Anita Hill’s willingness to back Joe Biden in a general election should come as no surprise

PEN courage award honoree Anita Hill attends the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on May 21 in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Even before former vice president Joe Biden launched his 2020 campaign for the White House, many eyes were already on Anita Hill.

In 1991, the former federal employee testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was chaired by Biden, then a senator from Delaware. She accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of repeated sexual harassment. But her accusations were met mostly with skepticism, and Thomas’s nomination went through.

To many, Biden is responsible for how poorly the hearing went — the former Delaware lawmaker declined to call witnesses who would have confirmed Hill’s account — and for helping further a political climate where women’s safety comes secondary to privileged men’s pursuit of power.

In April, Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, said a phone conversation with Biden shortly before he officially announced his run for the presidency “left her feeling deeply unsatisfied,” according to the New York Times.

But in a new interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Hill said she could see herself looking past that, and would vote for Biden in a general election, despite her past criticism of him.

“Could you conceive of voting for Joe Biden if he turns out to be the Democratic nominee against Donald Trump,” Mitchell asked.

“Of course, I could,” Hill quickly replied.

Hill also said in the interview that she doesn’t think Biden’s handling of her case “disqualified” him from pursuing the highest office in the land.

“He’s perfectly capable of running for office,” she said.

This might come as a shock to some given the role Biden played in one of the most difficult moments of Hill’s life but it is completely understandable — and unsurprising — to those who understand that for many Americans, especially women and black voters like Hill, the top priority heading into 2020 is removing Trump from power.

Biden’s lead in the polls — especially among black voters, many of them baby boomers and women — has often been misinterpreted as support for his politics. While some voters certainly do hold the political worldview that Biden holds, most, if not all, share a much stronger desire of his: defeating Trump.

Hill said Biden’s oversight of her hearing “set us back because it became the model that other people followed,” but she doesn’t place his treatment of her and the women she represented on the same level of Trump’s, who faces more than a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Absolutely not,” she told Mitchell. “I’ve never said that. And I’ve never intended to say that.”

Since hitting the campaign trail, Biden has made multiple comments in passing and relating to policy that have caused some voters on the left to doubt that he is the best candidate to lead the Democratic Party forward. After originally reaffirming his support for the Hyde Amendment, legislation that prohibits federal funding for most abortions, Biden was widely criticized for taking a position that many argued left significant groups of women disadvantaged. Days later he reversed himself.

And Biden was accused earlier this week of perpetuating patriarchal ideas about gender and purity after a political reporter tweeted that after inquiring about the age of a 13-year-old girl, Biden turned to her brothers and said: “You’ve got one job here, keep the guys away from your sister.”

As troublesome as this may be to some who want the next Democratic nominee to be a leader on women’s issues, multiple polls show that a top priority for many on the left is beating Trump. And if voting for Biden in the general election is what it will take to do that, like Hill, they will.

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