I recently gave some highly unsolicited advice to Joe Biden (here and here) as he presumably contemplates another run for the White House — namely, that if wants to distinguish himself from the progressive pack he should channel Hubert Humphrey in full-throated support for treating people without regard to race, creed, or color.
Today on National Review Online Jim Geraghty, in discussing “Twenty Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Joe Biden,” offers the following as part of Number 2: that in 1975 he supported an amendment from Senator Jesse Helms
that would bar the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from collecting any data about the race of students or teachers. In addition, HEW could not “require any school . . . to classify teachers or students by race.” Helms said explicitly, “This is an anti-busing amendment.” Biden surprised many supporters by declaring, “I have become convinced that busing is a bankrupt concept” and later calling it “an asinine policy.”
Biden then introduced his own amendment, which declared that school systems could not use federal funds “to assign teachers or students to schools . . . for reasons of race,” which passed. Ed Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican and the first black senator ever to be popularly elected, called the vote on Biden’s amendment “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.”
Here’s my additional advice to Biden: in addition to channeling your younger (and, it would appear, wiser self) and Hubert Humphrey, you should also channel … Thurgood Marshall, who argued as an NAACP attorney in Brown v. Board of Education the following, quoted (along with many similar quotes from Marshall and his colleagues) here:
- … racial distinctions in an of themselves are invidious;
- The only thing that we ask for is that the state-imposed racial segregation be taken off, and to leave the county school board, the county people, the district people, to work out their own solution of the problem to assign children on any reasonable basis they want to assign them on.
- JUSTICE FRANKFURTER: You mean, if we reverse, it will not entitle every mother to have her child go to a nonsegregated school in Clarendon County?
- MR. MARSHALL: No, sir.
- But my emphasis is that all we are asking for is to take off this state-imposed segregation. It is the state-imposed part of it that affects the individual children.
- … the state is deprived of any power to make any racial classification in any governmental field. (emphasis added)
- … the Fourteenth Amendment took away from the states the power to use race.
- Ever since the Emancipation Proclamation, the Negro has been trying to get what was recognized in Strauder v. West Virginia [100 U.S. 303 (1880)], which is the same status as anybody else regardless of race. (emphasis added)
The problem, of course, is not simply that the current Biden supports what the early Biden opposed — classifying and assigning and preferring based on race. It is that virtually all elected Democrats no longer agree with what Democrats argued for generations, the positions argued for so long and so well by Humphrey and Marshall, so it is likely that Biden will continue not following my advice.