A comment from 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden bout the Republican Party on Tuesday generated intense criticism of the former vice president and had some observers wondering if Biden fully understands the present political moment.
The comment in question was first reported on in a tweet by Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur.
"In New Hampshire, Joe Biden predicts that once President Trump is out of office, Republicans will have 'an epiphany' and work with Democrats toward consensus," said Kapur.
In New Hampshire, Joe Biden predicts that once President Trump is out of office, Republicans will have “an epiphany” and work with Democrats toward consensus.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) May 14, 2019
The "epiphany" remark is not the only recent Biden comment about the GOP to stir controversy. Earlier in May, as Common Dreams reported, Biden referred to Trump as an "aberration" of the Republican Party rather than a symptom of its current state—a statement that also attracted widespread rebuke.
Tuesday was no different. A number of observers wondered where, exactly, Biden was for the eight years he served as former President Barack Obama's vice president and the decades before that he spent in Congress.
Author Keith Boykin, who is also a CNN commentator, wondered if Biden was aware of the GOP's behavior over just the last half-century.
"The party of Barry Goldwater, the southern strategy, the Willie Horton ad, Clarence Thomas, Fox News, Newt Gingrich, government shutdowns, the Clinton impeachment, Sarah Palin, voter suppression and Mitch McConnell, and that blocked Merrick Garland will have an epiphany?" Boykin tweeted.
Historian Kevin Kruse put Biden's comments in their proper perspective,
"This is remarkably naive on its own terms," said Kruse, "but given that Biden saw how poorly this approach played out during the Obama administration, it's even more so."
This is remarkably naive on its own terms, but given that Biden saw how poorly this approach played out during the Obama administration, it's even more so.https://t.co/vgRCVqaekQ— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) May 14, 2019
In an analysis for The Washington Post, Phillip Bump noted that Republicans support the president by an overwhelming margin, and pointed out that the divisions between the two parties didn't just begin in 2016.
"It's hard to reconcile Biden's stated optimism with what Democrats have seen on the ground in Washington in recent years," said Bump. "After all, it's not as though there was broad bipartisan comity before Trump's ascension in the party, something that Barack Obama's vice president should certainly know."
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Biden's role in the Obama administration came up for a number of observers.
"He's literally saying there will be a divine revelation and Republicans will come around," tweeted author Eric Rauchway. "Just like they did in 2009."
Leah Greenberg, the co-executive director at Indivisible, expressed disbelief that someone in Biden's position would ignore his own time in office—especially coming in the last decade.
"It honestly boggles my mind that anyone who saw how Republicans fought the Obama agenda tooth and nail could possibly think this," Greenberg said.
At Splinter, Paul Blest listed the some of the ways that the GOP fought Obama, and concluded that Biden is simply being childish.
"Joe Biden was there for all of this, having a better seat to it than perhaps anyone except for Obama himself," wrote Blest. "For him to think Republicans are just one big electoral defeat away from learning the error of their ways reflects a degree of naïveté you usually only see in babies, or maybe dogs."
Some commentators, however, saw the remarks as flatly disqualifying.
"Joe Biden is outrageously out of touch," activist and writer Shaun King said. "This is disconcerting."
Wow. When I saw this, I wondered if it was even real.— Shaun King (@shaunking) May 14, 2019
Joe Biden is outrageously out of touch. This is disconcerting.
I don't think another person running for President believes this. https://t.co/W5M58qbzXE
"This is more unrealistic than decarbonizing the US economy by 2030," said writer Kate Aronoff.
Journalist Ashley Feinberg, meanwhile, proposed a more troubling theory than Biden's possible naiveté.
"I don't think Joe Biden is actually this dumb," Feinberg said. "Seems more likely he just actively wants Republican policies."