Why should Joe Biden get due process, but not others accused of sexual misconduct?
That’s the question raised by the progressive reaction to Tara Reade’s accusation against Biden on the one hand, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s new rules for handling sexual-harassment cases on college campuses on the other.
There have been voices on the left who believe Reade, but generally the note has been one of skepticism about her allegation, along with admonitions that the evidence must be considered carefully.
Many of the popularizers of the phrase “believe women” have climbed down to simply saying that women’s accusations should be heard and then evaluated in light of the facts.
In other words, what any fair-minded person has maintained throughout the #MeToo era, including during the Brett Kavanaugh battle.
And yet there is still progressive outrage over the new Title IX rules developed by DeVos that seek to bring balance and fairness to the consideration of accusations against people who aren’t the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
The actor/activist Alyssa Milano, an erstwhile vocal advocate of “believe women,” has now modulated her view to accommodate her continued support of Biden. She explains that we need to shift our mindset “to believing women. But that does not mean at the expense of giving men their due process and investigating situations, and it’s got to be fair in both directions.”
This is an unassailable position, and one that obviously has implications for the Title IX debate. Even if it doesn’t entail supporting every particular of DeVos’s reforms, it should mean an openness to them. Nonetheless, late last year Milano slammed DeVos over the proposed changes in highly personal terms.
The upshot of Milano’s inconsistency is that a famous and powerful man, whom she happens to know and support, should get more consideration than a young, politically powerless, unknown student somewhere.
A piece from Vox on what “believe women” means in the context of Reade’s allegation quoted Sage Carson, manager of an advocacy organization called Know Your IX. According to Carson, the concept has been twisted “into this idea that you never provide a fair process for folks to go through.”
But her organization has declared war on DeVos’s changes.
An article in Mother Jones reported that anti-sexual-assault activists still supporting Biden have a number of reasons. One of them is “an eagerness to replace Trump’s cabinet, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose overhaul of campus sexual assault policy has prompted outcry from survivors.”
In other words, Biden gets the benefit of the doubt on Tara Reade explicitly as a means to continue to deny the accused on campus any such benefit of the doubt.
The DeVos changes are meant to inject elementary fairness into proceedings that went off the rails in response to Obama-administration guidance in 2011. Students punished by these kangaroo courts have had considerable success appealing their cases in the courts.
The DeVos rules reverse the single-investigator model that empowered one person to investigate a case and recommend a decision.
Now the investigator and adjudicator must be different. Students must have access to evidence, and the accused must know what is alleged and by whom and when.
There must be a live hearing and an opportunity for cross-examination by both sides.
Title IX coordinators and investigators can’t be biased one way or the other.
These measures are so in keeping with basic American traditions that it’s hard to believe that anyone could oppose them.
The ultimate irony is that Joe Biden was a prime mover behind the Obama-era Title IX rules. As Robby Soave of Reason magazine notes, “If the allegation against Biden were being decided by the kind of adjudication system that he helped enshrine on college campuses, it’s quite likely that he would be found guilty.”
There’s a lesson there, although it’s doubtful anyone — emphatically including Biden himself — is willing to learn it.
© 2020 by King Features Syndicate