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Is Biden Too Old or is the Progressive Base Too Young?

June 29, 2019

 

Watching the political theater of the debates, the second night, I was repeatedly struck by the thought: Damn, how old is Joe Biden? 

 

He started several sentences he never finished.  His favorite responses always started "There are three points I'd like to make," whereupon he would start with the first, forget numbers two and three and meander his way into "Oh, my time is up..."

 

The problem with a lengthy career of visible public service is that, well, it's lengthy and it's visible. Biden has been around the track a few times and has a record of positions, that while acceptable if not progressive in the '70s, are downright Neanderthal in 2019.

 

Take for example his sparring match with Kamala Harris.  Harris condemned Biden's record on bussing to address segregation in public education.  Biden's retort centered on the fact that it wasn't bussing he opposed -- but federally mandated bussing.  He thought the state and local governments should be the ones to decide whether bussing was appropriate. Huh?

 

So, for those of you who weren't alive during the Ice Age, let me break it down for you.  The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education decided in 1954 that racially segregated public education violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause: you know, the whole separate and unequal thing.

 

Fast-forward almost 20 years later.  Many school districts across this great land still hadn't obeyed the Supreme Court's order to desegregate public education.

 

Twenty years in the life of a person's education is a lifetime.  An entire generation went through primary and secondary education during this period of non-enforcement.  This fact, in itself, doesn't mean those educated under such a system received sub-standard education, because when African American teachers with ample experience, talent and love for their students put their minds to it, they provided excellent education for their students, despite a paucity of resources.

 

But of course, segregation coupled with the conscious and intentional degradation of African American education (facilities, resources, curriculum and deploying inexperienced and even hostile teachers into ghetto schools) resulted in sub-standard education for a portion of the population based on race.

 

So when federal courts finally enforced the Supreme Court's decades-old precedent, they only did so after state and local governments refused to.

 

Which makes Biden's retort nonsensical.  And it brought into sharp relief the many ways Biden's record doesn't play so sweetly 40 years after the fact.

 

Biden is out of touch with the progressive (mostly) young contingent of the Democratic party that put Obama in the White House, and whose absence at the polls relegated Hillary Clinton to the loser's side of the ledger of history.

 

If Biden can't convince that branch of the party to come out in his favor, Trump will win re-election, and the most toxic president in recent history will continue to take a wrecking ball to the best parts of this country: its democratic and humanitarian aspirations.

 

Just as too many people held their noses and voted for a man in 2016 they knew was a pig, but who they considered the lesser of two evils; the only way Biden (if he gets the nomination) will win the presidency is if Democrats unite and support a candidate about whom many have serious reservations.  Not perfect, but a damn sight better than Trump 2.0.

 

So the question is: does the young, progressive wing of the Democratic party have the maturity to understand that, like it says in the Stones' song of old: "You Can't Always Get What You Want, But if You Try Sometimes, You Just Might Find --- You Get What You Need."

 

 

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