Hot Posts


Thoughts on Biden's Morehouse College speech

President Joe Biden and his allies have invested mountains of political capital and mortgaged their credibility trying to convince American voters that, but for their leadership, the country would be in a far darker place than it is today. Apparently, that public-relations campaign was a failure. That’s what we must conclude from Biden’s address to the graduates of Morehouse College over the weekend. There, the president shifted tactics. Rather than promote his administration as an obstacle before the forces of regression and misrule, he insisted that those forces are on the march — successfully implementing their nefarious program despite the Biden White House’s best efforts.

“Extremists closed the doors of opportunity,” Biden informed the school’s deflated student body. He castigated the Supreme Court for striking down affirmative action — a body that is representative of those who would “attack the values of diversity, equality, and inclusion.” He savaged Republicans, who he claimed have embarked on a successful “national effort to ban books” to “erase history.” Those Republicans “don’t see you in the future of America,” he informed the audience at the predominantly black school.

Who are these ugly calumnies for? Biden’s lament for the fate of affirmative action is meant to mimic a sentiment Democrats assume black Americans share, but there’s little evidence for that presupposition. A Gallup poll produced shortly after the Court’s decision in June 2023 found that a majority of black adults (52 percent) and even more younger black Americans under the age of 39 (62 percent) said doing away with racial preferences was “mostly a good thing.”

Likewise, these students are unlikely to be enlivened by the threat posed by a campaign to “ban books” insofar as the campaign he alleges is not happening. If Biden objects to the attempt to impose age-related restrictions on accessing sexually explicit material in publicly operated libraries, he should say so. If he takes offense to restricting access to literature in whatever form it takes, he might spare a word of condemnation for the book “de-emphasizers” on his side of the aisle who have limited students’ intake of classic works such as the Little House series, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Cay, Of Mice and Men, The Odyssey, and so many other déclassé titles. Biden abandoned a foolish consistency on this subject because honesty would get in the way of his attempts to depress his audience.

The bleakness of life in modern America is unrelenting, as the president explained. “Today in Georgia,” Biden continued, “they won’t allow water to be available to you while you wait in line to vote in an election. What in the hell is that all about?” Once again, Biden and his spectators should take heart — their dour outlook on the state of the nation is fueled by misapprehensions.

Georgia election law does not prohibit voters from consuming whatever they like while waiting to vote, and it doesn’t prohibit service providers from doing business with prospective voters. What it does do is block electioneering from within 150 feet of a polling place or 25 feet from voters queueing up at a polling place. Biden must be aware of this elementary distinction by now; he’s retailed this false attack on Georgia’s election laws for years now. We must assume the truth would inconvenience the president in his effort to dispirit Morehouse’s graduating class.

Biden sank further into despondency from there. “It’s natural to wonder if democracy you hear about actually works for you,” the president said of the constitutional framework he is bound by oath to defend.

“What is democracy if Black men are being killed in the street? What is democracy if a trail of broken promises still leave Black — Black communities behind? What is democracy if you have to be 10 times better than anyone else to get a fair shot? And most of all, what does it mean, as we’ve heard before, to be a Black man who loves his country even if it doesn’t love him back in equal measure?”

Biden eventually got around to defending the legitimacy of the system he stewards, but listeners to his speech could be forgiven for concluding that the president believes the fight to save representative self-government is already lost. It is his job to “call out the poison of white supremacy, to root out systemic racism,” Biden insisted. But the litany of victories Biden attributed to xenophobes and chauvinists surely left his more credulous spectators disconsolate. If Morehouse students came into Biden’s speech convinced, as so many young people are, that the Biden years have been a failed experiment, the president’s speech only convinced them of their own wisdom.

Biden’s speechwriters are struggling to reconcile their conflicting motivations. On the one hand, job number one for an incumbent president is to convince voters that they are better off than they were four years ago. But there is no appetite for optimism among the political class, certainly not among progressive social reformers. Given the scale of the challenges before the nation — the unchecked avarice of its wealthiest citizens, the corruptibility of its institutions, the immorality of its foreign policy, and the resurgent bigotries threatening to roll back “progress” on a variety of fronts — what cause is there for optimism? Whether they genuinely believe all this is immaterial; they want us to believe it.

The Biden campaign hopes to mobilize unenthusiastic black voters by convincing them that, no matter how bad things are under this president, they could always be worse. And who knows? That worked for Barack Obama. But as an electoral strategy, Biden’s is fraught. The president wants us to believe that the American social fabric is coming apart, and it will only fray further absent dramatic changes to the status quo. If Biden is not careful, a critical mass of voters might agree with him.

Post a Comment