Biden has stuck himself between two groups he must win: Blacks and moderates. By recently alienating black supporters needlessly, he only increased his already high dependence on them. Now, as cities burn across America, he is afraid of offending them, even as moderates recoil from these riots.
On Friday, May 22, Biden hopped into another of his habitual errors when he said on a national radio show: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” The fact that he was able to stay in the race long enough to apologize is evidence enough of establishment media’s bias. Only a Democrat presidential nominee could survive such a statement.
To win the nomination and November, Biden needs both blacks and moderates. Now a crisis and his own stupidity, have him stuck between both. He is not secure with either.
Even with limited media coverage, Biden had to backtrack quickly. “I should not have been so cavalier. I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.” Of course, Biden was anything but “wise” when he popped off. Instead, he was racist, arrogant, and elitist.
Unquestionably, his statement was racist. It directly made race a predictor of behavior. That is the definition of racist prejudice. It was also arrogant. Biden candidly admitted he was taking black voters for granted — veritably daring them to not vote for him. It was elitist, too, in that Biden knew, as a member of the liberal elite, he would not be held accountable.
Most of all, Biden’s statement was dumb. His inadvertently truthful “cavalier” admission shows how much so.
Blacks are one of Democrats’ most important constituencies (in 2016, they voted 89 percent for Hillary). They are Biden’s most important. Blacks supported Biden when no else did, and they saved his campaign in South Carolina.
You are not “cavalier” with what matters most to you. You are “cavalier” with what you can afford to do without. No Democrat can afford to do without black support — least of all, Biden —so Biden was dumb. Very dumb.
How dumb Biden had been would unfold just days later. On May 25, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis at the hands of police in horrific fashion. By May 26, there were protests, which soon turned violent, and then into rioting.
The protests and riots continued in Minneapolis and spread nationally. As they did, Joe Biden stayed silently in his basement, leading from the rear. A victim of political paralysis, he already had offended blacks with his needless “cavalier” statement. Despite growing destruction, Biden could not risk another offense.
Not until May 29, did Biden come out with a statement on Floyd’s death and slavery, “the original sin of this country,” but no recognition of current violence. Not until a day later, four days after the violence started, did Biden finally acknowledge the rioting in a statement.
Biden is caught in a conundrum of self-construction between blacks and moderates. The root of his problem is that he has no appreciable base of support within his party. That is why he was the second choice of many, but the first choice of few. That also largely sums up his political career.
Biden is an establishment politician. He has spent close to half a century becoming one — six terms in the Senate, eight years in the Obama White House, and the years since, seeking the nomination he has been repeatedly denied by his party.
The establishment, which Biden quintessentially represents, may populate the party’s offices, but they no longer call the tune. To win the nomination and November, Biden needs both blacks and moderates. Now a crisis and his own stupidity, have him stuck between both. He is not secure with either.
He has already played “cavalierly” with blacks. As for moderates, he has been implicitly accentuating a supposedly moderate past, which he has spent the last two years explicitly trying to radicalize, in order to satisfy the insatiable Left within the party. As he has tried to answer the Left’s questions about him, he has raised moderates’ concerns.
Biden already had limited room to maneuver before “you ain’t black,” and now he has less. His “I ain’t moderate” effort has done the same thing with moderates. The George Floyd killing has conjoined his liabilities with both groups.
Biden has made difficult what really was not tricky. Protesters are not rioters, and rioters are not protesters. Protest is understandable, justified, and productive in our society. Rioting is incomprehensible, unjustified, and harmful to any society — save the state of anarchy.
There is a clear contrast in these post-Floyd participants. It’s one that everyone recognizes, but Biden feels constrained from acknowledging. Biden must now blur the distinction, because he fears the consequences of not doing so. That blurring arises from the necessity of his own subjective fuzziness, not an objective lack of clarity between the polar opposites of protesting and rioting.
The longer the violence continues, the more it endangers Biden. Rioters are not simply burning Minneapolis and America’s cities, they are torching Biden’s campaign by fanning the flames of his self-immolation.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.