Joe Biden continues to lead the pack of Democratic presidential contenders by just “being Joe.” The pack, showing a desperation that may not be entirely warranted, is trying to close the gap by “being left.”
Consider Cory Booker. He has the black male lane basically to himself. In addition, he resembles Barack Obama in important respects. However, polling shows him to be, at present, a third-tier candidate.
How has Booker responded? First, by being the most vociferous critic of Biden’s paean to collaborating with racist Senators. Fair enough.
But now, Booker says he will continue to meet with Louis Farrakhan, the raving anti-Semite. In recent months, Farrakhan has called Jews “satanic” and compared them to “termites.” In the past, he has claimed that Jews control the U.S. government, and he has called Hitler a great man.
None of this seems to faze Booker. He says he wants to hear what Farrakhan has to say, even though he is quite familiar with the bigot’s utterances, having “heard Minister Farrakhan’s speeches for a lot of my life.”
Booker’s approach stands in marked contrast to Obama’s. In 2008, Obama repudiated, albeit belatedly, Rev. Jeremiah Wright whose preaching mirrors much of Farrakhan’s.
But then, Obama was never a third-tier candidate. Booker may believe that there’s a Louis Farrakhan wing of the Democratic Party whose support he needs to stay viable in key Democratic primaries. Or maybe he thinks that mainstream Blacks will respect him for not repudiating Farrakhan. Either way, Booker’s approach to the bigoted minister smacks of desperation.
Next consider Elizabeth Warren. Unlike Booker, she’s not doing badly in the polls. At worst, Warren is in third place. There’s no need for her to feel desperate.
However, Warren is closer in the polls to Pete Buttigieg than she is to Biden. Buttigieg, though, seems to have stalled, and he may be in hot water over his response to a case in which the police in his town recently killed an African-American.
Warren, then, must feel tempted to pick off some of “Mayor Pete’s” gay supporters, if not now then if Buttigieg fades. This may be why she is demanding reparations for gays who wanted to marry, but couldn’t because gay marriage used to be illegal.
In fact, some contemporary gays and lesbians have suffered financial loss — e.g. the loss of tax breaks — by not being able to marry. This distinguishes them from contemporary Blacks, none of whom can prove that slavery cost them money (and many of whom are better off because of it in the sense that, absent this abhorrent institution, they would be living in Africa where the standard of living for Blacks is considerably worse than it is here). On the other hand, gays and lesbians benefited financially from not being able to adopt children, since raising kids is an expensive proposition.
More to the point politically, gays and lesbians are a prosperous demographic. The idea of transferring income to folks who, stereotyping would have it, may use the funds to add another wing to their beach house, isn’t likely to sit well with mainstream voters. It may sit even less well with Blacks, most of whom do not equate either their current plight or their historical circumstances to those of gays and lesbians.
I won’t hazard a guess as to how, on balance, gay reparations will play politically in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. I will say that if Warren emerges as the nominee, her position on reparations will be a minus in the general election.
So, of course, would Booker’s meetings with Farrakhan.