During a recent struggle session over his role in the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Supreme Court hearings of 1991, prospective presidential candidate Joe Biden declared that the United States had a centuries-old embedded cultural problem with permissive violence against women. “It’s an English jurisprudential culture,” Biden explained this week, “a white man’s culture. It’s got to change.”
“English jurisprudential culture” is, of course, the foundation of American governance and our Constitutional rights. It’s unlikely any culture in history has brought more freedom and prosperity to more of humankind. Now, it’s true that the tenets of this culture have fallen into disfavor with the progressives who Biden is trying to woo. But does any educated person truly believe that “English jurisprudential culture” has been more prone towards misogyny than other societies?
How has Chinese jurisprudential culture performed for women over history? How about Indian jurisprudential culture? Or Russian jurisprudential culture? Or sub-Saharan African jurisprudential culture? How has Islamic jurisprudential culture worked out for women? The “English jurisprudential culture” of New Zealand was the first to grant all women the right to vote in 1893, followed over the next decades by an array of other English and formerly English colonies. Saudi Arabia granted women that same right only in 2011. Then again, the women of 1893 “English jurisprudential culture”—voting rights or not—were already leading freer and safer lives than most of the women who have to function under the deeply illiberal legal cultures of the Islamic world today.
Those who demand acts of contrition over “English jurisprudential culture,” seem to have a problem with ideals of blind justice and due process that stop us from sacrificing people to the whims of an aggrieved mob. Biden’s transgression against progressivism, as far as I can tell, was affirming to Thomas during the Hill hearings that, “from the beginning and at this moment, until the end, the presumption [of innocence] is with you.” It wasn’t true.
Though it’s quite puzzling why the former vice president laments the “white” cultural evils of American jurisprudence when mentioning his role in the Thomas Supreme Court hearings. Perhaps confessing racial guilt is merely a form of ritual self-flagellation these days. Then again, it was Biden, with the assistance of a bunch of other white men, helped smear a black man with an impeccable record and no corroborating evidence of wrongdoing simply because he held the wrong kind of views. It was to Biden that Thomas was responding when he famously called the hearings a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you.”
If anything, Biden should be apologizing to Thomas.
It was also the loquacious former Delaware senator with the unearned intellectual self-confidence who helped turn Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into salacious, nasty, and hyper-politicized events we saw during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Yet, Biden now says he regrets that he “couldn’t come up with a way” to give Hill “the kind of hearing she deserved.”
What did Hill deserve? In an English jurisprudential culture, Hill was free to make her accusations against the powerful nominee of the Supreme Court in front of the entire nation. Hill was able to tell her story to a free press that took her side. She was free to write a books laying out her positions and story. Her allies were free to produce revisionist films casting her as a hero and a victim.
Unlike the accusation against Kavanaugh, Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment were potentially a criminal matter. And in that regard, Hill wasn’t a credible accuser. Not a single person came forward to substantiate that Thomas, who had hundreds of subordinates under him over his years of working in government, had ever acted in the ways described by Hill towards anyone else. Twelve former female colleagues of Thomas and Hill signed an affidavit supporting him. Not one person who worked with both came forward to vouch for Hill.
The FBI investigated Hill’s claim against Thomas—though she was always reluctant to cooperate—and not only did it fail to find any evidence to back her claims, but after the hearings, agents sent additional affidavits to the Senate accusing Hill of misleading the public by skipping portions of her story and offering public testimony that contradicted what she had told law enforcement officials.
To say the United States can do better as a nation is one thing. To claim that the injustice exists is fair. To claim that “English” or “white” culture is a unique purveyor of racism and misogyny in the world is the kind historical illiteracy that might be soothing to the ears of the victimhood brigades that inhabit the contemporary left, but it’s not reality. It certainly shouldn’t mainstreamed by those who have sworn to protect this jurisprudential culture–even (and perhaps especially) if they desperately want to become president.