Guest Commentary / January 28, 2022

Memories of a Woke Warrior

Biden can create whatever persona he needs to survive in a changing environment.

By Peter Lemiska

More than 50 years after the triumphant civil rights movement, many would probably agree that Joe Biden believes America is still hopelessly, systemically racist. He certainly seems to be a stalwart supporter of the woke movement, Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, and every other radical ideology that comes his way.

Most Americans also know that as a skilled politician, Biden can create whatever persona he needs to survive in a changing environment.

But he can’t change the past.

As Kamala Harris reminded him during his presidential campaign, it wasn’t that long ago that Mr. Biden strenuously opposed school busing, a crucial early step on the road to desegregation and racial equality.

There’s no question where young Joe Biden stood on that issue. During a 1975 interview by a local newspaper, he called busing “an asinine concept.” Then he went on at length to explain why that didn’t really make him racist. But there were other musings during that interview that would mortify his woke supporters today. For example, he noted, “I do not buy the concept, popular in the ‘60s, which said, 'We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers.’”

During an NPR interview, also in 1975, Biden tried a little harder to rationalize his opposition to busing and its goal of desegregation. He called it “a rejection of the whole movement of black pride…a rejection of the entire black awareness concept where black is beautiful.”

So it seems he was supporting segregationist policies then with the noblest of intentions.

There’s so much more in Biden’s past that belies, or at least casts serious doubt, on his current woke crusade, like his ties to segregationist senators James Eastland, John Stennis, and others. Some of those men were enormously helpful to Biden’s career before the civil rights movement changed everything.

Biden recently gave a speech billed as “Protecting the Right to Vote.” It was intended to whip up support for his proposed voting legislation. The legislation actually has nothing to do with voting rights, but is aimed at eliminating all semblance of integrity in voting laws. And though the speech was not supposed to be about racism, Biden used it to label his political opponents as racist. At one point he asked, “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” They were fiery words — inflammatory words. The person who wrote them is probably too young to remember Senator Biden’s implied fondness for George Wallace.

It seems that Biden had, at the very least, an unusual fascination with the racist governor back in the day. In fact, in 1975, Biden suggested that the Democrat Party needed a “liberal George Wallace.” He also liked to boast, usually while campaigning in the South, that Wallace had praised him as “one of the outstanding politicians of America,” and in 1987, Biden even bragged about receiving some unspecified award from Wallace.

Of course, he vilified Wallace at other times — when that position benefitted him politically. That chameleon-like ability is what helped keep Biden in politics for so long. So, has Joe Biden really become a dedicated civil rights warrior, or is he just the same political opportunist he’s always been?

There’re a couple of giveaways that tell us what he’s really about — like his admitted false claim during his first presidential run that he had actively participated in the civil rights movement. The claim was an obvious effort to win black votes. His devious motives were made more apparent when he told a black interviewer in a more recent campaign, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

And there are the gaffes, often tinged with elements of racism — like the backhanded complement aimed at Barack Obama in 2007: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Biden’s obsession with perceived racism, his endless references to bygone eras — times of slavery and segregation — together with his racist-tinged gaffes and his own segregationist history all suggest he might actually be feeling a bit of nostalgia, perhaps even a subconscious yearning for those days.

In fact, Biden himself questioned his subconscious biases during that 1975 NPR interview: “…calling my staff together, um, uh, and the blacks in my staff together, saying, ‘Now, look, this is what I think. Do you think I am? I mean, is there something in me that deep-seated that I don’t know? What do you…’” In Bidenesque fashion, he rambled on after that without ever answering the question.

Who knows? Maybe what’s driving him today is a subliminal need for self-redemption.

No one can possibly know what’s actually in Joe Biden’s mind. We do know this, though: George Wallace, Bull Connor, and Jefferson Davis are long gone, but their racist ideologies will live on as long as Biden and the Democrats keep them alive.

Peter Lemiska served in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Secret Service. Following his retirement from the Secret Service, he spent several years as a volunteer for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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