Presidential candidate Joe Biden has a long history with segregationists in the United States Senate.
Biden has been in politics nearly five decades. In recent times, according to a report in the Washington Examiner Biden has spoken warmly of or boasted about his ability to work with, in particular, six segregationist senators on a list compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative.
In June of 2019 the Democrats’ presidential candidate (now nominee) fondly recalled working with two racists who were his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill while he was a senator in the 1970s.
He has lauded South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond — who Biden called “one of my closest friends” — and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who Biden worked with on legislation to prevent court-ordered desegregation busing. He has also expressed admiration for Sens. John Stennis, James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge. He has even praised George Wallace, an Alabama governor and segregationist presidential candidate.
Now, nearly 50 years after Biden was first elected to political office, all six men are dead, but the former vice president is openly proud of the work he did with them. He worked with some of them to oppose busing (a legal way of coercing the desegregation of schools) and others on anti-crime legislation that disproportionately affected Black Americans, particularly Black men.
Biden’s fondness for these segregationists drew renewed scrutiny in this election cycle after he invoked two of his 1970s segregationist colleagues on the campaign trail, drawing condemnation from then 2020 rivals Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris (who is now running with him as Vice President), the only two black candidates among the 23 Democrats who ran.
Eastland, Biden said at a New York fundraiser on in June of 2019, had “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’” Talmadge was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” but “at least there was some civility. We got things done.”
W. Ralph Eubanks, a visiting professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi who focuses on cultural and historical memory, said to Washington Examiner that Biden appears to have a difficult time grasping the significant cultural shifts of the past few decades.
“He’s just out of touch with contemporary thought,” said Eubanks. “If you’re going to be attractive to this group of [younger] voters, who in some ways view themselves as almost advocates for a social justice movement, these past alliances that are antithetical to this point of view should not be examples that you bring up as examples of your political savvy.”
“The way that we talk about race, class, and gender now with respect to Southern culture is very different than the way that Biden was thinking about it 40 years ago,” added Eubanks.
In June 0f 2019 Booker said in a statement, “You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boy.’ Vice President Biden’s 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.” Harris told reporters, “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.”
Biden has openly touted his friendships with segregationists in very similar terms for many years.
In Biden’s farewell address to the Senate, which he left in 2008 after 36 years there, he emphasized his “deep personal relationships” with segregationists. “I never thought I’d develop deep personal relationships with men whose position played an extremely large part in my desire to come to the Senate in the first place to change what they believed in — Eastland, Stennis, Thurmond,” said Biden. “All these men became my friends.”
In 1988, according to the Washington Examiner, Biden spoke to students at Clemson University, where he praised Sen. Strom Thurmond as one of his “closest friends,” according to video first published by the Washington Examiner.
Thurmond was a staunch segregationist who opposed the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. While running for governor of South Carolina in 1948, he promised supporters: “[A]ll the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.”
“If you had told me when I entered the United States Senate that one of the people that I’d have the closest relationship with in the Senate would be Strom Thurmond, I would have told you that you were crazy. And I suspect maybe Strom would have told you, you were crazy,” he said in the 1988 speech.
Although Thurmond never publicly renounced his comments on segregation, his friendship with Biden continued through the decades well into the 21st century with Biden in 200 giving a eulogy at Thurmond’s funeral.
Biden also befriended Sen. Jesse Helms, who filibustered a bill to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday and once proclaimed, “The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that’s thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men’s rights.”
Biden also befriended West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klan recruiter who filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but later renounced his racist past, to push forward an anti-busing amendment in the 1970s. He gave a eulogy at Byrd’s funeral as well in 2010, calling the late senator the “dean of the United States Senate” and “a dear friend.”
Early in his career, Biden developed a close friendship with Stennis, the Mississippi senator who was a leading opponent of school desegregation and rejected the Supreme Court’s order to integrate classrooms. In a 1988 letter, Biden told Stennis that he viewed him as a “hero” and was honored to move into his office after Stennis left the Senate, according to correspondence published by CNN.
In a 2016 speech in Pittsburgh, Biden discussed his fond memories of James Eastland, a staunch segregationist who once said: “Those who would mix little children of both races in our schools are following an illegal, immoral, and sinful doctrine.” Eastland said before his death that he did not regret anything in his political career and “voted my convictions.”
The Dixiecrat mentorship Biden received during his early years in the Senate appear to have left their mark as to this day he still makes comments like “if you don’t know if you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t Black”. The examples of bigoted statements and ideology that exudes from Biden, almost by mistake, could go on and on. However, there is a bigger point to make.
The left, in this election cycle, have shown us that they do not particularly want Biden reminding people that the Democrats were the party of segregation as recently as within Biden’s lifetime (and the lifetimes of many voters).
As detailed in Federalist, Democrats have worked hard to whitewash their racist history. When this history comes up, the left shifts to a lazy and untrue narrative about the “big switch” i.e. the GOP becoming filled with racists following the passage of the Civil Rights Acts as part the “Southern Strategy.” The story of the political realignment of the South is much more complex, but the left can succeed with it if they keep the narrative shallow.
Biden at best is a segregationist sympathizer who currently is leading the democrat party, in many ways, the perfect symbol, of what the “New Left” has become.
The new New Left has abandoned Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s frame that the American experiment is great and Black Americans want to fully participate in it (by having the Constitution equally and fairly enforced). Instead, the left is embracing an identity politics rooted in the idea that America is irredeemably bad and founded in white supremacy and must be destroyed.
The irony is, Biden, who coddled segregationists, has a record of befriending, supporting, and working with proven “white supremacists and yet is still running as the candidate who will solve the problems we face with race relations. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.