“Mr. Vice President, there’s a saying in my community,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. “You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid, and you don’t even know the flavor.”
Booker’s barb, delivered to former Vice President Joe Biden at Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, was the top-tweeted moment that night.
Booker was responding to Biden’s accusation that, as mayor of Newark, Booker embraced a “zero-tolerance policy of stop-and-frisk” that harassed and discriminated against African Americans.
Booker’s Kool-Aid hit was a cultural/generational jab, designed to portray Biden as a white fuddy-duddy who is out of touch with black folks.
In this hot presidential race, black voters don’t care what flavor you are. They just want to beat President Donald J. Trump.
Black folks are always eager to back “one of us.”
We are also highly pragmatic. Drumming Trump out of office is Priority No. 1.
Biden has racked up big leads in polls of African American voters in the early months of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, even while competing against two prominent African American senators, Booker and Kamala Harris of California.
Biden is the top choice of 53% of black Democrats, according to a poll taken July 25-28. Harris was preferred by 7% of African Americans. Booker? Two percent.
Black voters are crucial to any Democrat’s bid for the White House. Booker and Harris are desperate to shake loose Biden’s support.
So they have been on the attack for weeks, singling out Biden for supporting policies deemed detrimental to African Americans, like the 1994 crime bill and curbs on school busing, among other transgressions.
“The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it,” said Booker, arguing that Biden crusaded for the tough-on-crime, lock-’em-up legislation that many African Americans deplore.
Yet Biden continues to hang tough in the polls.
Are black folks drinking the Kool-Aid?
Biden, of course, was the vice presidential choice of their beloved first black president, Barack Obama, as Biden assiduously reminds us. (Obama was name dropped 13 times during Wednesday’s debate, mostly by Biden, Politico reports.)
Black voters also hold more moderate political views than others in the Democratic base. They align more closely with the Biden than with others who hew left.
But the biggest thing Biden has going is the presumption that he is the best bet to beat Trump.
No one wants Trump out more than us.
This president presents an existential threat to the African American community and its culture. We have been disrespected, demeaned and demonized by Trump and his ilk, from the racist white nationalists to Trump’s cowardly congressional enablers.
My mother is my go-to barometer of political headwinds.
She watched last week’s debates — at least as much as she could stand.
“Too many, too many,” was her take on the 25 currently running for the Democratic nomination. “They kept talking over each other.”
She has no patience for little-known wannabes like John Delaney, the former congressman from Maryland, and “that guy from Montana.” That would be Gov. Steve Bullock.
Mom is eager to see the lineup shrink, and soon. For now, she likes Biden.
“Trump has got to go.”
There’s a long way to go. But if I were running for president, I would want to be best known for something other than Kool-Aid.
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