Biden keeps telling us who he is.
We should listen.
Joe Biden did that thing where he says something cringeworthy that then gets explained away and dismissed by the media as a “gaffe” and a “foot-in-mouth moment.”
This time it occurred while Biden was touting his ability to work with people he doesn’t entirely agree with to get things done — a talking point that seems to be his only one in a crowded and increasingly policy-rich primary field. At a donor event on Tuesday night(yet another indicator of Biden being out of step with the party’s base), Biden pointed out how back in his days in the Senate he worked with guys like Herman Talmadge and James Eastland, both devout segregationists from southern states. He pointed out how Eastland had called him “son,” but never “boy.” “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything,” Biden continued. “We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Truly consider Biden’s retelling of this anecdote as an example of why he’s suited to be the 2020 nominee. For Joe, getting things done and working with those across the aisle is so important that it justifies overlooking the fact that an individual might see a large group of Americans as being less than human. Being “civil” should always be prized, regardless of whether the person you’re working with dismisses the humanity of some Americans.
Now combine that with the fact that it’s 2019 and Joe Biden thinks that his anecdote about working respectfully with segregationists holds value in a primary race. He was able to peacefully work with these men because, well, they never called him by any racial epithets. How very noble of him.
When called out on the whole episode by Senator, and fellow candidate, Cory Booker, Biden doubled down, completely denying any wrongdoing and stating that it should be Booker who apologized for taking Biden’s words so out of context. Additionally, and most notably, Biden asserted, “there isn’t a racist bone in my body.”
Who mentioned anything about you being racist, Joe? Booker never said anything of the sort. Booker never even went so far as to say that Biden’s statements were racist. Yet it’s Biden who first introduces the racist card, firmly denying that there could be any part of him that’s racist. (Someone on Joe’s staff might consider explaining to him that you can in fact operate within and benefit from a racist system without being considered by yourself or others as a racist, but then, it seems they don’t have much sway these days.) This is kind of like when you ask someone to change a minor thing in their behavior and they react WAY out of proportion to the ask because they’re sensitive to the larger issue at hand. I think Shakespeare addressed this somewhere.
You know why Biden might be sensitive to comments on race and the slightest hinting that he might not be the most racially progressive, or even just aware, person? Because this isn’t a blip on his political record. This episode is part of a long history of racially problematic comments and flat out racist policies.
The list begins at the start of Biden’s career in the Senate. In addition to apparently being outright giddy to work with avowed racists and segregationists, Biden actually shared some of their political leanings in his opposition to busing programs to help desegregate schools in the 70s. He vocally supported the war on drugs, going so far as to decry President George HW Bush for not going far enough on the matter, and authoring much of the legislation that paved the way for the age of mass incarceration. Biden also eulogized Strom Thurmond at his funeral, a segregationist who gave the longest filibuster in history to block civil rights legislation. And then of course there are the more recent instances, like when he remarked in 2007 how surprised he was to find Obama so “clean” and “articulate.”
And he isn’t really sorry for any of it.
Time and again, when presented with the opportunity to apologize for his missteps Biden has refused to offer the apology that was necessary. This is true for his continued refusal to acknowledge his problematic and creepy habit of ignoring women’s boundaries on personal space, and it is true with this most recent episode.
That’s because this is who Joe Biden is. He is a political dinosaur hellbent on exalting the ability to reach across the aisle at a time when those on the right are interested in little more than serving the oligarchic class. As the Democratic party continues to grow younger, more progressive, and more diverse by the day, Biden is literally telling stories where the moral is “I can peacefully work with racists.” And when he receives any amount of pushback on his missteps, he immediately takes the stance of being offended that someone could possibly have taken his comments so out of context because obviously he would never mean anything offensive by them. If you were writing a television show and needed to script a privileged old white man who lacks the awareness and humility to recognize how his actions and comments might not be the most sensitive, you could lift Biden’s response to the situation this week verbatim.
And yet, the media continues to treat these episodes as “gaffes.” The word gaffe assumes that something is out of character, a slip up by an otherwise in control individual. You might, then, see how describing these episodes of Biden’s as gaffes is a bit disingenuous. In fact, they fit quite neatly into a pattern of offensive behavior and comments, from supporting baldly racist crime bills to repeatedly inappropriately touching women even after the propensity to do so has been widely covered in the national media. All of which is compounded by the fact that when Joe Biden is made aware of his missteps, he has repeatedly shown a complete lack of humility and self-awareness and refused to take any ownership of it.
Joe Biden continues to tell you that he is unfit to be the Democratic nominee in 2020.
Listen to him.