A Deal-Breaker for Biden?

I would not want to be Joe Biden right about now. In so many ways, he could be the 2020 front-runner for the Democratic Party if he decides to run. A recent expose in the Washington Post, however, might be enough to kibosh the whole thing.

biden 1975

Frosh Senator, 1972

First, some history for our younger readers: We all know SCOTUS’s 1954 Brown v. Board decision didn’t end racial segregation in schools. What some people might not know if they didn’t live through it was the bitter 1970s battle over busing that followed.

As Roy Formisano has described so brutally, cities such as Boston roiled over the topic. Anti-busing groups coopted 1960s-style protest tactics and language to oppose mandatory plans to shuttle children between schools. The goal was to achieve more racial equality; the effect was much different. The protests ripped the Democratic Party apart back then.

Could they do it again now?

Consider one episode that Joe Biden would like us all to forget: On September 9, 1974, a crowd of white working-class anti-bussers gathered to hear Senator Ted Kennedy speak in Boston. This demographic, usually a solid supporter of the Kennedys and the Democrats, showed their displeasure with Kennedy’s pro-busing stance by turning their backs on him as he spoke. Then, fired up, the crowd chased him from the podium, flinging eggs and expletives. The fury of the crowd was so intense they shattered the glass doors of the Federal building, chanting, “Pig, Pig Pig.”

ROAR button

Boston’s protesters also insisted they weren’t racist, but…

What does any of this have to do with Joe Biden and the 2020 elections? Everything.

The Washington Post uncovered a public statement Biden made against busing in 1975. Back then, the first-term senator from Delaware came out forcefully against busing, though he tried to maintain his support for equal racial rights. As Biden said back then,

I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.’

How were such comments perceived at the time? Although Biden can point to his long record in favor of civil rights, he won’t be able to spin this as anything but political surrender to the overwhelming unpopularity of busing. At the time, the infamous segregationist Jesse Helms welcomed Biden “to the ranks of the enlightened.”

What biden was trying to avoid

What Biden was scared of in 1975:

While some white Democrats were supporting busing and taking their lumps, Senator Biden was working the political middle, a middle that—at the time—lined up with Jesse Helms and Boston’s fervent racial protesters.

Morals aside, it might have been a savvy political calculation in 1975. However, will be be enough to undo Biden’s calculations for 2020?

Leave a comment


  1. I won’t hold that against Biden. But, honestly, Joe is too old. It’s time for a younger generation to move in and fix the mess that my (and Joe’s) generation has left behind.

  2. dienne77

     /  March 10, 2019

    Biden has been squarely in the “middle of the road” from day one. And you know what they say about what you find in the middle of the road: yellow paint and dead armadillos. The middle is for people trying not to offend anyone by standing for anything. And to throw in yet another cliche, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

    This country doesn’t need Biden in 2020 any more than we needed Hillary in 2016. Too many things are broken and too many people are suffering. We need a leader who will actually work to dig us out of the hole we’re in. Not someone with their finger to the wind and their ear to the bankers trying to mollify the people without cutting off the gravy train to the greedy rich billionaires. It’s not that we don’t have the money to take care of the poor and middle class, it’s that we can never have enough money to satisfy the soulless bloodsuckers at the top. Trump won because he promised to be the one to stand up to the billionaires and the corporations (even though anyone with half a brain knew he was lying), while Hillary did all she could to assure the fat cats that nothing would change. Biden is just Hillary 2.0.

  3. William

     /  March 11, 2019

    I ask myself whether I wish that this sort of cynical attempt at moderation could hurt someone’s career when the winds change, and to me the answer is yes. Whether it will? I am not confident. His time with Obama, while not exonerating, certainly helped repair his racial reputation.

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