A short video clip surfaced Friday afternoon of President Joe Biden seeming to praise segregationist members of the Senate. Originating from the RNC Research Twitter account, the nine-second clip has Biden praising segregationists like Mississippi’s Sen. James Eastland.
Biden wasn’t just randomly talking about the good old days with segregationists in the Senate. He was rambling in praise of outgoing Republican Sen. Rob Portman during an Ohio event at United Performance Metals.
According to local news, Biden called on Congress to pass the “Bipartisan Innovation Act,” to improve the manufacturing of technology and parts impacted by supply chain delays. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown also attended the event.
Since he’s not running, I can say all the nice things about him that I want. And it won’t get him in any trouble because he’s leaving. Rob spoke at the White House when I signed the bipartisan infrastructure law. That he helped, they both helped put together. And the truth of the matter is, we may not agree on everything, although we agree more than you want to admit. I want to thank him leadership for bringing folks together to find common ground.
You know, things have kind of changed since the days when I first got there. He’s been there a couple of times. I was there. I got elected when I was 29 years old to the United States Senate. From a very modest background. And I was there for 36 years before becoming vice president.
We always used to fight like hell. And even back in the old days when we had real segregationists like Eastland, Thurmond, and all those guys. At least we end up eating lunch together. Things have changed. We gotta bring it back. Rob, I’m sorry to leave you because you’re one of the good guys. I mean because of the way you treat other Senators. The way you treat other people. I appreciate it.
Moments like this play right into the hands of the Republican National Committee and right-wing commentators that want to showcase the Democratic Party and Biden as the “real racists.” Despite how much Republicans like to finger-wag about the racists in the Democratic Party like Eastland, they conveniently ignore the people currently in their party who take Eastland’s legacy to the next level. Some of this racism was on full display in the Senate during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing.
Sen. Roger Wicker called the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court affirmative action in a race to outdo his colleagues. Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy fixed his lips to say a Black woman nominated wouldn’t know a law book from a J-Crew Catalog.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott steered his state to be one of the most repressive fundamentalist Christian theocracies in the western hemisphere. He recently expressed a desire to see the Supreme Court overturn another landmark decision requiring public education. He and other Republican governors openly attack public education and accurate school curriculums. So, the Republican National Committee and its various formations can save their outrage.
To be clear, there are no clean hands when it comes to white politicians in America and the way they will prioritize white supremacy over Black and other communities of color. But it matters where the clips we see are coming from and why they are being shared.
Biden’s Friday reminiscing is not unlike statements he’s made in the past. It’s something Vice President Kamala Harris rightly called him out on during one of the 2020 debates. If the president hasn’t spent time reflecting on what the vice president previously shared, now would be an excellent time to seek her counsel.
Unfortunately, the president ascribes to a politics of civility where those who didn’t always agree can still find common ground and break bread. And he’s not alone in this mentality. There are Democratic members of the Senate who will reference those in the Republican party with some form of “my good friend” or “my friend” or “I like” someone who is otherwise acting reprehensible and in bad faith.
It’s an appearance of collegiality that often does not translate into anything positive for the American people. Civility politics is also 100 percent white supremacy. Full stop. I could at least sit down with people who fought tooth and nail to deprive people of their rights is a wild flex for someone who claims to believe in racial equity.
Between 1972 and 1978, only four women served in the U.S. Senate, all of whom were white. There have only been 11 Black U.S. Senators, and only two of them Black women. There are currently no Black women serving in the Senate, but that could change with upcoming elections.
Also, the president’s lack of awareness that his nostalgia for an overwhelmingly white and racist period isn’t unique to him. The country is full of “good” liberal white people who wish things weren’t so divisive and could go back to having social time with their counterparts on the right without feeling guilty.
Because for them, these issues are things that can be set aside. It doesn’t impact their lives or their livelihoods.
The president should be held accountable for what he says. But we shouldn’t reward bad actors with online engagement in the process. In this instance, the RNC Research account is just spreading this short clip to demoralize and outrage folks.
They do not have a moral high ground to stand on. Meanwhile, the RNC supports people trying to eradicate many of the rights and privileges enjoyed by Black people and other groups directly impacted by harmful legislation and legal decisions made on a regular.