A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll confirms what many of us already know: Black voters prefer Joe Biden. The factor most responsible for this, of course, is his attachment to Barack Obama’s presidency and cultural icon-status. Biden and his supporters hope to pivot the nation back to Obama-era politics, and it’s possible that some supporters are attracted to the potential of Obama contributing to a Biden administration as an aide. But neither Biden’s nor the former President’s brand of center-left politics is appropriate for the current American sociopolitical climate. The Presidential emboldening of white nationalism, xenophobia and de facto racism that began in 2016 has left the country in dire straits from an ethical standpoint. True, the last and the next Democratic nominee both follow the administrations of notoriously unintelligent war hawks, but the destructive power of President Trump dwarfs that of President Bush. As a result, the next nominee seeks to inherit an America embroiled in internal conflict and international tension abroad following the nation’s brush with Iran.
The inarticulate, stumble-prone liberal moderacy of Joe Biden will not steer the country back from the far-right. In fact, his stuttering non-answers and historical defense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli imperialism lead one to believe that he is more similar to President Trump than either of them would care to admit. Their greatest difference, however, is also the greatest argument for Biden’s inaptitude: His unimposing character. A President with timid, imprecise words and actions is simply not fit to attempt the undoing of the most ethically reprehensible administration in recent history. Once we remove Biden from the symbolic import of Barack Obama, it becomes clear that he hasn’t a leg to stand on.
Joe Biden has recently stopped answering the public’s questions, he brags about his popularity with Black Americans (another Trump comparison), and nothing about his lukewarm political record suggests that he will seriously attack the foothold his predecessor has given dangerous nationalism and domestic extremism in the country. Still, Obama’s and Biden’s rhetoric suggests that Biden’s leftist competitors, Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are too radical for their tastes, even though the Electoral College’s selection of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton last election could be seen as a radical reaction to the eight-year administration of President Obama. It shouldn’t be hard to believe that the Electoral College of the 114th Congress, which sported a double Republican majority, would throw a Democratic candidate under the bus in this fashion. Following this same logic, Democratic politicians and the Black voting public should shift their focus from who has the best chance to win against Trump to who is most capable of radically reversing his failures.
To address this matter through a historical example, one might look to Malcolm X and his statements during the 1964 Presidential election between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater. To the surprise of many, Malcolm X said in the Saturday Evening Post that he thought the election of the ostensibly racist Goldwater would be the best outcome for Black people. Governance by someone who they knew was against them would make the Black man “more positive in his demands, more aggressive in his protests,” and such has been the case of American activism since 2016, particularly among people of color. A return to moderacy will not challenge the violence and hatred of the current climate but will instead inspire complacency in a population that was just starting to challenge it themselves. The difference between 1964 and 2020, of course, is that there are candidates actually committed to the radical uprooting of the nationalist tree. None of them however, are Joe Biden.