Can Biden and Harris take a punch? History says no and Trump can’t wait
OPINION: Dr. Jason Johnson says Trump campaign ads point to trouble for a Biden-Harris ticket if they don't get on the defense
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”Mike Tyson, November 1996
A reporter once asked then heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson if he was worried about the sophisticated fight plan of his challenger Evander Holyfield.
Tyson was unfazed, and his blunt, brutal answer has been adapted into a mantra for every competition from sports, to business and politics. Anybody who thinks they can plot, scheme or outsmart their way into winning without taking a punch is destined to fail.
That’s as true for any politician as it is for anybody crazy enough to do three rounds with Tyson.
The Democrats appear to have plenty of plans to beat Donald Trump this fall; organize the base, layout sophisticated police proposals, and limit Biden gaffes. Also, Trump’s mishandling of just about everything from coronavirus to the Black Lives Matter protests have him tanking in the polls and even some Democratic Senate candidates are already checking Zillow for D.C. apartments.
The problem is Trump isn’t going down without a fight, and in the midst of the 2020 apocalypse it’s worth asking: Can Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take a punch? Unfortunately, the answer is no, and that’s why Democrats should be worried.
Let’s clear a few things up first, Kamala Harris going to be Joe Biden’s VP.
I’ve said, his insiders have said it, and the polls have said it. We can debate the merits of that pending decision, just like you can debate the sunrise, but it’s going to happen either way.
With a Biden-Harris ticket and Trump doing everything he can to show he doesn’t deserve the job, (and the polls show it too) there shouldn’t be much to worry about right?
In fact, count me among the growing band of people who believe that the only way Trump can win re-election is by massive voter suppression and cheating. There’s no way he can keep this race close by just good old-fashioned campaigning and commercials, can he?
Then I took a look at Georgia.
One of the crazy parts of pandemic and internet life is that nothing stays local, which explains everything from why a Ja Rule commercial for a Greek restaurant in L.A. can go viral to why national news media picks up campaign ads from all over the country.
Yet in Georgia, Trump has been running a brutal commercial that has flown under the radar but blows a huge pothole in Biden and Harris’s road to the White House.
A Black woman’s voiceover calmly talks about how Biden’s long legislative history has thrown thousands of Black people in jail and ruined Black lives. Her narrative is punctuated by video footage of Biden taking credit for some of the most egregious crime bills in the history of this country.
“Every, major crime bill that has come out of this Congress, has had the name Joe Biden, on the bill,” the then-U.S. senator says in the clip.
“We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill.”
Those are just a few of Uncle Joe’s greatest hits. This won’t just be an issue for Biden. Trust me, Republicans will have something for Sen. Harris as well. There’s the clip of her laughing about forcing first-time felons to plea guilty in order to join a reform program.
Or the clip of her seemingly mocking those who protest for “More schools not jails.”
The Biden ad is running in Georgia, a potential swing state, with a large motivated Black population, and as soon as Biden announces Harris as his VP, the airwaves will be flooded with commercials of Harris as well.
Biden and Harris’s biggest weaknesses have always been their questionable support of mass incarceration and the justice system. The Trump campaign knows that linking the Democratic ticket to the system that took the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and so many other names, is the key to suppressing the Black vote in critical states.
Now I know what you’re thinking: But Jason isn’t it your job as a media person to debunk Trump’s lies, fabrications and out of context videos?
Yes, it is, but I can’t be in everyone’s living room to tell them what’s what, and quite frankly I don’t think that would be safe for me either. The ultimate defender of Biden and Harris has to be Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and neither one of them are good on defense.
In fact, they’re terrible. If they were in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out they’d be Glass Joe, if they were in Friday, they’d be Deebo and if they were in Taken they’d be the random Albanian dudes who get knocked out in one punch. How do we know this?
Remember the Democratic debates last year? In late June’s debate, Biden was completely taken off guard by Kamala Harris’ attack about busing. An attack that she had announced with a blowhorn, klaxon and smoke signals for weeks prior to the debate, but Biden was still totally unprepared for it.
If it weren’t for the sexist and low-key racist mainstream media painting Harris as the ‘angry Black woman’ she might’ve ended what was already a struggling Biden campaign.
Lest the K-Hive is snickering right now, who can forget Harris getting eviscerated by Tulsi Gabbard during the Democratic debate in July of 2019? Gabbard hit Harris on her criminal justice record and the senator was left flat-footed by an attack that Stevie Wonder could see coming.
Biden hasn’t been this far in a competitive race since the Rubik’s Cube was hot and Harris is a prosecutor, not a defense attorney, and it shows whenever she’s hit with questions about criminal justice.
The combination of national criminal justice protests and a Biden-Harris ticket that can’t defend their own race and criminal justice positions effectively could be a disaster. Trump and Pence don’t have to win Black votes, they just have to land enough punches that Black people stay home in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.
Do Biden and Harris have enough time to improve their footwork and avoid the obvious haymakers that Trump will throw about mass incarceration and race? Of course, they do.
Once Harris is announced as VP I can envision a training montage over a Kendrick beat, Kamala hitting the punching bag and Biden racing up the capitol steps in a mask interspliced with moments of them crafting apologies for past policy and re-iterating a bold agenda for defunding the police.
You see, despite Tyson’s boastful declaration about the futility of ‘plans,’ he actually lost the fight because Evander Holyfield was prepared for a flurry of early punches to the mouth, adjusted to his own weaknesses and counter punched in a way Tyson never expected.
Let’s just hope last year was a warm-up and the Democratic nominees are in fighting shape by the fall.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University, a Political Contributor at MSNBC and SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. Notorious comic book and sports guy with dual Wakandan and Zamundan citizenship.
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