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OPINION

The double standard for old sexist Democrats

‘Not as bad as Trump’ is not where Democrats should want to be.

Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg delivers remarks during a campaign rally in Nashville, Tennessee last week.Getty Images via Bloomberg

When it comes to respecting women, there’s no such thing as a totally woke septuagenarian. Not on the 2020 presidential campaign trail.

Former vice president Joe Biden, 77, has been accused of hair-sniffing and other unwanted invasions of female space. Senator Bernie Sanders, 78, owns the “Bernie Bros” and their trail of Internet misogyny. And now comes former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, also 78, who has faced multiple allegations of profane and sexist comments from women who worked for his company, some of whom filed lawsuits against him.

That’s what you get when men of a certain age are considered electable — while doubts about electability undercut female candidates of any age. That’s also what you get when you grant dispensation to men of a certain ideology — all in the name of ousting the sexist septuagenarian and alleged serial harasser who currently occupies the White House.

All they have to do is whisper “climate change” in our ear. Or, in Sanders’ case, yell it.

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President Trump’s “grab them” attitude toward women was revealed in the crude “Access Hollywood” tape that emerged during the 2016 campaign. At least two dozen women have also accused Trump of sexual misconduct that runs the gamut from harassment and groping to rape. He denies all the allegations.

If the bar of acceptability for Democrats is “not as bad as Trump” — then, fine, this aging flock of male Democrats is not as bad as the 73-year-old Trump. But not as bad as Trump is not where Democrats should want to be. Not when the nominee will need women to win the presidency. Yet even after the #MeToo movement supposedly shattered the protected status of male entitlement, these guys can still get a pass — the same pass liberal women gave to Bill Clinton regarding his Trump-like sexual aggression back in the 1990s.

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Biden’s gropiness was largely forgiven, including by me, as the product of the touchy politics of a bygone era. But imagine the feminist outrage if Vice President Mike Pence buried his face in a random woman’s hair, or massaged the shoulders of a female who was not his wife? Women who support Sanders also rushed to defend their man, despite the Bernie Bros who troll women who challenge the Vermont socialist. Let’s face it, actress Susan Sarandon would not be making excuses for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s band of Internet bullies.

With Bloomberg, it’s not just the ideology, it’s the personal gazillions he pours into liberal causes. With his rise in the polls, the nondisclosure agreements— or NDAs — Bloomberg has entered into to enforce silence from his accusers are undergoing new scrutiny. But up until now, he was granted immunity from activists who would loudly rail against the same conduct from billionaires who call climate change a hoax. As The New York Times recently reported, Bloomberg remained the headline speaker at a 2018 fund-raising lunch hosted by Emily’s List — even after he made disparaging comments about the #MeToo movement, and defended his friend Charlie Rose, the newscaster who lost his job over accusations of sexual harassment. Since the former NYC mayor had donated nearly $6 million to Emily’s List, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars to other causes dear to feminists, who was going to say no to him?

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Senator Elizabeth Warren has called on Bloomberg to release the women who have accused him of sexist behavior from those NDAs. And UltraViolet, a national women’s organization, wants the Democratic National Committee to block presidential candidates with active NDAs for sexual harassment and workplace abuse from the debate stage. So far, Bloomberg has refused to budge.

To Bloomberg’s blatant sexism, you can add the racist “stop and frisk” policy (which he backed not only during his tenure as mayor but also long afterward, as revealed in a recently released audiotape) as well as his referencing of transgender people as “it” and “some guy wearing a dress.”

If that passes the sniff test for men and women who want to beat Trump — to borrow from Pogo, we have met the enemy, and she is us.


Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.