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Bob Ehrlich: Biden's 'You Ain't Black' Comment Wasn't a Mistake - It's What He Believes

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Joe Biden’s faux pas on race (“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black”) dominated cable news in recent days.

Republicans were more than happy to throw a truly ludicrous and pompously belittling statement back into the presumptive nominee’s face, while Democrats quickly circled the wagons and tried to change the subject.

Biden himself sought to stop the bleeding by declaring, “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.” His enablers in the media and leading Democrats sought to characterize the incident as “a mistake.”

But underlying the entire episode is an uncomfortable fact of public life: The former vice president was simply repeating what he and so many folks on the left believe. To wit: Any person of color who votes for Mr. Trump (or any Republican for that matter) is a traitor to his race, not a real African-American.

For those of you inclined to see this as a one-off, forget it. Recall Mr. Biden’s 2008 performance when he assured an African-American audience in Virginia that Mitt Romney’s financial plans would “put y’all back in chains.” The line was accompanied by the now customary “Southern black pastor drawl” — a clumsy and demeaning identification tactic borrowed from the master of the art, Hillary Clinton.

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Perhaps the single worst example in this fear-inducing race-based genre was the infamous 2002 commercial in which Renee Mullins, the daughter of James Byrd (the black man dragged to his death while chained to a pickup truck), says George W. Bush’s opposition to a hate crime bill is akin to killing her father “all over again.”

So Amtrak Joe is not alone in playing the race card front and center.

Indeed, my African American ticket-mate in the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial race, Michael Steele, had to confront charges of “Uncle Tom” and “token” from elected Democrats.

One African-American member of the legislature went so far as to assure black voters that “party trumps race.” Such is the price for acting outside of the left’s racist and racial caricature — a fact of life well known to other prominent black conservatives including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.

Do you think the Democratic Party's obsession with identity politics has led it into outright racism?

Still, stereotyping is not confined to race.

Similar ire is directed at members of other minority groups who have had the audacity to act (and vote) outside of their “assigned” party. Geez, one of my Democratic opponents once wondered aloud how any Jewish Marylander could vote for little ole me. This despite a strong pro-Israel record in Congress and representation of prominent Jewish communities while a member of the state legislature.

Another Maryland memory: a liberal state senator assuring me that the GOP candidate for governor (my friend and mutual political supporter, Ellen Sauerbrey) was not a “real” woman. Ms. Sauerbrey was, after all, pro-life.

It is an unfortunate part of today’s politics that none of this shocks the conscience of the left.

Conservative members of minority groups who fail to fit the progressive definition of what a Republican must be (presumably white, male, Protestant, straight) are regularly and viciously ostracized by the practitioners of identity politics.

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Yes, even in the year 2020, it is seemingly impossible for some folks to accept the reality of black Republicans, Hispanic Republicans, Jewish Republicans, Muslim Republicans, pro-choice Republicans and gay Republicans — especially when the object of the GOP support is none other than Donald J. Trump.

These so-called outliers remain too inconvenient, too unsettling. It is as if the purveyors of such nonsense have stayed in their basements for too long, in the process conjuring up requirements of how a “real” minority must vote.

There remains an uncomfortable bottom line to this latest outburst from Joe Biden. Do not be swayed by the mea culpas, crocodile-teared apologies or attempts to minimize the afront or change the subject. Those who live and breathe identity politics are imprisoned by it; it limits their ability to think outside the box and encourages embarrassingly deep dives into condescension.

Maybe, just maybe, another Trump win — with a measurable uptick in minority support — will finally put a dagger into such thought. One can only hope.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former United States congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.




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