- The Washington Times
Sunday, June 30, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden may sell himself as the candidate with the experience to bring back the good ol’ days, but is struggling to find his footing with the new base of the Democratic Party.

Mr. Biden has differentiated himself from the other candidates as a moderate with a long record of reaching across the aisle, but controversy follows even his efforts to share what’s he’s learned and seen over the years as a well meaning lesson of change in America. This weekend, he spoke at an event hosted by LGBTQ leader Roger Nyhus about how far the country has come in accepting the gay community as part of the national fabric.

Yet, he reportedly irked attendees at a fundraiser in Seattle after telling the crowd it would have been socially acceptable to make fun of a gay waiter just five years ago and lapsing into effeminacy when recounting the anecdote.

“Not in Seattle!” an attendee yelled, according to The Washington Examiner.

The latest gaffe came just a day after Mr. Biden angered some by using the word “gangbanger” when making comments about law enforcement needing to take more care when engaging with the black community. “We’ve got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger,” Mr. Biden said Friday.

Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, another 2020 candidate, said it should have been obvious why Mr. Biden shouldn’t have used that kind of language.

“Again this is just another example of lessons that Joe Biden shouldn’t have to learn,” Mr. Booker said on “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Biden has come under fire several times the past few weeks for recent comments he’s made about his working relationship with segregationist senators, which several other 2020 candidates, including Mr. Booker, said was racially insensitive.

In the Democratic presidential debate earlier this week, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California called out not only his comments about the segregationists, but also his past opposition to busing.

Mr. Booker said there is more in Mr. Biden’s record that discredits him on civil rights, like the 1994 Crime Bill.

“Because of a lot legislation that Joe Biden endorsed, this war on drugs, which has become a war on people,” he said. “There’s more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.”

The problem, Mr. Booker argued, isn’t the record itself, but the fact that Mr. Biden can’t admit his own missteps.

“This is a bad culture where you can’t admit mistakes. Where you can’t speak to your vulnerabilities and your imperfections. We all have them,” Mr. Booker said.

“The vice president to me is not doing a good job at bringing people together,” he added.

Despite fumbling in the debate to defend his opposition to busing, Mr. Biden still has the backing of the Democratic establishment in places such as South Carolina, where that goes a long way in shoring up black support.

Gestures of support from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking black lawmaker on Capitol Hill, helped Mr. Biden weather a storm of criticism when at a recent fundraiser he spoke fondly of his good working relationships with segregationist senators in the 1970s.

Keeping such prominent black leaders in his camp will be key to Mr. Biden’s political survival.

“There are people who are going to want this issue to blow him apart but to this point, he’s been taking some criticism and keep up in the polls,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina. “When you have deep and wide support that sometimes overrides some of these in-the-moment things.”

Other Democratic Party operatives, however, have warned that at this early stage Mr. Biden’s support is more likely “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

However, Mr. Biden did not appear to fare well after his debate performance.

Data from a Morning Consult/FiveThirtyEight poll showed that the former vice president fell ten points after the debate. According to their analysts, a lot of Mr. Biden’s support went to Ms. Harris, who grilled him on busing.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.