In the post immediately below, “Run, Joe, Run! Or: Where Have All The Democrats Gone?,” I offered some highly unsolicited advice to former Vice President Joe Biden, who apparently is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 by running at least slightly to the right of the herd of progressives stumbling over each other in their lurch to the left . My advice: Channel Hubert Humphrey! … and other liberal Democrats who, like Humphrey, throughout their distinguished careers had supported colorblind racial equality and opposed preferential treatment based on race.
“Perhaps alone among today’s prominent Democrats,” I noted,
Mr. Biden could make such an appeal without having to change his entire tune. A few weeks after President Trump was elected, for example, Mr. Biden distanced himself from the “deplorables” mantra emanating from The Resistance by telling a Los Angeles Times interviewer that Trump voters are “all the people I grew up with. They’re their kids. And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist. But we didn’t talk to them.”
Recalling Hubert Humphrey provides a revealing reminder that the Democrats have not been talking to those voters for a long time, even before they abandoned the “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s.
On December 11, 1972, about a month after Richard Nixon’s crushing defeat of George McGovern, Humphrey made an impressive speech on civil rights, “The Unfinished Agenda,” at the LBJ Library. “The Civil Rights Movement,” he argued, “got into trouble when more and more people were propagandized into believing that it was only an effort to give blacks a special break that was not afforded to any other group in American society.”
Whether people were “propagandized” into believing something that was not true or recognized something that was can be debated, but Humphrey’s analysis of the Democrats’ problem now sounds all too familiar. In a similar fashion, he stated,”the Democratic Party got into trouble when its internal reforms came to be perceived, even though falsely, as establishing specific quotas that favored young people, women, and blacks over the more traditional elements of the party, particularly ethnic Americans, blue-collar workers, the elderly, and elected Democratic officials.” They were the parents and grandparents and probably great grandparents of many 2016 Trump voters.
Again, whether the perception of quotas was false can be debated. Rule 6(A)(3) of the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2016 Democratic Convention, for example, states: “In the selection of each state’s at-large delegation, priority of consideration shall be given to African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and women, if such priority of consideration is needed to fulfill the affirmative action goals outlined in the state’s Delegate Selection Plan.” And those “goals” can be quite specific. As the Washington Times noted in a 2000 article, “Quotas Spoil The Party,”
in 1984 the national party asked each of its state affiliates to set “goals” for racial and ethnic representation among their delegates. The targets mirror each state’s racial and ethnic composition. For example, Washington state’s Democratic Party “goals” call for 7 percent of the state’s delegates to be Asian-American, 6.1 percent Hispanic, 2.9 percent black and 1.9 percent Native American. Many state parties have supplemented the nationally mandated racial and ethnic “goals” with quotas for other minority groups. California, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island are among the states with designated slots for gays and lesbians and Michigan sets aside spots for Arab-Americans.
Even if these “goals” are not “specific quotas,” however, Humphrey’s — and Biden’s, more than 40 years later — talking point (actually, the point about not talking to the pre-deplorables and their descendants) still stands.