Joe Biden has a radical plan for addressing the systemic racism that has defined American life for the past 400 years since slavery:
“Make sure you have a record player on at night.”
Stirring stuff, especially to say in front of a crowd of black students at Texas Southern University gathered for the third Democratic presidential debate. Biden had just been confronted with an old choice quote of his, in which he said, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather … I’ll be damned if I feel responsible.”
Biden seemed to be gesturing toward … improving the home lives of black children? With outdated audio equipment? He started off his answer by referencing the institutional segregation in this country, but then somehow ended up saying that social workers should be brought in to help parents “deal with how to raise their children.” That’s when he got into the idea that they should “play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night. Make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school, or a very poor background, will hear four fewer words spoken by the time they get there.” Yes, that is what he actually said.
As Julián Castro, who spoke after this set of, um, ideas, put it, “Well, that’s quite a lot.” And throughout the night, Biden was indeed a lot. He was at some points smug, facing Bernie Sanders to say, while smiling, “This is America,” when Bernie Sanders described how he had witnessed single-payer health care working in Canada for half of what Americans’ health care costs.
At other times, he was flat-out inaccurate. “We didn’t lock people up in cages, we didn’t separate families,” he said of the Obama administration, in response to a question about immigration, despite the fact that they expanded family detention. Later, he was interrupted by protesters, who chanted the numbers of people deported while he served as vice-president: 3 million.
And, like a broken record player, he fumbled through convincing viewers that he even wants to be up there, at one moment accidentally referring to Bernie Sanders as the president. His only saving grace was that no one asked him to read the address of his own website.
And still, somehow, this man is considered to be the “best” candidate to beat Donald Trump.