If Joe Biden runs for president, how will he respond to Black Lives Matter?
Will Biden run? And if he does, what is his stance on #BlackLivesMatter?
As Vice President Joe Biden and his wife spend the week in South Carolina, it is expected the twice former presidential candidate will do some serious thinking about another run for the White House. Still mourning the recent death of his son Beau, who reportedly urged his father to run for the office, Biden is expected to come to a decision by the end of the summer.
While there is a sense coming from some corners that Biden would not have a chance of clinching the Democratic nomination, others believe he could actually pull it off, though it could be an uphill climb. Nevertheless, Biden reportedly has been encouraged to run and has been talking to potential donors.
And a super PAC is laying the groundwork. In any case, Biden getting into the field could eliminate the inevitability status of frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Democrats are concerned about the defective and milquetoast campaign that Clinton is running, and some critics say it is hard to get her to commit on specific policy matters. Further, the fact that Clinton maintained a private email server as secretary of state and is mired in controversy over the Clinton Foundation does not bode well for the candidate or her campaign.
And the popularity of Bernie Sanders — who is attracting crowds in the thousands and the tens of thousands, particularly among white progressives — is proof that significant numbers of Democratic voters are searching for an alternative. Further, the prospect of a Clinton-Bush matchup could come off as a return to dynastic succession, after eight years of the nation’s first black president. Moreover, for some voters it might resemble a trip to the past, with all of the associated baggage and skeletons, rather than a fresh look into the future.
Joe Biden is well-liked and affable. As an Obama cheerleader who had the president’s back in good and bad times and throughout the GOP attacks, Biden the candidate would be able to defend the administration while providing an honest assessment of missteps and missed opportunities. After all, he is a straight shooter. And while Vice President Biden has been known to misspeak and provide more than his fair share of gaffes and awkward moments, he is no Donald Trump of GOP clown car fame.
If Biden does indeed run for president, he will almost certainly have to respond to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. There are indications as to where he would come down. After all, this is the man who, not long after the death of his son to cancer, went to Charleston to mourn with the victims of the Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church.
Joe Biden also has seen some things, and he knows personal tragedy and suffering. This was a man who had lost his wife and one-year old daughter in a car accident in 1973 and had to take the oath of office for the U.S. Senate at his injured son’s hospital bed.
Speaking at a Martin Luther King Day breakfast in Wilmington, Delaware, this past January, Biden addressed #BlackLivesMatter and spoke of the frayed relationships between police and black communities in light of killings in Ferguson, Staten Island and elsewhere. “We need to agree in this nation on two basic statements of truth,” Biden said. “Cops have a right to go home at night to see their families. And two, all minorities, no matter what their neighborhood, have a right to be treated with respect and with dignity. All life matters.”
“I know when you send your children and grandchildren out in the world you worry about them,” Biden told the audience. “Are they going to be safe? Will they be treated fairly? Will they be respected?”
Biden also addressed the life and death concerns facing communities of color. “When your child walks out that door, you have enough to fear, you have enough to contend with,” Biden added. “The possibility they might be in an accident. They might fall victim to an act of crime or hit with a stray bullet of a drive-by shooting of some gangbanger. In too many neighborhoods in this country, that fear is compounded by the fear that your child may be presumed to be a gang member.”
Although Biden would address issues of racial justice with sensitivity and authority, and arguably has earned his black card, this does not mean he must not be held to account for past actions and own up to them. As a hardline, tough-on-crime senator, Biden was the sponsor of Bill Clinton’s devastating 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, which placed a multitude of Americans behind bars in the name of the war on drugs, particularly black and brown people, and led to the mass incarceration crisis we are witnessing today. Granted, as a member of the Obama administration who is working to fix mandatory minimum sentencing, Biden can take his share of credit for the president’s bold criminal justice reform efforts, which seek to undo some of the damage inflicted by the drug war era. But Biden, like Hillary Clinton, must bear some responsibility for a bipartisan effort in which liberal Democrats were front and center in promoting policies that ultimately separated black families, destroyed communities and made black men disappear.
Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and even Hillary Clinton have contended with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in some fashion, and Joe Biden would as well. But he would not walk into that situation cold, and he would not be at a loss for words. Meanwhile, a new poll finds that half of Democrats, 60 percent of Hispanics and 55 percent of blacks want him to run.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove