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Est. April 5, 2002
June 27, 2019 - Issue 795

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Joe Biden, ‘The Son,’ and Cory

"It is paradoxical that Booker has been Biden’s staunchest
critic since he has been supported by the same conservative
Wall Street financiers who back Biden and whose predecessors
also backed Sens. Eastland and Talmadge.  Moreover, Booker
has supported school vouchers and traditional and corporate
charter schools, as has Biden, who was a point man
for charters during the Obama administration."

The contretemps between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, 2020 Democratic primary presidential candidates, were front and center last week. Biden made remarks at a New York fundraiser extolling the civility of and his ability to get along with the two of his former U.S. Senate colleagues, the late arch-segregationists and virulent racists, Sens. James O. Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Eugene Talmadge (D-GA). During his early years in the Senate (1972-2008), they were in effect Biden’s mentors in how to get bills passed.

Eastland and Talmadge were among the key players behind the formal document, the Southern Manifesto, which called for massive resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision which outlawed segregation in the nation’s public schools and the desegregation of American society in general. Biden claims that he ran for the Senate to confront such individuals and that he worked with them to “get things done.” He used his experiences with them as examples of his ability to work across the aisle.

But the fact of the matter is that the instances in which he worked with these two Senators were consistent with their racist beliefs. Biden solicited their support in pushing anti-busing/anti-school desegregation legislation which was in line with Eastland’s and Talmadge’s strongly held anti-black views. Thus, his two senior colleagues readily embraced him as a fellow traveler in racist politics. In addition, all of them were Democrats, and their association was not indicative of bipartisanship.

Biden was proud of the fact that Eastland never called him “boy,” but always referred to him as “son,” not acknowledging that Eastland did so because Biden was a white man like himself and that Eastland unfailingly referred to black people as “ni**ers” and to black men as “boys.” Four of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren pushed back immediately after Biden’s comments received wide coverage.

Booker urged Biden to apologize, stating that his “relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone.” Biden’s response to Booker was that he should apologize to him since he did not have a racist bone in his body.

Harris, in response to Biden’s comments, said, "Yes, it concerns me deeply. If those men had their way, I wouldn't be in the United States Senate and on this elevator right now." Sanders stated on Face the Nation that “It is one thing to work with people you have fundamental disagreements with, it’s another to kind of extol those relationships” and that Biden should apologize to Booker. Warren was succinct in saying that “…it’s never OK to celebrate segregationists. Never...”

It is paradoxical that Booker has been Biden’s staunchest critic since he has been supported by the same conservative Wall Street financiers who back Biden and whose predecessors also backed Sens. Eastland and Talmadge. Moreover, Booker has supported school vouchers and traditional and corporate charter schools, as has Biden, who was a point man for charters during the Obama administration.

In behind-the-scenes private conversations, members of the corporate school choice Cartel have referred to Booker as their “boy.” And he has been their main proponent been on their school choice initiatives.

Leaders of the national teacher unions are currently looking the other way on both of their past, anti-public education transgressions. Nonetheless, rank and file teachers are becoming more discerning. I personally witnessed firsthand then Mayor Cory Booker’s forcing teacher terminations and layoffs and auctioning off of low-income African American and Hispanic Newark Public School students to the highest bidding charter school organizations. They also funded his political campaigns.

Ask any Newark, New Jersey school teachers about Cory’s newfound support of public education, and they will set you straight about his now alleged love for them and the institution of public education.

Accordingly, it was hilarious to hear him repeat the lie that he would be a major advocate for funding public schools and raising teacher pay during his five minute spiel at the Annual Convention of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Biden has been following suit in addressing teachers and the general electorate. Both Biden and Booker have put their fingers in the air and have gauged the increasing pro-public education national sentiment among Democrats and Republicans.

Yet Biden retains the support of several old-line African American Democratic politicians, including John Lewis, a revered civil rights leader and a sitting Congressman; James Clyburn, House Majority Whip and the highest ranking black Democrat in Congress; and Congressman Cedric Richmond, former Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Co-Chairman of Biden’s presidential campaign. However, they have evidenced inconsistent ability to turn out significant numbers of black voters for their chosen candidate in primary and national elections for president.

They were unable to generate a sufficient enough black turnout to push Hillary Clinton over the top in key states—Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—in 2016. Barack Obama reached out to African American voters largely on his own in 2008 when three-fourths of the CBC lined up behind Hillary. Therefore, Biden’s early support from these black politicians is no indicator that black voters will follow their lead during the 2020 presidential primaries, especially on Super Tuesday when southern states with substantial numbers of African American voters will be in play.

Though Biden has been number one in all polls since he entered the race, he has revealed a political Achilles heel, the demonstrated congenital inability to apologize for his political miscues: his mishandling of the Anita Hill Hearings, his late reversal on the Hyde amendment, his racist anti-busing stance on school desegregation, his praise of rabid southern segregationists, and his past support of school vouchers and charter schools.

These miscues will marinate in the minds of majority and ethnic minority voters between now and the first presidential primaries and could result in Biden being toppled by one of his surging opponents—Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris, or another eleventh hour dark horse. Cory Booker, who is already trending low in in the polls, is unlikely to gain traction.

Biden could still eke out a primary victory, but then Trump is likely to wipe the floor with him in the general election as he will be unable to generate an ample Democratic turnout, while Trump’s base will go to the polls in tsunami-like proportions, along with a few minorities, moderates, conservative Democrats, and Independents.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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