fame" before going on to accuse the Clinton campaign of planting the stories of sexual assault.
This week, Clinton formally endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president. This means Trump won't be debating a qualified woman this fall (although he could have been) but rather an aging white man who, like himself, has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior. And as both a Democrat and one of the 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men who've been raped in their lifetimes, I will be asked to sidestep my trauma to vote for a man who is decidedly better for the country than the current president but could also very well be an abuser.
We — women, sexual assault survivors, Americans — deserved better.
Alexandra Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer, accused the former vice president of sexually assaulting her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office in spring 1993. Reade said she told four people about the assault; The Associated Press spoke with one of them, who confirmed Reade's account and "advised Reade against sharing details of the assault because of the negative response to her less serious accusations of harassment." Now, a former neighbor of Reade's, Lynda LaCasse, has come forward in support of Reade's allegation, as well, telling Business Insider that Reade told her about "the senator she had worked for and he put his hand up her skirt."
"This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it," LaCasse said. "I have to support her just because that's what happened. We need to stand up and tell the truth.
But LaCasse also said she will still vote for Biden come November. "I personally am a Democrat, a very strong Democrat," she told Business Insider. "And I'm for Biden, regardless."
(Biden has denied Reade's allegations."It is not true, I am saying unequivocally it never never happened and it didn't," Biden said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday. "It never happened.)
LaCasse knows what the majority of voters according to the latest national polling, seem to know: that another four years of a Trump administration would be devastating for our nation. Infuriatingly, the bar has been lowered so low and the fear of a Trump re-election is so great that we are now stuck in exactly the kind of situation we hoped would never happen again. Running in the most diverse group of Democratic candidates for president ever, Biden emerged victorious.
But we deserved better than a moderate who could appeal to bitter middle-class white voters, better than the status quo that helped lead us to Trump, better than the devil's bargain women like me are being asked to strike in the voting booth.
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The 1 in 4 women who will have an abortion (or abortions) in their lifetimes, to say nothing of the trans men and non-binary people who choose to terminate their pregnancies, deserved better than a candidate who had to be shamed into supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortion services. Or a man who, in 1973, argued that the Supreme Court went "too far" when it ruled in Roe v. Wade.
The 2.3 million people who are incarcerated, and their families, shouldn't have to settle for a candidate who has boasted about the number of major crime bills with his name on them. Or a man who worked with segregationists to write those bills, which undoubtedly laid the foundation for mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex in this country.
The over 1 million Americans who've been infected with COVID-19, and the more than 56,000 who have died, deserved a candidate who advocated for "Medicare for All," not someone who believes their access to health insurance should remain tethered to their employment. The Americans who cite medical costs in over 66 percent of bankruptcy filings need more than the "Medicare-like public option" Biden has proposed, which would still have people spending up to 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance.
Lucy Flores deserved better. Amy Lappos deserved better. D.J. Hill deserved better. Caitlyn Caruso deserved better. Ally Coll deserved better. Vail Kohnert-Yount deserved better. Sofie Karasek deserved better. Alexandra Tara Reade deserved better.
But so did Jessica Leeds, Ivana Trump, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Lisa Boyne, Mariah Billado, Victoria Hughes, Temple Taggart, Cathy Heller, Karena Virginia, Tasha Dixon, Bridget Sullivan, Melinda McGillivray, Natasha Stoynoff, Jennifer Murphy, Juliet Huddy, Rachel Crooks, Samantha Holvey, Ninni Laaksonen, Jessica Drake, Summer Zervos, Cassandra Searles, Alva Johnson, E. Jean Carroll and Karen Johnson — the 25 women who have accused Trump of various types of sexual harassment and misconduct. (Trump has issued blanket denials for all of the accusations.) So did the more than 5,400 immigrant children who were separated at the border. So did our trans military members, black athletes protesting police brutality and systemic racism, Muslims, Gold Star families, members of the LGBTQ community, Roy Moore's alleged victims and Rob Porter's ex-wives.
Democratic women like Sen. Kristin Gillibrand and potential vice president contender Stacey Abrams are enduring a barrage of criticism from right-wing pundits and Sen. Bernie Sanders boosters, who claim their endorsement of Biden is proof they never really cared about victims of sexual assault. But they, like so many other women, know that the alternatives to a Biden presidency will simply harm far too many Americans.
So come November, I'll do what LaCasse has said she will do — vote for a man I believed sexually assaulted Reade. And it will turn my stomach. But while we deserved better than Biden, no one deserves another four years of Trump.
- Joe Biden harassment allegations highlight why 2020 will be hell for many sexual assault survivors
- Trump sexual assault accusations by E. Jean Carroll met with shrugs because they're so shockingly normal
- Brett Kavanaugh accusations: Republicans' skepticism about unreported gang rapes is ignorant of women's history