clock menu more-arrow no yes

Joe Biden: “We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation”

Biden: “We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists.”

Milken Institute Global Conference 2017 Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Joe Biden has said he first entered politics after watching race riots tear apart his city of Wilmington, Delaware, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in the late 1960s.

“I wasn’t at the bridge at Selma,” Biden told the New York Times in 2008, “but the struggle for civil rights was the animating political element of my life.”

Now it looks like the former vice president may again jump into the political fray while citing the need to beat back racist whites incensed by minority groups’ advances.

Writing in the Atlantic on Sunday, Biden — who has already created a political action committee amid rumors of a 2020 presidential bid — said America had to reject the white supremacists he said had been encouraged by President Donald Trump.

Just as the progress of the civil rights movement sparked a white backlash that culminated in King’s murder, Biden suggests, so too had Barack Obama’s presidency sparked a backlash that led to the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After connecting the two explicitly, Biden, 74, writes:

The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight? ...

Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.

We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.

This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as “the other”—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.

Biden’s skeptics on the left have long doubted him as an advocate for racial equality, pointing to his legislative history as a “tough on crime” hardliner who advanced laws that boosted mass incarceration.

That history, unsurprisingly, doesn’t surface in Biden’s latest op-ed. To Biden, American politics is now defined as a struggle over America’s racial legacy — and Trump is on the wrong side.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden wrote. “... This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America.”