Biden just handed Trump a gift
Joe’s Breakfast Club appearance was a massive unforced error, and his opponent will milk it for all its worth.
Joe Biden caused a lot of outrage this week when he told Charlemagne tha God that if he or any other black person is having a hard time choosing between him or Trump, “you ain’t black.” The influential syndicated radio host, whose real name is Lenard McKelvey, had previously criticized Biden for having a sense of “white entitlement” after he snubbed the Breakfast Club earlier in the primary — he was one of the few serious candidates to not make a personal appearance on the show.
Now that he’s the presumptive nominee, Biden had a chance to make up for it, and he flubbed it badly.
In addition to his “you ain’t black” remarks, much of the interview seemed to validate Charlemagne’s critique. Biden acted agitated and defensive when questioned about his policy record. At one point, Charlemagne said “A lot of black voters, including myself, feel and that Democrats take black voters for granted. You know votes [are] a quid pro quo, right? It’s not like I don’t want to vote. I just want to know what candidates will do for us.”
Biden avoided answering the question and instead launched into a rant about how he “kicked everybody’s asses in the primaries” and won “a larger share of the black vote than anybody including Barack.” Charlemagne nodded along quietly as Biden bragged that he got 96 percent of the black vote in Delaware, adding that it has the eight-largest black population in the country. He told an outright lie, claiming that the NAACP endorsed him every time he ran (The NAACP clarified afterward that it does not endorse candidates).
The former vice president’s “you ain’t black” comment earned him a rebuke from many black activists, media figures and academics on the left, but others defended him, characterizing the remarks as a joke that didn’t land.
The right had a field day, cynically exploiting the “gaffe” to cause maximum damage to the Democratic candidate. Fox News had black conservatives on to hammer Biden. Donald Trump’s campaign store had “You ain’t black” shirts for sale before the day was even over.
The campaign also bought the domain youaintblack.com, which consists mainly of advertisements for Black Voices for Trump, Trump’s black social media outreach.
The site features an attack ad going after Biden for his role in the 1994 crime bill. It contains no mention of his comments to Charlemagne tha God, so it’s likely that they had this ready to go long in advance and they were just waiting for an opportune moment.
“You ain’t black” is a sound bite with viral potential, but Biden’s record is where he’s really vulnerable. In his Breakfast Club interview, he defended the bill, highlighting the positive aspects, such as drug courts and the assault weapons ban.
Biden also made the oft-repeated claim that the bill had little effect on mass incarceration since it only applied to a limited federal jurisdiction. But as the ACLU points out, the crime bill “gave the federal stamp of approval for states to pass even more tough-on-crime laws” while setting off a “bidding war” between the two parties, which spent the rest of the decade trying to outdo each other in terms of who could come up with the harshest criminal penalties.
He disingenuously presented himself as being somehow philosophically opposed to mandatory minimums, but in the 1980s he had passed a pair of anti-drug bills, one of which imposed mandatory minimums for drug offenses. The other created sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine, which had a wildly disproportionate effect on black people.
From his Central Park Five ad to his inflammatory tweet falsely claiming 80 percent of white murders were committed by black people — Trump has a history of anti-black racism. However, he still can credibly hit Biden when it comes to mass incarceration.
Though Trump really had little to do with it aside from signing it into law, the First Step Act was a genuinely good piece of bipartisan prison reform legislation that got passed on his watch. He touted his bonafides as a reformer of the criminal legal system in a $1 million Super Bowl ad — likely in anticipation that he would possibly be running against Biden or Michael Bloomberg, who also has blemishes on his record due to New York City’s racist stop-and-frisk policies.
Will this convince many black voters to choose Trump in November? Probably not. But that’s not the point.
The Republican strategy is to suppress — not win — the black vote. They want to depress black turnout by any means. That’s done by raising the cost of voting.
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We don’t know what the COVID-19 outbreak is going to look like in the fall but there’s a real chance that there could be a massive second wave around election time, which will only skew the cost-benefit equation for voters further. Congressional Republicans have adamantly opposed mail-in voting, so it’s likely that it will not be in place nationwide on election day.
That means voters will be asked to risk their health to elect Joe Biden, and enthusiasm will be a huge factor here. In 2016, disdain for both candidates — especially ambivalence among BIPOC youth — prevented Hillary Clinton from re-creating the Obama coalition, leading to Trump’s narrow victory.
The Biden campaign is repeating the same mistakes, hoping that the actual experience of Trump’s presidency will tip the balance in their favor this time. Maybe it will, but Biden’s interview with Charlemagne was a real “mask off” moment. He said the quiet part loud, stating plainly that the Democrats don’t have to do anything to win black votes — not even a hollow gesture, like a black running mate.
Back in March, when it was becoming increasingly likely that Biden would be the nominee, a lot of pundits were starting to put a shine on it. A writer for Slate argued that maybe Biden is exactly what Democratic voters want, i.e. “a distant presence” who isn’t “actively alienating.”
You had one job, Joe.