By Victor Davis Hanson
Joe Biden ran on “unity,” which is critical in a multiracial America. He vowed to heal the divisions supposedly sown by Donald Trump. Instead, he is proving to be the most polarizing president in modern memory. Often his racialist rhetoric and condescension have proven demeaning to both blacks and whites. In a volatile multiracial democracy that demands tolerance and restraint, a highly unpopular Biden, for cheap political advantage, continually proves incendiary and reckless.
Last week Joe Biden snarked after watching a White House screening of Till:
Lynched for simply being black, nothing more. With white crowds, white families gathered to celebrate the spectacle, taking pictures of the bodies and mailing them as postcards. Hard to believe, but that’s what was done. And some people still want to do that.
Exactly who are these “some people”? Who fits Biden’s innuendos of contemporary “some people” who, he alleges in 2023, still wish, as “white crowds, white families” of the past, to mail celebratory postcards after they lynch black people? The Ultra-MAGA villains of his recent Phantom of the Opera speech? Have his current targets ever echoed anything like Biden’s own racist past warning that busing would force people to “grow up in a racial jungle”?
What current data might support Biden’s absurd charges? Is Biden referring to federal interracial crime and hate crime statistics charting violent white propensities against blacks? None exist. In fact, they continually reveal that so-called whites are underrepresented as perpetrators in both categories, while overrepresented as victims in interracial crimes—dramatically so in the case of black-on-white violent crime.
In our sensationalist YouTube world, are we suffering an epidemic of Internet-fed, white-on-black incendiary crimes that might have prompted the president’s demagogic accusations? Not at all. Most of the most recent publicized interracial violence—a woman in a gym fighting off a would-be rapist, a bicyclist doctor stabbed to death in an intersection as his attacker spewed racial hatred, a 26-year-old mother lethally shot in the back in front of her children in front of her children in a parking lot over a minor argument, a young boy violently choked on a bus, a small girl on a bus beaten repeatedly by two teenage boys—have involved black perpetrators and apparent white victims. So, what contemporary evidence or widely publicized anecdotes prompt Biden’s recent charges of “white rage”-fueled violence?
Yet simultaneously with Biden’s blanket and unsupported charges of racism, no president since Woodrow Wilson has offloaded more racialist verbiage than Joe Biden himself. In an eerie example of psychological projection, never has a president accused others of racism more, while freely revealing himself either to be a racist or non compos mentis, or both.
Stranger still, Biden’s latest accusation comes from a president who once eulogized the former racist, Exalted Cyclops, and segregationist Senator. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as “one of my mentors” and lamented that “the Senate is a lesser place for his going.” That was no isolated fluke.
During his campaign for the presidency, Biden in 2019 praised segregationist Senator James O. Eastland for not labeling a younger Biden with the derogatory term “boy”: “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
How odd, then, that Biden, as president no less, has used just that derogatory insult “boy” for distinguished blacks. Indeed, the very day before Biden leveled his “some people” slur, he was back at it with his racist “boy” reference to the black governor of Maryland: “You got a hell of a new governor in Wes Moore, I tell ya,” Biden told an audience of union workers on Wednesday. “He’s the real deal, and the boy looked like he could still play. He got some guns on him.”
Such condescension was consistent with Biden’s past usage of “Negro” and his earlier August 2021 similar “boy” trope of referring to one of own top aides: “I’m here with my senior adviser and boy who knows Louisiana very, very well and New Orleans, Cedric Richmond.”
In Biden world, blacks seem to be a collective to whom he can pander in stereotypical terms, as opposed to Latinos, whom Biden feels can think for themselves. Or so he said on the campaign trail in 2020, “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.”
These were “gaffes” only if one believes Biden’s frequent racialist smears and slurs are more the symptoms of senility than bias. Again, as a 2020 candidate, Biden gave us his absurd racist “Corn Pop” fables. In these concocted, He-Man sagas, Biden stood down purported ghetto gangster with his own custom-cut chain, while often showing his tanned legs’ golden hairs to curious inner-city black youth.
Biden also smeared two black journalists who had the temerity to ask him a few tough questions, one with the now infamous slang ad hominem, “You ain’t black” and the other with the personal dismissal “junkie.”
A consistent trope in these insults is his lifelong condescension of accomplished black Americans, such as his long-ago infamous talk-down to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during Biden’s travesty of conducting his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings. In that context we also remember Biden’s idiotic warning, replete with his accustomed affected black patois, to black professionals in 2012 that Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains.”
Like Bill Clinton, who reportedly uttered of supposed 2008 upstart Barack Obama, “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee,” Biden was especially bewildered by Barack Obama. He apparently seemed, in Biden’s racialist view, an aberration from Biden’s own usual stereotyped views of blacks of limited ability: “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.” That assessment came from a candidate, who, even predementia, could never string together more than a few coherent sentences.
Biden, remember, explained top-performing states in education as attributable to fewer minorities: “There’s less than 1 percent of the population in Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So, look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.”
In a world of law schools turning out record numbers of black lawyers, and billionaire entrepreneurs like Bob Johnson, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, or Michael Jordan, Biden opines, “The data shows young black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding given the chance as white entrepreneurs are. But they don’t have lawyers. They don’t have, they don’t have accountants, but they have great ideas.”
The reason we do not associate Biden with characteristic racist stereotyping and tropes, other than with raw political demagoguery, is the same reason we give passes to liberals who say overtly racist things, which might otherwise suggest that their loud progressive rhetoric serves as some sort of psychological mechanism to square the circle of their own discomfort with the proverbial other.
Do we remember the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quickly hushed up and contextualized confession that abortion was targeting the proper people. (“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”)?
Do we recall liberal icon and former Senate Majority Harry Reid, who eerily dovetailed Biden with similarly racist assessment of Obama (“a ‘light-skinned’ African American with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”)?
Somehow Biden has transferred his own checkered history of racial disparagement onto the white working class. Fact checkers assure us that when Joe Biden libeled Trump supporters as “chumps” and “dregs” he really meant the Ku Klux Klan or white nationalists who gravitate to Trump. But most took his blanket smears as they were intended. And they fit the larger patterns of his more recent “semi-fascism” smears, and indeed, the genre of tired leftwing demagoguery that earlier gave us Obama’s “clingers,” Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” or the smelly who stink up Walmart in the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page joint text trove: “Just went to a Southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support.”
In occasional opportunistic moments, Biden transforms into “ol’ Joe Biden from Scranton” to accentuate his middle-class roots. But he has a repugnant propensity for using racial terms of condescension and disparagement and for projecting his own unease onto a supposedly racist white middle class and poor even as he seeks to win support from the very minority communities he has so often crudely characterized.
What is the concrete result of this now common Bidenesque schizophrenia?
Consider the toxic plume that has polluted the skies over East Palestine, Ohio, a working-class small town that is 98 percent white, with a median income of $26,000, and sits amid the Pennsylvania borderland. That very region once rejected in its 2008 primary Barack Obama—and in turn was blasted in stereotyped fashion by him: “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Ol’ Joe Biden from Scranton resonates that same contempt for the convenient target of the white poor and lower middle class. Rather than send in FEMA on day one of the toxic release with tents, mobile kitchens, and supplies and medical personnel to care for the evacuated, the federal government waited two weeks and then acted only when even the liberal media was confused by Biden’s deliberate neglect.
Amid the disaster, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in his now tired boilerplate, was on record instead railing against supposed white hardhats who supposedly do not look like the communities in which they work. For a Biden or Buttigieg, the fish and animals dying from toxic air or water were insignificant artifacts, as were the complaints of burning lungs and allergic reactions to the black chemical cloud.
One wonders what would have been the immediate reaction of Biden and the federal government had a corporation decided to vent the contents of wrecked rail cars full of vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate and then to light up the escaping gas, birthing a toxic black plume over Martha’s Vineyard or Malibu, as opposed to East Palestine or, say, South-Central L.A. or Ferguson, Missouri.
Biden would have sent legions of aid workers in to ensure social justice for the marginalized and performance-art reassurance to his donor class.
Whether Biden spouts racial bombast to curry favor with his Democratic base or to project onto others his own habitual racist put downs is not quite clear. But Biden’s utter contempt for white poor and lower middle classes, who are deemed not worthy of the prompt federal attention customarily accorded to others in times of disaster, is self-evident.
Otherwise, Biden would have sent help immediately rather than smear “some people” as 21st-century lynchers.
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.