Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: June 2019

Biden’s Baggage

Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

I started writing Biden’s Baggage weeks ago. At the time, there seemed to be just a trickle of information about his record on issues that are pivotal in this election. Issues of endless wars, mass incarceration and criminal justice reform, race and gender equality are all in play in the 2020 Presidential election. Suddenly, what was a trickle of bad news for Biden became an avalanche.

At the first televised Democratic debate, Biden did little to stem the tide of bad press. He seemed to fumble his answers on his 2002 Iraq war vote. He could not defend his opposition to integration and cozy relationships with segregationists. Three issues not even addressed in the debate are Biden’s leadership in creating mass incarceration, his inconsistent support for a woman’s right to choose and his dastardly treatment of Professor Anita Hill.

Why Are We Here?

This is Joe Biden’s third run for President. He first ran in 1988 and dropped out in disgrace after being accused of multiples instances of plagarism. Biden ran again in 2008 and dropped out after the Iowa Caucus. He won less than 1% of the delegates there. According to the Washington Post, it was a year in which voters said they were seeking change and Biden “struck Iowans as a little too familiar, fixtures of a Washington establishment that had grown stale from years of gridlock and partisan infighting.”

Joe Biden’s current cache stems solely from his role as Vice President to Barack Hussein Obama. But let’s be clear: Obama’s candidacy was so extraordinary and inspiring, we could care less who he picked as his Vice President. President Obama had a blank check. He could have written in Bozo the Clown and we would have said okay. Certainly Biden did not disappoint as the Vice President. But make no mistake about it: Barack and Michelle Obama excelled as the first couple and they didn’t need Joe Biden to do it.

Too Much to Overcome?

To be fair, Joe Biden is known as an ardent advocate for middle class America and the rights of workers. Since 2015, he has supported the ideas of free college and $15 hour/minimum wage. He introduced the first-ever climate bill in 1986 and understands that climate change is an existential threat to our future.

Still, while Joe Biden wants to talk about his achievements as Vice President, he has all this baggage. Indeed, the rest of us are looking at his record in the U.S. Senate. Biden voted for the Iraq war in 2002. Some consider that vote his “blackest mark” in his foreign policy past, and an “Achilles’ heel” of his candidacy. Based on blatant lies about “weapons of mass destruction,” the war cost us more than a trillion dollars and plunged Iraq into a devastating civil war. Biden apparently knew it was a lie but went with it anyway.

The Author of Mass Incarceration

Joe Biden has a long record of leadership creating the mass incarceration that continues to decimate Black and Brown communities. Over a 10-year period, Biden wrote multiple “measures to increase incarceration and prisons. He advocated for tougher prison sentences for drug offenses, particularly crack cocaine, despite its inherent racist impact.

In 1984, Biden worked with racist segregationist hero Sen. Strom Thurmond to expand federal drug trafficking penalties and civil asset forfeiture. Biden wrote and sponsored the 1986 crime bill that created sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. In 1989, he delivered a drug policy address that called for more police, more prosecutors and longer sentences. Biden helped write the 1994 federal crime bill that increased sentences and funding for state prisons. He sometimes refers to it as “the Biden Crime Law.

The Enabler of Clarence Thomas

Biden claims that he “did everything in my power to defeat Clarence Thomas.” The actual history is very different. It has long been known that Biden cut a deal with Republican Sen. John Danforth, Thomas’ main sponsor, to end the 1991 confirmation hearings quickly. Biden told a group of women legislators that he had promised Danforth “in the men’s gym that this would be a very quick hearing.”

Former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) and six other female Democrats asked Biden to conduct a complete investigation and delay Thomas’ confirmation. Instead, Biden kept his word to Danforth. Biden refused to allow three other women who would have corroborated Anita Hill‘s testimony to testify. Schroeder says “[T]o have railroaded that through and not listen to the other three women and let his colleagues absolutely tear [Anita Hill] apart was absolutely horrible.” Anita Hill believes that the #METOO movement might have begun in 1991 if Joe Biden had done his job. Anita has “made it clear that Biden is not her candidate for President.”

Pro-Choice or Not?

In this time, a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body is being taken away. Joe Biden is seen by many as “the unreliable pro-choice advocate.” Here’s why:

1970s-80: Biden voted for the Hyde Amendment which bars federal funding of abortions

1977: Biden supported the toughest anti-abortion measure ever – an amendment to deny abortions in cases of incest and rape

1981: He proposed the Biden Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act which continues to bar U.S. aid from being used for biomedical research related to abortions

1982: He voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade

1983: Biden voted five times to bar the Federal Employees Health Benefits program from funding abortions for federal employees

1988: He voted against adding a rape and incest exception to the Hyde Amendment

As late as 2003, Joe Biden’s score on support for abortion rights by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America was only 36%. It improved to 100% in more recent years, starting in 2006. The question is whether we can count on him to fight the battle for a woman’s right to choose or will he revert back to “states’ rights?”

A Supporter of “States Rights”

In fact, on Thursday, June 27, 2019, Joe Biden reverted to “states’ rights.” When challenged by Sen. Kamala Harris about his opposition to busing to integrate schools, Joe went back to his roots: “states’ rights.” The unmasking of Biden’s baggage on the issue of race is now complete.

Biden led the fight against school busing for at least a decade. He sponsored numerous measures to stop busing, working with notorious racist segregationists. In 1975, after Sen. Jesse Helms‘ amendment failed, Biden crafted his own bill to bar federal funds to help school districts integrate.

Sen. Edward Brooke (R. Mass.) (Credit: Getty Images)

Sen. Edward Brooke, the first Black man elected to the U.S. Senate after Reconstruction, called Biden’s bill “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.”

Joe Biden’s baggage is real and should weigh heavily in any consideration of his candidacy for President. We owe those who fought on the right side of history to make the country a better place at least that much. #BlackWomenLead

The 2019 CDP Chair Race Ends

The 2019 CDP Chair race ended last Saturday. The CDP did not elect Kimberly Ellis to be the first Black woman to lead the party. The CDP delegates voted overwhelmingly to elect Rusty Hicks. What are we to make of this conclusion?

California or Calabama?

Among Black folks, California has earned the nickname “Calabama.” It means that far too often, Black people in California face the same deep racism they face in the South, in places like Alabama. As I watched the racial divide exposed in San Francisco last weekend, I was reminded of the struggle that Fannie Lou Hamer fought against the Democratic Party in 1964.

In 1964, Hamer helped co-found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The regional Democratic party was racist and all-white. Hamer traveled with her delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to stand as the official delegation from the state of Mississippi. Her plea to be recognized by the DNC went viral within a few days. It fell on deaf ears.

The DNC did not officially recognize the MFDP until the 1968 Convention.

At the CDP convention in San Francisco, I attended the Black Women’s Meet-up from 5-7. I don’t recall seeing any white women there. Later, from 10-12, I attended the New Girls Network reception. I counted less than 2 handfuls of Black women. I was greatly disturbed by how comfortable most of the white women appeared to be with the obvious absence of Black women. I’m not even sure that KE was invited to speak there.

Clearly, if every woman delegate had voted for KE, she would have easily won. But clearly, that did not happen. Full consideration of the culture of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination inside the CDP took a back seat to another agenda. That agenda was to preserve the privilege of white men in charge of the party. And it clearly appears that too many white women were ok with that. Much as they voted overwhelmingly for Roy Moore in Alabama despite the evidence that he molested teenage girls. What should have been a referendum on the white male patriarchy in charge of the CDP was weaponized against the Black male Chair candidate and otherwise ignored.

Who is Rusty Hicks?

Rusty Hicks seems like a nice fellow. But as I noted before the election, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime LA labor leader who worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. When Eric resigned in disgrace, it seems that his LA supporters came up with a replacement.

So now, Rusty Hicks is the face of the CDP. In his endorsement of KE, Jon Katz, the President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, said “After extensive conversations with Mr. Hicks, I worry that his vision of the party would serve the protection of our elected officials above the need to push those elected officials to take bold stances and enact legislation that the grassroots of the party put them there to do.” 

So How Did Rusty Win?

How Rusty won an election that seemed like it was KE’s to lose will be debated for at least the next two years. We know that the elected officials went all out in January to reclaim the ADEM seats. Some believe the defeat of progressive ADEM slates by hand-chosen surrogates for the electeds in January cost KE the election.

For the first time in recent memory, the CDP Labor Caucus endorsed a candidate for Chair – Rusty. The motion to endorse created a huge uproar in the Caucus. The Labor Caucus, like many other Rusty supporters, was blind to the implications of its conduct. In rushing to push Rusty into the chair seat, labor crushed the hopes of any woman who believes after 128 years, it is long past time to have a Black woman chairperson. Labor failed to consider that a woman is far better equipped to redeem the party’s reputation from the sexually predatory conduct of Eric Bauman than an Eric Bauman surrogate.

As CDP Chair, Rusty will have to reassure Black people that Black women do matter to the CDP and change the culture of sexual abuse allegedly tolerated by the Party leadership. We will tolerate no less than that. The real question is whether labor or the electeds will support him in that quest as vociferously as they supported him in the Chair race. How they answer that question may well determine whether Democrats defeat Trump in 2020.

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