In the “We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation” published by The Atlantic in August 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden condemned President Trump for his despicable remarks about the Charlottesville riots and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists bearing responsibility for them.
“Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate,” Biden wrote before adding in Trump we “have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.” To Biden, this behavior exhibited a transcendent moment in American politics that required decisive action.
“This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as ‘the other’—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation,” Biden declared.
The sentiments, along with the essay they were expressed in, centered the video announcement for Joe Biden’s long speculated but finally confirmed third run for president. In the clip, entitled “America Is An Idea,” Biden once again invokes Charlottesville as a pivotal moment that calls for action. “We have to remember who we are,” Biden asserts. “We are America.”
I can recall a time not that long ago when a certain Democratic presidential nominee was routinely lambasted for purportedly making her entire campaign theme “I’m not Trump.” It’s funny how Biden’s campaign announcement works within that same framework and many of those same people who took issue then had nothing to say as they parroted their usual talking points on cable news.
In any event, yes, this is America indeed, which is why Joe Biden’s campaign announcement clip perfectly encapsulated why so many of us would’ve much rather preferred the 76-year-old had gone the Terry McAuliffe route – forgo a vanity run for president and use his clout to bolster down ticket Democrats – instead of his presumed destiny: Jeb! 2.0.
Although I agree with the underlying concern about the Democratic Party nominating an old white guy to replace another old white guy in the White House, the 69-year-old presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has already proven that older people can still offer viable, impactful, and yes, fresh and new ideas on how to improve the country. However, their ability to do so is determined by their vision.
In Joe Biden, we have a relic; someone who is more or less saying Make America Great Again By Going Back to Spring 2016.
“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,” Biden pronounced in his announcement remarks. “But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
Donald Trump is many things, but an anomaly he is not. His racism, his sexism, his xenophobia, may all be offered in smaller words, curter tones, and executed in the harshest of ways, but they are a logical conclusion of the party of that dead racist Ronald Reagan, Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, among many, many other nefarious characters that have thrived within the black-tie white supremacist gala that is the Republican Party. The same goes for his corruption and grifting.
These people have long exploited the electorate’s prejudices for political advancement, and if there’s anyone who knows this, it is Joe Biden, who has his own trail of offenses in his career in politics that spans decades.
He has done many good things, but he is ultimately still the man who wrote the Crime Bill that helped propel mass incarceration, which he won’t apologize for. He’s the guy that made Anita Hill’s life hell for merely telling the truth about the powerful man who was a predator yet still can’t offer a sincere apology. Hell, Biden hasn’t even handled more recent allegations of his own behavior making women uncomfortable, making a joke about it in the very first speech after they made headlines.
The knee jerk reaction to this line of criticism is to argue “But he’s not Trump!” No, but I’m supposed to believe his transgressions (which span more than the aforementioned) don’t matter when he’s positioning himself as the nice Uncle (aww shucks) who deeply cares about the moral fabric of this country albeit only because Trump turned the bigot volume to a much higher setting than polite people are used to?
Biden’s shtick is that we need to return to a version of America that only ever existed in the deluded minds of a select bloc of white folks who thought racism was over because they voted for the Black man who went out of his way to not alienate them.
It’s a vision of the country that many clueless whites overpopulating political media cling to because it allows them to continue ignoring the realities of the day as they continue to collectively pretend “economic anxiety” is why the scamming reality show host who claimed the same Black man Biden served under was born in Kenya while proclaiming Mexicans to be rapists and demanding that Muslims be banned from entering the United States. Per the usual for the centrist, it’s about presenting civility rather than interrogating whether or choices – namely in whom we vote for and why – move us towards a more civil society.
Say what you will about that buckhead, apricot-hued jackass Donald J. Trump, but he knows the country that rewarded him with the presidency. He’s fully aware not just of what a foreign intelligence service can do to help win a political campaign, but what racism and media industrial complex built around it can do, too. Joe Biden wants to pacify at a time when anger fuels both sides only the oppressed are the only people with righteous indignation.
I know plenty of elder Blacks love Joe Biden, and they, along with these moderate white voters, may get him over the hump if he doesn’t trip over too many of his trademark poorly advised comments. Even so, Biden’s campaign announcement is emblematic of the problem with his candidacy and the older, established, majority white Democratic leadership ready to stand behind it.
America doesn’t need a return to fantasy; it deserves a reckoning and a leader who can guide it.