Lakhiani: How to reconcile sexual assault allegations with the impending election

Karuna Lakhiani, Staff Columnist

It’s easy to forget that we are in the midst of a national election cycle during this pandemic. However, it’s still just as important as ever to vote, because we need a change of leadership in the country. The election is going to happen this year, whether it’s in November or if it’s delayed because of coronavirus. Regardless, the Constitution states that the president’s term ends on Jan. 20, and I doubt that is going to change anytime soon. 

At this point, there are only two candidates with a realistic path to the presidency: Joe Biden and Donald Trump. When Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic primary, a lot of people were outraged and expressed their discontent with Biden, which is understandable. Biden was involved with a lot of problematic policies when he was a senator, and there is a sexual assault allegation against him by Tara Reade, a staffer that used to work for him in the 1990s. However, many people still support him, including former President Barack Obama, who recently posted an endorsement for Biden. Because of his former position as vice president, Biden is still well respected. The fact that a sexual assault allegation cannot dissuade people from putting a person in power is problematic. Trump has over 20 sexual assault allegations against him and yet he is still the president of this country. Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford and yet is a justice of the Supreme Court. 

The U.S. has created an environment where the public either doesn’t believe the victim, assumes their claim is false or even blames the victim for what happened to them. While this is a problem that cannot be fixed overnight, it’s important to realize that we the people are responsible for creating this environment. So many people excuse the behaviors of people in power and, further, enable abhorrent conduct by dismissing huge sexual assault claims. Of course, not everyone enables this culture. There are people who speak up against it, including me. However, that isn’t enough. More people need to be vocal and take action if we are to stop the spread of such a toxic culture. We need to vote and support people who don’t have such horrendous allegations made against them. However, in this upcoming national election, that unfortunately isn’t possible. 

While I certainly don’t support Biden, I am discouraging people from writing in Sanders on their ballots. By writing in Sanders instead of voting for Biden, it splits the Democratic vote, meaning Trump will overall have the most popular votes. As I previously stated, I don’t support Biden, but I am going to vote for him. 

While this may make me sound like a hypocrite, especially after my comment on enabling people who have accusations against them, in this instance, I believe there is no choice; Biden is the lesser of two evils. 

Instead of not voting, I am going to do my part as a citizen of this country. Some people didn’t vote in the 2016 election because they supported Sanders and didn’t want to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Trump. Some people said that they believed their vote wouldn’t make a difference. However, no matter what your reason is for not voting, it’s not a valid excuse. Voting determines our futures and livelihoods and makes all the difference; every vote counts. 

In my home state of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, a Democratic candidate, won last year’s election for governor. It was a very close race and several people thought his opponent would win because he was a Republican and an incumbent. Surprisingly, Beshear won the race by just over 5,000 votes. Every vote counted in that race, and it will in this presidential election, too. 

I am asking all of you to vote in the election because it can change all of our futures. If you don’t like how Trump is handling the pandemic and believe we can do better, please vote. If you support Trump, I may not agree with you, but please vote. Even if you supported Sanders, please vote, but don’t write in Sanders’ name, because that will ultimately lead to still having Trump as president. 

And while voting for Biden is enabling another person accused of sexual assault, this country has enabled way worse, including Trump. While it’s impossible to not empower a candidate accused of sexual assault in this election, it’s still possible to not enable victim-blaming culture overall. We can support victims and people sharing their stories, rather than accusing them of making false allegations. We can push for better sexual assault prevention policies. We can do better as a society, even if we are left with options that may not seem like we can.