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The problem with Joe Biden's 'chummy' politics

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This week, Joe Biden attracted controversy after waxing nostalgic about working alongside segregationists in the Senate. After Cory Booker suggested Biden should apologize, Biden replied, “Apologize for what?” and insisted there wasn’t a “racist bone in his body.” Biden made it clear that he has no regrets.

It wasn’t the first time Biden has offered fond memories of Dixiecrat colleagues. He has consistently cited the era of racists like Strom Thurmond and James Eastland as a time of greater “unity” and “civility” that we could learn lessons from. Back then, he has said, “the political system worked.” Biden gave a warm and effusive eulogy for Thurmond at his 2003 funeral, saying it he had been “honored” to work with a man who once declared that the “nigger race” would never be admitted to Southern institutions.

Thurmond himself said that he had no regrets about his racist history, but Biden called him a “special man” of “grace” and “humility.” Biden infamously worked with James Eastland on anti-busing legislation. Eastland was even worse than Thurmond. He degraded black soldiers who fought Hitler as physically and morally incompetent and said that “racial separation was the correct, self-evident truth” and the “law of God”.

It might be surprising to hear Biden talk this way about figures who spent their lives trying to deny black citizens their basic rights. But from the time of his arrival in the Senate in 1973, Biden has held a romanticized view of Washington politics, one in which clashes of political interests are mere “friendly disagreements” between people who are all fundamentally good. This view has allowed Biden to treat white supremacists as his friends. He has expressed nostalgia for the time when the Senate consisted almost entirely of white men who resolved their problems civilly over a meal.

In an excellent summary of Biden’s career in Harper’s, Andrew Cockburn calls Biden the “high priest of the doctrine that our legislative problems derive merely from superficial disagreements, rather than fundamental differences over matters of principle”, the sort who believes “political divisions can be settled by men endowed with statesmanlike vision and goodwill”. Biden constantly talks about the need to “end the divisive........

© The Guardian