What should we call the female Democratic leaders who are standing with Joe Biden as he faces an accusation of sexual assault? Hypocrites or realists?

A woman who briefly worked on Biden’s Senate staff back in 1993 claims he held her against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and assaulted her with his fingers. The standard set by most Democratic officials in recent years is that any woman making such a disturbing allegation should automatically be believed. One of the people taking that position – until now – was Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, Biden and many powerful Democratic women have modified that absolutist stance, saying that a woman making such charges deserves to be listened to and have her story fully vetted, but her words should not receive instant credence. Republicans and Fox News personalities are screaming hypocrisy. Many female activists in the #MeToo Movement are cringing.

Biden has declared his complete innocence. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have restated their unflinching support of Biden’s presidential candidacy. Are these women completely convinced that Biden is telling the truth? Or do they harbor doubts?

What they cannot doubt is that if President Donald Trump wins a second term in the White House, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will almost certainly be replaced by a conservative ideologue groomed by the Federalist Society; young, undocumented Latinos who have lived their lives in the United States will remain in legal limbo; the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to be run by energy-industry stooges; voting rights of Black Americans will be further undermined; American foreign policy will still favor autocrats and undermine allies; economic policy will continue to enrich billionaires; and, most crucial of all, the federal government will do nothing to deal with the existential threat of climate change for another four years.

Weighed against all that and more, the terrible episode that one woman claims to have experienced three decades ago simply does not add up to much in the calculations of political leaders who must take into account the interests of hundreds of millions of citizens. And, unless some miracle happens that produces an alternative Democratic nominee for president, that is the calculation that every Democratic voter will have to make, as well.

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