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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/21/19

Biden and the Black Vote

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"Biden's bill resulted in a spike in mass incarceration which of course affected African American and Latinx communities more profoundly than any others. The damage to families and lives of course continues today."

"Biden's record is that of a consistent corporate stooge."

When the September 12 debate turned to racial injustice, Biden incoherently tried to distance himself from the draconian carceral state, without acknowledging his central role in creating it:

"We are in a situation now where there are so many people in jail who shouldn't be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is that the whole model has to change. We should be talking about rehabilitation. Nobody should be in jail for nonviolent crime. When we were in The White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system.

"Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We can build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons. I'm the guy who put in the drug courts to divert people from the criminal justice system.

"So we have to change the whole way we look at this. When we put people in prison, we have to equip them that when they get out. Nobody who got in prison for marijuana for example, immediately upon being released, they shouldn't be in there in the first place. That should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned. When you finish your term in prison you should be able to not only vote but to have access to Pell Grants, have access to, be able to get housing and access to be able to move along the way. I've laid out a detailed plan along those lines. The fact is we've learned so much more."

That's quite a sack of promises insofar as it even makes any sense. The statement that "you should, immediately upon being able to get housing and access to be able to move along the way" is particularly unlikely, given that there are already over half a million homeless people on our streets, and Bernie Sanders is the only candidate proposing a serious solution.

It's also noteworthy that Biden is now crusading for prisoners' access to Pell Grants without acknowledging that it was his own 1994 crime bill that took them away.

Biden was equally clumsy, incoherent, and racist on racism, reparations, and the legacy of slavery. His record-player moment was the most ridiculed but in the same moment he said that Black parents don't know how to take care of their children:

"Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It's not like they don't want to help, they don't know what to do. Play the radio, make sure the televisionexcuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, themake sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school, a very poor background will hear 4 million wordsfewer spoken by the time we get there."

The polls

On September 2, Politico reported that Biden's poll numbers in Black America, at 41%, still exceeded those of any other Democratic candidate. Bernie Sanders was a distant second at 20%. Older Black voters preferred Biden, while millenials preferred Sanders. Unlike Obama in 2008 and 2012, neither of the Black candidates, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, was striking a chord.

These are critical numbers because Black voters are the Democrats' most loyal constituency. As the PBS News Hour reported on September 5, "Black voters will define what 'electable' means for 2020 Democrats ":

"For all the strategic calculations, sophisticated voter targeting and relentless talk about electability in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential nomination will be determined by a decidedly different group: black voters.

"African Americans will watch as mostly white voters in the first two contests express preferences and winnow the field then they will almost certainly anoint the winner.

"So far, that helps explain the front-running status of former Vice President Joe Biden. He has name recognition, a relationship with America's first black president and a decades long Democratic resume. Black voters have long been at the foundation of his support his home state of Delaware, where he served as a U.S. senator for nearly four decades, is 38 percent black and until another presidential candidate proves that he or she can beat him, he is likely to maintain that support."

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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached (more...)

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