The predictable happened when Joe Biden made a real or imagined race construed gaffe, slip of the tongue or oft-beat quip. More than a few blacks eagerly pounced.
This happened when at the end of interview with black media, Biden cracked to a black talk show host that “you ain’t black” if you consider voting for President Donald Trump.
Most took it for what it was: a bit of ill-gotten humor, an intemperate quip, or just Biden being his usual earthy Biden. But others didn’t.
It was taken as yet more proof of Biden’s racial insensitivity, hostility or just plain arrogance. Biden quickly realized the flub could cause trouble and apologized, calling his words “cavalier.”
It didn’t silence the Biden bashers. Before, during and then after he tossed his hat in the ring, during the primaries and now after his presumptive Democratic presidential nomination, the venom of many blacks against Biden hasn’t stopped flowing. His being the overwhelming choice of black voters for the presidency has intensified the hostility.
For a time, most of the big hits against him came from those blacks who were passionate Bernie Sanders backers. Their criticisms were that Biden was just another beltway corporate Democrat, pro war, pro big business hack.
He represents everything wrong with the Democratic Party, which they see as frozen in time and the reason it gets the pants beat off of it practically at every turn by the Republican Party in national and state elections. Sanders flop in the primaries didn’t change this assault on Biden.
But the far more damaging and persistent attacks are from the unknown number of blacks who have never forgiven or let up on Biden for his alleged racial sins.
They tick them off by rote. He opposed busing. He snuggled up to hard-core segregation senators during his days in the Senate. He trashed Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.
However, these supposed sins pale in comparison to his most grievous mortal sin. He cheer led the Clinton crime bill in 1994. No matter how many mea culpas, apologies and recants Biden does, and he’s done a lot of them, it isn’t enough to remove the odor of his alleged dubious past sins from the reflexive attacks from some against him.
Even something seemingly as innocuous as Biden’s pledge to pick a woman as his running mate draws fire. The clamor and demand have been nonstop from many blacks for him to pick an African-American woman. Biden has gone out of his way to say nice, flattering complimentary things about each of the black women mentioned as vice presidential possibilities.
That even includes Michelle Obama, who has zero interest in being a candidate for any office. Yet, this isn’t enough. Biden is knocked for not bowing to the clamor and picking a black woman and picking her now.
The knock against him comes with a veiled threat that if a black woman is not on the ticket his campaign is practically dead on arrival. Presumably, that means more than a few blacks will stay home on Election Day.
Now normally this would mean little to nothing. Biden has former President Barack Obama’s stamp of approval. He’s running against a neo-unreconstructed George Wallace in Trump. His civil rights record, by any standard, is near impeccable on many compelling race-tinged issues.
Virtually every black local, state and national elected official and civil rights group in the country will endorse him and implore blacks to storm the polls and vote for him.
However, the real norm that will decide who sits in the Oval Office in January is none of this. It’s the five or six heartland states and Florida that will decide the White House. Trump won several of them by only a minuscule fraction of the vote in 2016, and that fraction put him over the top.
Biden will get most of the black vote in those states. But, so would any Democratic presidential candidate. That certainly included Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet, she still lost.
Small numbers in a close election made a stupendous difference in 2016. They will make the difference again in 2020.
Trump certainly knows that. He’ll do everything to sow the tiny seed of doubt and distrust about Biden among a handful of blacks by dredging up Biden’s alleged checkered history on civil rights. And, almost certainly, part of the attack will be a reminder of Biden’s “you ain’t black” quip as proof that Biden and Democrats always treat the black vote as if it’s in the bag.
Some blacks have shown by their bitter and ongoing rap of Biden that they are not in that bag.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of “What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.