Usually, it’s necessary to wait until after a presidential election is over before it becomes possible to identify the point at which the dynamics of the contest began to favor the eventual winner. Occasionally, however, the turning point is blindingly obvious. President Reagan’s 1984 reelection, for example, was all but assured when Walter Mondale included a promise to raise taxes in his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Likewise, former Vice President Joe Biden almost certainly handed the 2020 election to President Trump last Friday when he told an African-American interviewer, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
That blunder not only unmasked Biden’s condescending attitude toward a bloc of voters without whose support he cannot hope to win, it also revealed that his campaign is worried about poll numbers they’re seeing for those very voters. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 81 percent of African-Americans support Biden. If that seems high, remember that Clinton won 88 percent of the black vote in 2016 and lost the election. African-American turnout was also down in 2016. In other words, Biden must turn out more black voters than did Hillary and win a larger percentage of their votes. Biden can’t win with 81 percent of a tepid African-American turnout, and his campaign knows it.
This is why the candidate condescended to be interviewed by Charlamagne tha God on “The Breakfast Club.” Biden’s campaign recently rebooted his outreach to the black community, and the interview was part of that effort. Charlamagne has real influence in the African-American community. “The Breakfast Club” is among the most-listened-to morning radio shows in America, reaching millions of listeners every week, and Charlamagne boasts 2.1 million Twitter followers. Biden’s remark, for a lot of his listeners, reinforced the view that the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted. Sunday morning, Charlamagne was asked on MSNBC if he believed that this was the Democratic attitude:
I know that’s the attitude. That’s why I don’t even care about the words and the lip service.… It has to come to the point where we stop putting the burden on black voters to show up for Democrats and start putting the burden on Democrats to show up for black voters.… They have to worry about voter depression, people staying home on Election Day because they just aren’t enthused by the candidate.… You can’t act like this is the most important election ever but run a campaign from your basement, not make some real policy commitments to the black community, and not listen to some of the demands that the black community is making.
Friday, Biden’s campaign first attempted to clean up the mess by claiming that the remark was a joke. This was the line taken by Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign who tweeted, “The comments made at the end of the Breakfast Club interview were in jest, but let’s be clear about what the VP was saying: he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day.” This balderdash quite literally fails the laugh test. President Trump’s pre-pandemic job creation initiatives and criminal justice reform have done more for blacks in three years than Joe Biden accomplished in half a century backstroking around the swamp.
After it became clear that the “just kidding” strategy wasn’t selling, Sanders simply refused to answer further questions. When NBC’s Chuck Todd, not exactly a purveyor of GOP talking points, tried to ask her a question about the issue she interrupted him thus: “Chuck, I’m not going to do this. Chuck, I’m not going to do this.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was less reticent: “Joe Biden’s comments are the most arrogant and condescending thing I’ve heard in a very long time. I am offended but not surprised.” Nor was Michigan GOP Senate candidate John James who, like Sen. Scott, is black. Indeed, the latter was moved to explain what really motivates the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:
The Democratic Party has taken the black vote for granted for decades, but on Friday former Vice President Joe Biden took this view to a new and very hurtful level.… Biden has shown clearly that he thinks he knows better than black people what is best for us, and that if we don’t support him we are denying our own racial identity and heritage. Worse, I don’t see Biden’s Democratic colleagues holding him accountable for his comments. Instead, I hear silence.… Biden’s views have been exposed and stand in stark contrast to President Trump, who visited Michigan Thursday and actually listened to the needs of black people from black people.
Oddly enough, there is a certain symmetry to this. Biden wants to lead the party of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. President Trump leads the party that ended the “peculiar institution,” granted citizenship to former slaves, and recognized their right to vote. The Republicans did these things, as well as passing the 19th Amendment, despite the frequently violent objections of the Democrats. The best-kept secret in American politics is that, for these reasons, 95 percent of African-Americans voted Republican from the end of the Civil War until the 1930s. By that time, however, the GOP had come to take the black vote for granted. Sound familiar? If not, go back and read that quote from Charlamagne tha God.