Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
This week, hundreds of readers shared their reactions to the unfolding accusations against Joe Biden by women who said he had kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable.
Many readers defended the former vice president as a product of a different time and questioned if the #MeToo movement had gone too far. Others insisted that making a woman feel uncomfortable has always been wrong.
Since Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, made public her accusations against Mr. Biden last Friday, multiple women have come forward, telling The Times, The Washington Post and others that he made them feel uncomfortable, bringing the total to seven as of Thursday afternoon. Mr. Biden released a video on Wednesday vowing to “be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space,” though he stopped short of apologizing.
Here is a selection of our readers’ responses, which came from emails sent by On Politics readers, as well as comments across our site. They have been lightly edited for clarity.
Many of you defended Mr. Biden, saying he was from an older generation when social mores around physical contact were different.
I am 68, a bit younger than Joe Biden. But I am from a big Irish family and we are always kissing and hugging people. It was an expression of welcome and warmth. Now I understand in this MeToo movement that there are those who are uncomfortable with such intimate physical expressions. So now that Joe has been called out on it, it is up to him to show his changed behavior if indeed he runs for president, which I hope he does. — Sally Ziegenfuss, Pennsylvania
I’m a 70-year-old woman who has always thought that male attention that might involve non-intimate touching was something to be pleased about, even proud of. This is definitely a generational issue and younger women need to have perspective and understand that what was very acceptable in the past, even a couple of years ago, should not and cannot be judged by today’s standards. — Ellen Goodman, Massachusetts
Back in the ‘60s this issue didn’t exist. It was a different time. When will we stop looking back over our collective shoulders, and move forward? — Whitney Devlin, 74, New York
But many others said Mr. Biden’s age was no excuse for his actions.
I am in my 60s. Regardless of age or habitat, Joe Biden’s touchy feely actions with women (and men, allegedly) are disgusting and inappropriate. I don’t believe they arise out of innocent affection, though he may have himself convinced. They arise out of unconscious male privilege and are demeaning and distressing to those on the receiving end. — Joan Weis, California
Men of his generation assumed that the “affection“ being given would be welcomed and appreciated, particularly since it was being given by a man in power. The problem has been that nobody bothered to ask the women or girls. — Lori Abbott Moreland, Sacramento, Calif.
This is not a generational misunderstanding. Biden’s licentious behavior (let’s call it what it is) was never the norm and not what most women wanted or expected. — Dwight Dekeyser, 63, Cherry Hill, N.J.
Joe Biden is facing a moment of “white man privilege.” Just because HE didn’t think that gently rubbing shoulders and kissing the back of her head wasn’t inappropriate doesn’t mean this incident can be dismissed as paternal or innocent. It is the woman’s feelings about the kiss/touch that matter.
He lives in a different era and is no longer relevant to most generations. He needs to step aside. — Sandra Mathews, 51, Madison, N.J.
Some readers said they worried the #MeToo movement risked going off course.
Is this where we’re heading, to ban “jokes, hugs and kisses” from the public sphere? Early on we baby boomers rejected the stiff formalities of an earlier generation for an easy physicality, an appreciative give-and-take across gender lines that graced daily life with moments of lightness and warmth. Do we really want to push the Joe Bidens and Al Frankens from our lives? Maybe it’s generational, but I fear we’re losing something I’ve long cherished. #MeTooMuch. — Millie Olson, California
As a college student warned constantly about the dangers of life on campus, I worry that the legacy of the MeToo movement will not be empowerment for women, but a generation of women terrified of interaction with males, who see any physical intimacy as a threat.
When men kiss me on the head or squeeze my shoulders, it does make me uncomfortable. But does it make me uncomfortable because it is creepy or because I have been told I should find it creepy? I hope the pendulum will soon swing back to a more reasonable and thoughtful, less knee-jerk political and cultural climate. — Meg Edwards, Ohio
This story personifies exactly what is wrong with the #MeToo movement. It started off as a positive force, bringing to light predatory behavior, and now we’ve gotten to the point where a squeeze or a nuzzle is horrific.
This is exactly why the Democrats (who I am one of) will lose the 2020 election. We are eating our own, and to what end? — Monica Evenson, 47, Los Angeles
Special thanks to Lela Moore from The Times’s Reader Center for help with today’s newsletter. To add your own response, visit our story in the Reader Center here.
Drop us a line!
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, some 2020 candidates have been announcing their first-quarter fund-raising totals. Here are the ones we’ve seen so far:
• Bernie Sanders: $18.2 million, 525,000 donors
• Kamala Harris: $12 million, 138,000 donors
• Beto O’Rourke: $9.4 million, 218,000 donors
• Pete Buttigieg: $7 million, 158,550 donors
• Andrew Yang: $1.7 million, 80,000 donors
What do these numbers tell us?
With early polls largely measuring name recognition, these self-reported numbers give us the firmest comparison of strength in a crowded field. More donors, theoretically, means more support.
For lesser-known candidates, the number of donors tells us whether they’re likely to qualify for the June debate — a critical opportunity to speak to a larger audience.
What don’t these numbers tell us?
These are the totals released by the campaigns, so they’re going to present the rosiest possible picture. The full filings will be officially released by the Federal Election Commission on April 15. (Tax day comes for everyone, it seems.)
This isn’t a perfect comparison because the candidates entered the race at different times over the past three months. Candidates tend to get a big boost of donations when they first enter a race. Whether they can sustain that momentum is an open — and critical — question.
How do these early numbers compare to past years?
Pretty dismally, actually. Check out this chart by the Center for Responsive Politics, which compares these numbers to the first quarter fund-raising in 2008, the last time both parties faced such an open race.
Barack Obama’s haul of $25.7 million, which neared Hillary Clinton’s $26.1 million total, was seen as a significant victory for the then-Illinois senator. The fact that today’s candidates aren’t raising that kind of dough indicates that the race remains wide open.
What to read tonight
• In China, high tech surveillance, neighborhood watchers and a constant police presence have turned an entire city into a prison.
• The details of the most expensive divorce in history are out: MacKenzie Bezos will get 25 percent of the Amazon stock she owned with her husband (and the richest person in the world), Jeff Bezos. Her share is worth about $36 billion.
• Inspired by the Joe Biden news, a Times science reporter looked at decades of scientific and psychological research on why intrusions of personal space make us so uncomfortable.
The president tweeted a meme today. (No matter how many times we write that sentence, it never sounds any less weird.) This one featured a 15-second animated video mocking Joe Biden.
Were you forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.
Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.
Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com.