Joe Biden is like that old boyfriend who keeps wanting to give your relationship one more chance. You like him. You have some good memories of your time together. But you no longer feel any passion for him. He’s a particular guy from a particular time in your life. He represents the past, not the future.
The allegations that Joe Biden was too handsy and affectionate with women in professional settings is not at all surprising. We have decades of photos and video that show Joe being Joe. He’s a hugger! It’s also absolutely clear, I think, that his overtures were not sexual in nature. But good intentions are not enough to make him an attractive presidential candidate.
Being a good guy with good intentions is no excuse for manhandling people in the workplace. You can be the affectionate uncle at home, but no one needs an affectionate uncle in the office.
This sort of behavior was common when I started my professional career back in the dark ages—the 1990s. I can’t count the number of men who rubbed my shoulders, offered hugs instead of handshakes, and made unnecessary comments about my hair or my clothes. Most of these actions were not sexual in nature. These men thought they were being friendly. At most, it was mildly annoying. Occasionally, it was offensive. Once, at an event in Austin, Texas, a board member of the public television station where I worked entered the room and patted me on the head like a small child. It was humiliating and ridiculous. To this day, I don’t know if he mistook me for one of his grandkids or if he just didn’t consider how inappropriate and condescending the gesture would be. I’m sure, if asked, he would insist he meant no offense. Nonetheless.
Things are different now. And it’s such a relief! It’s a pleasure to be able to insist on a firm handshake even when some virtual stranger is coming at you with his arms wide open. And it’s nice to see that decent people have learned that unsolicited back rubs are unwelcome back rubs. Clear boundaries are a good thing in the workplace and in any place. We’ve still got a long way to go, but at least we’re talking about it. The affectionate, avuncular co-worker isn’t yet extinct, but he’s a relic of another era.
And that’s what Joe Biden is in this slate of presidential hopefuls—he’s a relic of another era. Sure, he seems to be struggling with these allegations in a forthright way. He seems to be taking the criticism seriously. He still needs to apologize directly and without qualification to the women he’s offended. But Joe Biden, unlike many men of his generation, seems willing to listen, grow, and evolve. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to rush back into his arms.
To be clear, I like Joe Biden. He’s made some mistakes, evolved on some contentious issues, stumbled and redeemed himself. He rides the commuter train with the masses. He grins and laughs, seemingly without considering the optics. When he lost his son, his grief was evident and relatable. You can imagine him at a holiday dinner, passing out gifts to the children and passing out compliments to the chef. I bet he’s a great husband and father. I bet he’s a great friend. But I don’t want to enter into a longterm relationship with him. Not now, when I have so many other good options.
The media keeps asking if the latest allegations against Joe Biden are disqualifying for a presidential run. They are not, in my opinion. But he is the wrong choice to lead the Democrats to the White House in 2020. Joe Biden is a candidate of the past and I’m sick of nostalgia. Come 2020, I want to vote for a leader of the future. Sorry, Joe, you’re a nice enough guy, but I’m just not that into you.