Look, I remember back in like 2007 or 2008 when Joe Biden described his future boss, Barack Obama, as an articulate black man and everyone collectively face-palmed. It's pretty much accepted by most everyone who's even slightly familiar with Uncle Joe that the man has the incredible ability to gaffe like no one else in American politics -- yet walk away relatively unscathed. That's why I anticipate his most recent "gaffe" of calling Vice President Mike Pence "a decent guy" to be forgotten by this time next week, and Joe to keep on being Joe.
Of course because of the way that modern media works, everyone glommed onto the "decent guy" comment and ran with it. Look, everyone to the left of Jerry Fallwell, Jr. agrees that Mike Pence is a huge screaming homophobe, an apocalyptic fundamentalist, and generally just gives off a creeper vibe. Seriously, never trust anyone who calls their wife "Mother," they make those suburban psychopaths in horror films do that for a reason.
So when Biden said what he said, we're gonna get a little on the riled side. Look, the modern world of social media and the effort to provide steel beam melting hot takes is going to create a market for instant reactions, mobs, and outrage. This is the beast we live with. But at the same time, when oppressed groups hear someone giving mild praise to an oppressor, that will be seen as an endorsement. Just look at what's happening with Rep. Ilhan Omar and what some are calling anti-Semitic comments (that's as far as I'm going with that. Nope. Not deep diving that. Fine. I'll just say this issue is "nuanced"). Oppressed groups are going to naturally react to this stuff and honestly who can blame them? They tend to be the experts on when people are being crappy because they have experience in the matter.
So, of course people jumped all over Biden, and deservedly so. People immediately pegged the "decent guy" comment to Pence's history of anti-LGBTQ positions and beliefs. The media asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren if Pence was a decent guy and her response was an unequivocal "no" and a condemnation of his LGBTQ history. I love Warren for that. Former New York gubernatorial candidate and bi activist/actress Cynthia Nixon tweeted at Biden about it saying, "you've just called America's most anti-LGBT elected leader 'a decent guy.' Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community." And Cynthia was right to demand answers of the man who, while he hasn't declared he's running, is leading in many polls.
But, here's where it gets complicated. Joe Biden quickly replied to Nixon saying "You're right, Cynthia...I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn't be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President." Oops, wait, let's go back. You see Joe Biden was talking about when Pence went to an international summit in Germany and made some remarks that got not only a few mocking replies, but also dead silence. Biden's comment of "decent guy" was meant to describe him as far less bellicose and disparaging of America's longterm allies that Trump has not only alienated but offended.
And that is why Joe Biden shouldn't run for president.
Biden, God bless his decent heart, is a pretty okay guy. Yes, his performance during the Anita Hill hearings was awful, but so was the rest of the entire country's during that period. That's not a defense at all, just a perspective, and if he ran, he would totally have to answer for that because he was one of the people who led the attack on her. Yet, on a lot of issues, Biden is pretty mainstream and even relatively progressive on a few. I saw an article recently that dug up an old comment from him in 1974, where he self-described as progressive on civil rights, but pretty conservative on everything else. Now mind you even the Republican conservatives of 1974 weren't the same as today; back then President Nixon created the EPA and toyed with universal healthcare. Yet, that's the thing, Biden just isn't the guy for 2020.
Biden is a late 20th-century Democrat. He held mainstream views for his time in Congress yet has progressed on a lot, but he's a relic of that political culture. Back in the '70s and '80s, while Democrats and Republicans held some very different views, they at least were amicable and wanted to do this crazy thing called "bipartisanship" because they both wanted a functioning country. So in his world, Pence is a decent guy because even with his extremely anti-LGBTQ beliefs and religious fundamentalism the guy probably is polite and sociable at parties and weddings. That's an understandable attitude for politics in 1989 -- not 2019. Those days are gone, and describing someone like Pence as "decent" in our current political climate is just out of touch.
Say what you will about Bernie, Kamala, Cory, Amy, and Pete, they at least know how to read the room. Biden with his history of gaffes has managed to keep on trucking because he really is likeable, able to learn and get better, and has some positions that would appeal to most voters, but our current politics is just plain unforgiving for screw-ups and isn't one to forget. Also, many folks see this this election as one that will determine the fate of not just our country but our entire planet and trying to make nice with the folks they see as destroying it just won't fly. Honestly, him running will make things as toxic as they were in 2016.
But if he does run and gets the nomination you would be dumb not to vote for him.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City, and a regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.