Biden plays the race card to change the subject

Joe Biden in Atlanta

This Week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 3

  • ‘Loud Noises’ — Biden’s dishonest, fearmongering speech served a crucial purpose
  • Ducey eyes a Senate run
  • A Tommy Thompson comeback?


In his controversial Atlanta speech of Jan. 11, President Joe Biden compared his political opponents to several of the nation’s past racist villains.

“At consequential moments in history,” he said, “do you want to be on the side of Dr. [Martin Luther] King, or [former segregationist Alabama Gov.] George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

It’s a minor miracle that he didn’t name-check Hitler. 

Naturally, Biden didn’t believe a word he was saying. He personally held the “Bull Connor/Jefferson Davis” position on the Senate filibuster just a few weeks ago. And the Republican state voting bills he was denouncing are, in many cases and in many ways, more generous to the voter than his own home state of Delaware. Nearly all of them are more generous than New York State, whose voters just rejected same-day registration in a ballot referendum. 

It is a perfectly normal, natural reaction for conservatives to become irate when falsely accused of racial discrimination. It is even more galling when the accusation comes from the very people who make excuses for liberal discrimination against Asian-American students

But that anger, while excusable and perhaps even useful, is not the last word. Biden’s disgraceful speech last week was actually a very positive sign. What seems like a mere spasmodic lashing out by immature ideologues in his administration is actually a carefully calculated freak-out in an election year. It is a necessary strategy for a party in a genuinely desperate situation.

Consider: Biden’s agenda is now completely dead, thanks to Democratic moderates refusing to throw away the Senate filibuster to suit his whims. So there is no chance for a legislative win coming up. Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating is now underwater on every major issue — including, at last, the pandemic. Resentment over COVID-related restrictions has built up to the point where he and his fellow Democrats have no high ground to reach for. Biden’s personal approval level hit 33% in a Quinnipiac survey at the turn of the new year. 

In short, his party is cruising for a midterm bruising, as all the congressional generic ballot polls hint. 

So what do you do in that situation? You change the subject. If necessary, you do it by running around naked or setting yourself on fire. That was Biden’s Jan. 11 speech.

Biden is lashing out because he needs to instill irrational fear in as many voters as possible in order to avoid a political disaster for his party. One of Democrats’ tried and true tactics for instilling fear and encouraging people to vote is to make them think they are being prevented from voting when they aren’t. 

The idea that voting rights or “our democracy” (they love that phrase, although they usually scorn the voters’ will) are genuine under attack is a flat-out stupid one. Certainly, it takes quite an imagination to compare the lawful legislative process in which Republican state lawmakers take part with the Jan. 6 riots. But the lack of sense here doesn’t actually matter. The point of the message is to scare the living Hell out of people, not to inform them. 

Biden staged a public freak-out in order to change the subject from all of the issues, because he is losing on all of the issues. He is trying to refocus the electorate. He is trying to slow down Hispanic voters’ gradual drift toward the Republican Party during the Trump era. He is desperately trying to discourage black voters from following them. 

Biden is doing this in order to make Democrat-leaners feel an urgent need to turn out at the polls this fall. Such a wild, attention-getting message is necessary, because nobody but nobody is enthusiastic or cares about saving Joe Biden’s administration. 

President 2024

Trump-vs.DeSantis: You had to expect it at some point. Cracks are finally starting to show in the relationship between former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — cracks you had to expect at some point if both men intend to run for president.

DeSantis, a Navy veteran pitched by many conservatives as a potential future for “Trumpism without all the crazy,” was originally encouraged and persuaded by Trump to run for his current job, where he has been very successful and is currently quite popular. But if both men have their eye on the 2024 nomination, then it is only a matter of time before they end up at loggerheads.

DeSantis recently remarked, for example, invoking Trump’s name, that if he had known earlier in the Trump era what he knows now about COVID, he would have pushed back harder against the initial lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing. It was his first remark deliberately contrasting himself with Trump on policy.

Trump, for his part, has been grousing in private that DeSantis has a “dull personality” and “no personal charisma,” and wonders why the ambitious Florida pol “won’t just say he’s not going to run against me?”

Governor 2022

Arizona: State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, R, is abandoning her run for governor and instead going for re-election. This leaves as contenders conservative former Rep. Matt Salmon and TV news anchor Kari Lake, who received former President Trump’s endorsement back in September. The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

Wisconsin: Odd as it may seem, 80-year-old former Gov. Tommy Thompson may try a comeback once he is finished Mar. 18 as the interim president of the University of Wisconsin system. Perhaps he was just being flippant when he told a local TV station that “everything is on the table, but the threat is there. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch only just managed to (mostly) clear the field, so his entry would definitely rock the boat.

Senate 2022

Arizona: Term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, R, potentially a wealthy self-funder, could upend the Senate race against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by throwing his own hat in the ring. Although certainly prominent and well-resourced, Ducey is not former President Trump’s favorite person. Indeed, although Trump trashed Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich after he refused to indulge the idea that the election in Arizona was stolen, he might be even more hostile toward Ducey for pushing back against him in public. Both men were excluded from Trump’s recent rally in Arizona — indeed, Trump is already raising money for another Republican candidate, Blake Masters.