Friday, June 05, 2020


I'm a couple of news cycles behind -- does anyone still care about this?
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told a group of black supporters on Thursday night that most Americans were good people who think the nation can be improved, while also declaring that “there are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people.” ...

“The words a president says matter, so when a president stands up and divides people all the time, you’re going to get the worst of us to come out,” Mr. Biden said during the discussion, which was moderated by the actor Don Cheadle.

“Do we really think this is as good as we can be as a nation? I don’t think the vast majority of people think that,” the former vice president said. “There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people, but that’s not who we are. The vast majority of the people are decent, and we have to appeal to that and we have to unite people — bring them together. Bring them together.”

Mr. Biden’s comments harked back to controversial statements by past presidential nominees who generalized in negative terms about portions of the population. In 2012, Mitt Romney, whose taped comments at a private fund-raising event were later leaked, said “47 percent” of voters would never support him because they were “dependent on the government.” And in 2016, Hillary Clinton said half of Mr. Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.”
The campaigns of Romney and Clinton were damaged by those remarks. Here's why Biden won't suffer any damage because of this remark.

Clinton said that "you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," but no one remembers the "half" part, because "basket of deplorables" was an oddly memorable phrase. Most Trump supporters, I'm sure, don't remember (or never even knew) that Clinton said half of Trump supporters weren't deplorables. But even if they noticed, she was implying that if you like Trump and your friend likes Trump, one of you is likely to be a terrible person. It's no wonder that his fans all felt insulted, and it's no wonder that "deplorables" instantly became a name those supporters wore as a badge of honor.

Romney's gaffe was worse, because he was saying that 47% of the entire country is parasitically dependent on the other 53%. Even the most innumerate Americans know that he was slandering nearly half the population. And since we know that Republicans and Democrats have roughly equal support in America, and that Romney was unlikely to be including any Republicans in his estimate of America's parasite population, everyone understood that he was accusing all (or nearly all) Democrats of leeching off Republicans.

Biden's remark was trending on Twitter this morning as "10-15% of Americans." That's fine. It won't hurt him at all, no matter how hard Republicans try to hurt him with it.

Why? Because even innumerate people know that 10 to 15 percent is a small sliver of the population. If you're inclined to do the basic math, it's less than half the opposition -- and Biden didn't even say that the not-decent people are all Republicans or all Trump supporters. He just made the simple assertion that a small percentage of people in America aren't good -- and who can argue with that (apart from those of us who think the estimate is low)?

Years ago, I used to argue online with conservatives who insisted that liberals believe all people are inherently good. They considered this a fatal flaw in liberalism. Conservatives are realists! They know that people need religion, traditionalist education, and law-and-order regimes to prevent their inherently depraved nature from prevailing.

Biden thinks most people are good -- but not all. He know evil exists. (So do all liberals, by the way.) Conservatives should be giving him credit for that.

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