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Will Biden get away with his bad record on race?

18 August 2020

7:00 AM

18 August 2020

7:00 AM

If there’s been one hallmark of the Trump campaign’s messaging against Joe Biden, it’s that the former VP is the real racist. Biden repeatedly misrepresented Trump when he claimed that the President called neo-Nazis and white nationalists ‘very fine people’. He also was wrong to accuse Trump of xenophobia when he shut down travel from China following the coronavirus outbreak. The Trump campaign hasn’t just pointed out these falsities, but launched a counteroffensive aimed at proving that Biden is actually the candidate who has a problem with race.

There are plenty of examples of Biden fumbling big time when it comes to racial matters:

  • Biden authored the 1994 crime bill that critics say led to the mass incarceration of minorities

Biden’s own running mate, California senator Kamala Harris, once said she ‘disagreed’ with Biden’s claim that the bill did not lead to mass incarceration. Former President Bill Clinton has apologized for signing the bill.

  • Biden strongly opposed busing to integrate schools, insisting that quota-type plans for desegregation are ‘racist’ and encourage ‘mediocrity’


Harris slammed Biden for his position on busing during one of the Democratic presidential debates and fundraised and sold t-shirts based on that attack.

  • Biden praised segregationist George Wallace in a 1975 interview, stating, ‘I think the Democratic party could stand a liberal George Wallace, someone who’s not afraid to stand up and offend people, someone who wouldn’t pander but would say what the American people know in their gut is right’
  • Biden delivered a eulogy for the late Sen. Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK, calling him a ‘friend’ and ‘mentor’
  • Polls found that people believed racial tensions grew much worse during the Obama/Biden administration

And that’s not to mention the many insensitive comments and gaffes Biden has made related to race:

  • Biden told a black audience in 2012 that Republicans would ‘put y’all back in chains’
  • Biden referred to Obama as ‘the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy’
  • Biden said in 2007 he spent time getting black men to understand it’s not ‘unmanly to wear a condom’
  • Biden suggested Iowa schools do better than DC schools because they have fewer minorities
  • Biden said ‘poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids’
  • Biden said black people ‘ain’t black’ if they’re not voting for him
  • Biden said the black community lacks diversity: ‘What you all know, but most people don’t know, unlike the African-American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community, with incredibly different attitudes about different things’

Yet Biden is polling at 90 percent to Trump’s 6 percent with black voters. Hillary Clinton, who was notoriously unpopular with the black community, pulled in 88 percent of the black vote in 2016. Clearly the messaging is not resonating. It could be because the mainstream media glosses over Biden’s race-related slip-ups, and that Biden’s few press conferences over the past several months have been carefully curated to avoid any tricky questions. Perhaps voters just don’t think someone who served as vice president to the first black president and then selected a black woman as his running mate could be racist. Maybe Biden’s race-related gaffes are easily waved away by the fact that he’s from ‘a different time’ or that his mental acuity is not quite up to snuff.

The campaign’s best opportunity to raise these issues will be during the debates, when Biden or Harris cannot avoid the topic. Biden will have to justify or apologize for his past positions, and Harris will have to explain why she was willing to overlook them to become the vice presidential candidate. Until then, the Trump campaign seems to be just shouting into the wind.

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