We Are About to See If Joe Biden Has Grit

July 1, 2019 Off By Michael
Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash

Six years ago, several draft Biden organizations sprang up around the country. These draft Biden movements encouraged the then Vice President to enter the Democratic race to replace his boss, President Barack Obama.

Biden would be a shoo-in many in the “Riding with Biden” movement thought. He was after all the Vice President for the first Black person elected President of the United States of America.

He was the President’s trusted side-kick and had nudged the President into evolving his stance on gay marriage. An evolution which led the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex unions. This court ruling put the gay community on the main street.

As Vice President, Biden was the logical choice for the 2016 Democratic nomination. He had two impediments standing in his way. First, an undoubtedly private agreement dating back to 2008 between President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Obama would not oppose her in 2016 in exchange for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 support. Obama worked the pair in 2008 and leaned on Bill Clinton heavily in 2012 to secure a second term.

The Clinton support of Obama put Biden in a dilemma, and when coupled with the death of a son, which shook his emotional core, Biden declined to enter the 2016 race in which he would have had significant momentum which possibly could have changed the primary narrative we witnessed between Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

But that was six years ago, a lot of muddy water from the past has flowed over the dam since then. Much of it probably would not have surfaced in the 2016 Democratic Primary, but surely some would have slipped into the General Election had he defeated Clinton and Sanders.

Now Biden is on the debate stage without the glow of his former boss hanging over him, and in a “Me Too” era that is unforgiving of the sins of the past, no matter the high profile of the past sinner, Biden cannot find a sympathetic resting place.

Biden’s sins are primarily his “touchy-feely” habit exhibited to people he meets and his views on bussing to achieve integration back in the day when the nation grappled with how to bring Black people into the American ethos.

When Biden entered the race this year, he received a “Bye” courtesy of his VP bona fides, was designated the candidate to beat, and placed atop of the Democratic field. In the beginning, he ran like a front-runner. He was Joe Biden, and he was on a mission to defeat Donald Trump. A task that perhaps all Democrats rallied behind. He avoided going places that put him in competition with the Democratic field and kept his focus on his singular platform item: Beating Donald Trump in 2020.

Then the Democratic field finally got Biden on a debate stage. Several of them went after him, but none came as hard as California Senator Kamala Harris. Biden, like Muhammad Ali in Kinsasha, laid on the ropes and took Harris’ pounding.

He flicked a few jabs in Her direction. The jabs intended to remind her that he left a lucrative law firm after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to take a job as a public defender offering legal representation to more impoverished Americans.

Many Black and white Americans turned to public service following the murder of Dr. King. Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson challenged a Biden confidant, the segregationist senator from Georgia, Herman Talmadge. Jackson lost that race, but later became the first Black person to serve as mayor of a major southern city.

Next Biden twisted his jab in Ali fashion and intimated he did not do as Harris had done, becoming a prosecutor locking up Black men in record numbers in the 1990s.

Harris, in the fashion of “Smokin Joe Fraizer” left Biden bloodied on the ropes after the first round. Biden tasted his blood for the first time in a long time. He had been knocked off his vice presidential porch and every advantage it gave him coming into the debate season.

If Biden is indeed a man of substance and has a vision for the future of the country without Donald Trump, now is the time for him not only to put forth his image of the future but also his plans.

It is time for Biden to exhibit some true grit. He can expect significant blows the rest of the way; and no Republican, including Donald Trump, can muddy an opponent and sully a candidate’s reputation like a Democratic candidate and their political operatives.

If Biden wants to be president, if he has the proverbial “fire in the belly,” he is going to have to fight for it. If he is unwilling to brawl like a street fighter with the women and the men on the stage, he has little chance of winning the nomination and toppling the guy who has trash-talked the accomplishments of his time as Barack Obama’s Vice President.

All the growth he has undergone since his days as a youngster working with segregationists of the past (becoming VP and ushering in gay marriage), lost to history. The lasting legacy of Joe Biden will be that he worked with segregationists and carried the water for his Delaware neighbors who did not want to bus their children to schools in the Black community.

As the athletes shout during championship time, “Go hard or go home,” all else in Bidensque is “malarkey.”

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. Harvey is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received because of his pro bono representation of students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Medium, and Black College Nines. Contact him at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com.