By now you should be aware of the broad details: former aide Tara Reade credibly accused former Vice President and current Democratic nominee Joe Biden of sexual harassment. The details of the allegation are not important to this story beyond that they exist – the media contains so much nonsense that I hardly know which specifics of the matter are confirmed fact and which are “journalists” reporting rumour.
Nor is the #MeToo aspect of the allegation important (to this story). The ongoing debate about sexual misconduct, believe women, and innocent until proven guilty that dominates Internet forums is a separate conversation that should be had, but not the focus of this piece.
The focus here is the response to the allegation. The focus here is a matter of principle. The focus here…is what it’s like living every day dedicated to principles that come into conflict and being paralysed by anxiety and indecision.
In the age of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Brett Kavanaugh and others, #MeToo became a prominent feature in our zeitgeist. More specifically, the focus on #MeToo became a popular topic among liberals, Democrats, social justice warriors, libtards, cucks, and any other manner of name attributed to one half the false dichotomy of modern American politics. They demanded justice for all cases.
Then Tara Reade made public her allegation about presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden.
To be sure, politics play a major role in this as well. Bernie Sanders supporters, the last real challenge to Biden’s nomination, have seized on the allegation in a way that I cannot help but feel is a little more pro-Sanders than it is pro-supporting Tara Reade (not that they do not support Tara Reade; just that there’s certain political eagerness about it).
Just as there are liberals and Democrats who remain dedicated to the principle and want the allegation investigated fully, as well as conservatives and Republicans who are happy to see the shoe on the other foot once again. They want to see the Democratic base go after Biden with the same zeal they had to denounce Brett Kavanaugh.
Yet the response from the Biden camp, and a larger collective of Democrats intent on winning in November, underwhelms. Whether it be Biden’s conspicuous silence on the matter, aside from a few statements that felt painfully coerced by political pressure, or the half-measures response of the campaign team, it feels to many that the Biden campaign is not doing right by Tara Reade and the allegation.
Perhaps even worse is the chorus of Biden (or generic Democrat) supporters whose dismissive responses when asked about the allegation feel like the worst betrayal of the #MeToo era yet.
How can this camp, the one so fervently behind the #MeToo movement, suddenly adopt such a blasé attitude toward a credible allegation?
The answers all seem to take a similar form: political calculation regarding the desire to win back the Presidency in November 2020.
At this point, Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee in lead-up to the DNC that has unimpressed most people. By many accounts, the DNC did not manage this nominee season well. In many ways similar to Trump, the Biden camp feels more like a compendium of Democrats whose favoured nominee already withdrew and undecideds opposed to Trump rather than true Biden supporters.
That becomes part of the calculation when the only viable alternative at present is Bernie Sanders, who has a sizeable number of delegates and remains on-ballot in several remaining states despite suspending his campaign. He does have a dedicated base of supporters who are not the majority of Democrats. Various concerns about his ability to keep the party unified enough to win the election (not saying he would cause one, just that this is clearly a perception out there) seem to have the DNC looking elsewhere. Right now that is Biden.
Likewise, that is the sort of response that Democratic voters offer. Yes, perhaps Biden did do this to Reade and that is awful – I actually do believe Tara – but Trump is waaay worse and he cannot win in November. That is, they support Biden in the election without condoning what happened; in fact, many do condemn it despite keeping their vote in his column.
This is the debate among many right now. We have the practical aspect of Trump versus Biden in a significant Presidential election and the principled aspect of a credible sexual misconduct allegation.
Even where things look bad for the Biden campaign with respect to the Reade allegation, the maths seems to be, “Hey, it’s bad. Full transparency right now would be worse for us. We need to win the election.”
That sense among the principled group is infuriating. It feels to many like, “No, he did something wrong and we do not have just the two options here. We can hold Biden accountable and defeat Trump in November.” That anyone could be willing to overlook a credible allegation or treat it with anything less than full diligence and transparency is offensive.
This is the world of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). This is where someone like myself occupies a further subset of the population; troubled by the allegation against Biden and annoyed by the indignance of people who hate they his campaign seems to prioritise the practical over the principled.
When one lives with OCPD, one obsesses about rules, order, lists, routine, and the like. When something is wrong, it is wrong. Full stop. Furthermore, the wrong thing requires accountability, responsibility, transparency, amends, and/or punishment regardless of circumstance.
What becomes annoying about the Biden situation is seeing non-OCPD people react in such an OCPD way when most, if not all, people engage in these sorts of moral calculations and compromises. Sure, one can say something regarding the scale of the incident – sexual harassment is worse than that time you turned without using your signal – but they are incidents all the same.
To the OCPD mind travelling as a passenger in that car, when one changes lanes or turns without using a turn signal it sets off the principle alarm. That signal is not there for decoration; it exists so that other motorists know one’s intentions and can prepare accordingly to avoid a collision. So when a driver rattles off excuses like, “They weren’t that close,” it becomes infuriating to an OCPD thinker who knows one does not get to make that choice. The other motorist might have felt the car was close enough and the signal is there so they know what is about to happen.
An example I often provide to describe this sort of thing is the two-lane road with the stopped vehicle and cars approaching from each direction.
Societies have laws, rules, folkways, and mores to govern how people interact so that many would-be conflicts resolve peacefully. In the case of the obstructed road, most (all?) driving regulation is that the car approaching the obstruction must yield as their lane has the obstruction. While driving in the opposing lane is illegal, passing in this situation is fine provided that the coast is clear.
An associated folkway is that if the road is wide enough, the oncoming traffic may adjust onto the shoulder to allow room for the obstructed traffic to pass.
What I find amusing the is agitation of drivers in each of the situation as it pertains to their selfish perspective. For example, as a passenger in the obstructed car, I have listened to drivers complain that the oncoming traffic did not move over to allow room (perhaps because the oncoming traffic felt they did not have adequate room or because they simply had no obligation to do so).
I have also been in cars that passed around the obstruction to the chagrin of oncoming traffic, as have I been in the oncoming car chagrined that the obstructed car would push its way around.
What makes life annoying to someone with OCPD is often all of these situations involve the same driver. Yes, the same person who injected themselves into the oncoming lane to get around the obstruction because “the oncoming traffic should move over” is the one in oncoming traffic irate that another driver moved into their lane.
The situation has nothing to do with law, rule, folkway, or more and everything to do with whatever serves their practical need in that moment.
I am not saying that people are inherently bad because people make these compromises, but it does serve as a point of frustration to listen to someone argue a point on principle when you know they would have no problem violating that “principle” in the reverse situation. People make these selfish compromises all the time and it would do people good to recognise them as such.
Selfish gets a bad reputation. Like most things, selfishness is about moderation. Too little or too much becomes problematic for a person. Recognising a decision is about self-interest rather than principle might help everyone sort through some of these issues a little better without the constant distraction of hypocrisy (which some Democrats now face with Biden).
Being overly principled about things (to the point that one does not make routine compromises) is a hallmark of the personality disorder called OCPD. It’s a disorder because having such a resolute, principled outlook on something as complex as life means one is often presented with conflicting principles and the paralysis of indecision that results.
In my OCPD mind, Trump is a terrible human being and no degree of “owning the libs” or trying to achieve ideological policy milestones is worth overlooking that. I see it as so problematic that the thought of his winning re-election to appoint more federal judges, especially to the Supreme Court for lifetime positions, is a real political threat to millions of Americans. Overlooking something as problematic as a sexual harassment allegation against his opponent is also not an appropriate choice.
While the current focus is the alleged wrongdoing on their parts, casting a vote for a candidate who committed wrongdoing then becomes wrongdoing on my part. I will likely struggle from now to November with how I will have to handle that particular decision unless something changes the equation in the meantime.
For the many people wrestling with that decision right now – this is your glimpse into the everyday world of living with OCPD.