You’ve gotta hand it to Joe Biden. It appears that he has survived the onslaught of allegations of inappropriate touching and sniffing of women, at least for now. Should he jump in the race it’s reasonable to believe that his primary opponents will throw those allegations at him and put him on defense. Maybe that won’t work; recent polls suggest that Democrat voters have shifted from #BelieveWomen to #BelieveDemocrats and are giving him a pass. But, another story that broke a few days ago might be tougher for primary voters to swallow. While it hasn’t exactly gotten much traction, this will certainly haunt him should he jump in the race.
Last week, CNN reported on Biden’s opposition to busing to desegregate schools early in his Senate career with some exclusive new details.
It was more than four decades ago as a battle raged across the country — and in Congress — over sending white students to majority-black schools and black students to majority-white schools often far away from their own neighborhoods. Biden forcefully opposed the government’s role in trying to integrate schools, saying he favored desegregation, but believed busing did not achieve equal opportunity.
In a series of never-before-published letters from Biden, which were reviewed by CNN, the strength of his opposition to busing comes into sharper focus, particularly how he followed the lead of — and sought support from — some of the Senate’s most fervent segregationists.
It’s one thing to oppose forced busing, but Biden actively cozied up to southern segregationist Democrats for help and support for his anti-busing legislation. Such a thing would end the presidential aspirations of a Republican who had done the same thing. But, considering the lack of attention this has gotten, it’s not hard to believe that Democrats will let this slide. In fact, Democrats have a history of turning a blind eye to racism in their party. Former President Bill Clinton’s mentor was J. William Fulbright, a segregationist. The late Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) was praised by the Democratic Party despite being a former leader in the Ku Klux Klan. And Ralph Northam is still serving as governor of Virginia despite his blackface/KKK yearbook photo. But, it is hard to imagine Biden’s primary opponents not seizing on this to gain an advantage over him—especially when put into context of other racially insensitive comments he’s made over the years.
Whether this will make it harder for Biden to maintain his strong position in the crowded Democrat field of 2020 candidates has yet to be seen. A recent poll suggests Bernier Sanders (the other old white guy in the race) has taken the lead. Biden will certainly have some tough choices to make, such as whether to shift further to the left on other racial issues, like slavery reparations (which he has opposed in the past) or even whether to jump in the race at all.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis