I distinctly remember when I, as a young boy, approached my parents about politics for the first time. I asked if we were Democrats or Republicans. My father held my hand as his eyes, brown as my skin, met mine. He explained that because we were black, we were Democrats. My mother then opined that Republicans didn’t care about women, but Democrats did. For years, that answer satisfied me. But as the first black President, a Democrat, came and went—leaving us with the Flint, MI water crisis, undeterred police violence, unprecedented income inequality and an enduring gender pay gap—I would eventually question the party’s commitment to disadvantaged communities. This skepticism catalyzed a revelation, which I believe must be shared: Democrats by and large use equity-seeking groups as little more than props, to be embraced when convenient, and dismissed just as easily. As we approach the end of International Women’s Month, I feel it necessary to reflect on how this tendency has manifested with respect to women.
Take, for example, liberal’s selective embrace of the #MeToo movement. When then President Donald J. Trump’s Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of attempted rape by Christine Blasey Ford, Democrats emphatically latched onto her story, elevating her testimony on the Senate floor and across airwaves, as well as highlighting her harsh dismissal at the hands of conservatives. While I am often a vocal critic of the Democrats, I was proud of the party for their apparent principled stand; Ford seemed highly credible and enjoyed no clear benefit for inserting herself into the public dialogue. And whether one supported the #MeToo movement’s directive to “believe women” universally, one certainly could not deny Democratic adherence to it. This commitment, however, would soon be tested—and Democrats and their allies would fail spectacularly.
During the 2020 Democratic primary, ex-Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade accused the former Vice President of sexual assault. She was by no means alone in this matter; Reade was the eighth woman to accuse Biden of inappropriate behavior, and was herself inspired by the admission of former Nevada lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Lucy Flores that Biden had kissed the back of her head without consent in 2014. Reade’s first attempt to go public was timid, and she ultimately retreated after facing backlash from liberals who accused her of being a Russian disruptor, owing to a since-deleted Medium post in which Reade praised Russia and its President. Reade realized she would need backup, and in January of 2020 she reached out to Time’s Up, a nonprofit outgrowth of #MeToo was tasked with providing legal funds, PR, and other services for accusers of powerful individuals. According to The Intercept’s Ryan Grimm, despite initial support, the organization decided not to take up Reade’s case, citing concerns that pursuit of a candidate for federal office might jeopardize their nonprofit status. Mainstream outlets refused to pick up her story, and without the support of Time’s Up, it seemed her crusade was over. Seeking exposure, Reade would eventually appear on the Katie Halper Show in March, detailing, to some extent, her alleged experience with the former Vice President during her tenure at his Senate office. Despite rousing attention in left wing circles, Reade’s story was still denied mainstream vetting until Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of “Rising” interviewed her on March 26. Only then did mainstream outlets address Reade’s claims.
More than two weeks after Reade’s “Rising” appearance, the New York Times addressed Biden’s accuser for the first time. Reade lived what MJ Lee and Ellie Kaufman, writing for CNN, described as a “complicated life,” which made her story somewhat difficult to follow. Due to a physically abusive marriage, Reade was forced into a “protection program” in the 1990s, which entailed changing her name and required her to attend a litany of colleges as she painstakingly scraped together the credits required to graduate. Lee and Kaufman insist Reade’s claims—that she, under the assumed identity of Alexandra McCabe, graduated from and subsequently worked for Antioch University—were false, a charge parroted by the Times, who stated Reade “had never obtained the undergraduate degree required for law school admission.” As reported by Grimm, these revelations prompted Reade’s law school to revoke her degree, and the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, “where she had testified in under just under a dozen domestic trials”, to investigate her for perjury. Time has vindicated Ms. Reade; in the year since, the law school has reinstated her degree, the D.A. concluded their case, and Antioch “softened” their claims, acknowledging Reade’s three-year tenure on their affiliate faculty. While it is undeniably positive that her ability to secure a livelihood has been reinstated, the damage has been done—her credibility was leveled, her claims discarded, and Joe Biden, now President, avoided confronting these allegations publicly. Yes, Reade’s life was messy, but such a narrow focus on her fraying threads indicates an unwillingness to “believe women” when they threaten the power of liberal elites like Joe Biden.
Reade’s case is a visceral example of Democratic disregard for women, but it is by no means the only such example. Their policy pursuits convey, just as loudly, if not more so, a lack of concern for women, despite rhetoric to the contrary. In 1976 the overwhelmingly Democratic Senate passed the Hyde Amendment, a bill which banned federal dollars from funding abortions, making it difficult for low-income women to receive them. While it is true these were different political times and a different Democratic Party, the Hyde Amendment has maintained the quiet support of the modern party as well. It had, for example, the endorsement of Biden until it inspired backlash during his 2020 primary bid, and is still in effect, despite a slim Democratic Senate majority. Furthermore, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of Democrats in the House, decided to undermine all primary challengers to sitting Democrats, even when it has meant defending anti-abortion Democratic Dan Lipinski. Thus, the betrayal is twofold: not only do Democrats actively resist fighting for a woman’s choice, but they also deter primary challenges, perhaps the most effective ways to boost the number of female office holders.
Democratic economic policy further demonstrates the dissonance between their espoused support for women, and material antagonism towards them. In the 1990s, Democrats, keen to shake the growing stigma of the New Deal Era, sought a “third way” between their social democratic predecessors and the Republicans. This rebranding exercise pushed them towards a right-wing economic agenda, typified by their agitation for “welfare reform,” otherwise known as austerity. As reported by Jacob Passy of MarketWatch, one such reform, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, instituted during the Clinton presidency, “replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, an entitlement program for low-income families, with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.” In typical poor-demonizing-1990s-fashion, the program required recipients to find work after receiving benefits for two years, restricted citizens from receiving more than five years of benefits over a lifetime, reduced available aid for unwed parents, and made way for states to enforce further imposition. Passy also details the decline in welfare utilization due to this bill: “Before the reform, 31% of unmarried women claimed benefits as opposed to 11% of all households. Now those figures are 8% and 3% respectively.” There is simply no ignoring the hurt this bill, and its numerous complementary “reforms,” have caused the poor, particularly mothers and their children.
Democratic disregard for the material conditions of all Americans, but especially women, continues to this day. After securing the barest of technical majorities in the Senate, Democrats earned the ability to pass a COVID relief bill through budget reconciliation, a process which would require a simple fifty-plus-one majority, thus insulating them from the threat of a Republican filibuster. Despite garnering much praise and support, most of the bill’s provisions are temporary; very few will have a lasting impact on the American populace beyond staving off absolute ruin today. Thus, the most consequential proposal contained in the omnibus package was the federal minimum wage hike, which Senate Democrats removed citing objections from the parliamentarian, who serves in an advisory capacity and could easily be overruled by Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the Senate. The Vice President, however, refused this course of action, prompting one Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) to try forcing it through. Despite his best efforts, however, lacking unified Democratic support, the wage hike was removed from the bill. Among the nays stood six Democrats, including close Biden associate Chris Coons (D-DE), and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ). Shortly after this ordeal, the Arizona Senator Tweeted in favor of closing the wage gap in recognition of International Women’s Day:
“Equal work deserves equal pay. On #InternationalWomensDay, we’re proud to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.”
Which was somewhat ironic from an individual who had just voted down a minimum wage hike which would primarily benefit female workers. This blatant hypocrisy roused some criticism, which her aides chalked up to sexism, a move which they are not alone in making. When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen came under fire for garnering $7 million in Wall Street speaking fees between 2019 and 2020, the Biden administration and its supporters rebuked the class-conscious critique with claims of sexism (because why can’t a #GirlBoss make millions from the industries she’s supposed to regulate?). Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo has also shielded himself from criticism with the façade of progressive identity politics. The scandal-ridden New Yorker has long-weaponized both the contrived Women’s Equality Party and a practice of hiring copious female employees to evade his own inevitable #MeToo scandal. While much of his elicit efforts are now coming to light, the fact that this veneer of good intentions obscured his misdeed for so long illuminates the game played by so many elites.
The Democratic party, then, is highly performative. Its officials loudly proclaim support for disadvantaged groups like women, blacks and the undocumented and uses the diversity of its members to dodge rightful criticism. Yet this support is resoundingly hollow. A Women’s Day Tweet means nothing if they are not willing to raise women’s wages; kneeling in kente cloth means nothing without defunding the police and ending the drug war; and “not being Trump” means nothing when the subsequent Democratic administration continues to populate concentration camps built under the leadership of the first black, Democratic President. Unfortunately, there is no alternative in our “two-party” system. Republicans are similarly happy to deny women living wages, blacks the most basic freedoms and migrants the most basic dignities—they are simply honest about their disdain for these groups, unlike the Democrats. As voters, we are drip-fed the narrative that voting third party is tantamount to “throwing away” your vote; that you have no choice besides voting blue or red, or not voting at all. But this is a false dichotomy. While I believe generally that our definition of “politics” should be expanded to include extra-electoral organizing and mutual aid, it is also the case that if we want viable third parties who may represent the will of the people, we must pressure, however uncouthly, elected officials into instituting multi-member districts and rank-choice voting. Such amendments to our collective electoral systems would bolster the competitive prospects of third parties and eliminate the possibility of a “throwaway” vote. So, dear reader, I implore you: cut through the pandering, posturing and lies. Don’t settle for talking points from your elected officials, force action. It is the only way to dismantle sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and other such injustices.
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