Could it be that electability, as applied to Biden, is some form of racial dog whistle?
“Biden’s record of anti-black legislation explains why he would also be appealing to Trump supporters.”
At this point in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, the most consistent claim made by supporters of Joe Biden is that Biden is the most electable candidate. This vague descriptor seems to be Biden’s only selling point. And have you noticed that no one ever gives an explanation as to what exactly gives him the edge of electability. The closest to an explanation that I’ve heard is that Biden is best suited to defeat Trump. This is usually offered as companion statement to the electability claim. It’s an equally vague statement and still begs the question — what makes him the most electable?
So what exactly is meant by the term electability regarding Joe Biden? Does it refer to his qualifications, his experience, the great legislation that he’s passed, all of the above or something quite different? The term electable is generally defined as: capable of, or having a reasonable chance of being elected. Considering this definition, every candidate on the Democratic field is capable of and has a reasonable chance of being elected. So the idea that Joe Biden is the most electable Democratic candidate raises questions and requires a closer look.
“Have you noticed that no one ever gives an explanation as to what exactly gives him the edge?”
It could be said that since Biden has held political office for many years, this makes him electable. But most of the current presidential aspirants have also held political offices for years as mayors, former mayors, or members of congress. So this wouldn’t give Biden any special claim to electability. Maybe the fact that he was vice president under Barack Obama for two terms makes him especially electable. Well, that falls flat when you consider that Donald Trump is the president and never held any previous political office, vice president or otherwise.
Could it be that electability, as applied to Biden, is some form of dog whistle crafted to send a dual message, and is understood differently when heard by different groups of people? Dog whistle language is often designed to allow the imaginations of the audience to fill in the blanks with their own ideas about what something means. For example, to one group, Biden’s electability brings to mind his vice presidency under Barack Obama. While to another group, his electability signals that in addition to his Democratic support, he also has appeal to people who would vote for Trump? We’ve already established that his political history gives him no special claim to electability. Let’s take a look at his possible appeal to Trump voters and what that means.
“Donald Trump is the president and never held any previous political office.”
In a January 2020 Washington Post article, researchers demonstrated that Biden also has support from white voters measuring high inracially resentful attitudes. And that racial resentment by white voters is linked to support for Trump. In other words, racist white voters, which includes everyone from your casual racists to your tiki torch toting, hard core racists, also see Biden as their representative.
An examination of Biden’s record explains why he would have such strong appeal to racist white voters. From 1984 to 1988, Joe Biden partnered with segregationist Strom Thurmond on a series of ‘tough on crime’ legislation passing a law which created the disparity in penalties between those caught with crack cocaine (black people) and those caught with powder cocaine (white people). Additionally, Biden actually wrote the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the largest crime bill ever passed. This legislation originated as the “Biden Crime Bill” before it became known as “Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill.” Cumulatively, these black-targeted and black community enforced laws led to the incarceration of a generation of black Americans, devastated black families and laid the groundwork for mass incarceration.
Biden’s record of anti-black legislation explains why he would also be appealing to Trump supporters. Voters who want to put an end to the relentless racist attacks on poor people of color, understand that this has been turbocharged by Trump — the textbook example of racism. The American people deserve a better leader whose record represents that they have foresight, understanding and compassion for the type of outcomes produced by legislation. Biden’s record demonstrates that he fails in that understanding and his so called electability panders to racist tendencies in white voters - - these are the very reasons not to support his candidacy.
Thad Baltimore is a designer living in New York City.
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