Biden Diminishes Proud History of Democratic Presidential Racism

Calls Trump first 'racist' president in possible dementia-related gaffe

• July 23, 2020 2:00 pm


Joe Biden incorrectly described President Donald Trump as the first "racist" president in American history, a possibly dementia-related gaffe that unfairly diminishes Democrats' proud history of presidential racism.

"No sitting president has ever done this," Biden said during a virtual town hall on Wednesday. "Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We've had racists, and they've existed, they've tried to get elected president. He's the first one that has."

It is unclear whether Biden's gaffe was deliberate and malicious or simply a consequence of his extensive cognitive decline. Either way, the former vice president's statement erased the existence of several proud Democratic racists who occupied the White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson — A racist N-word aficionado who cynically exploited the civil rights movement for political gain. Johnson approved FBI wiretaps on "hysterical preacher" Martin Luther King Jr.

Franklin D. Roosevelt HuffPost described his 1942 executive order authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as "arguably the most racist executive order in American history." Roosevelt invited white athletes to the White House after the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but not four-time gold medalist Jesse Owens.

Woodrow Wilson — A virulent racist whose family supported slavery and the Confederacy. That's why Princeton University is removing his name from its school of public policy. Wilson resegregated the federal government and supported the "great Ku Klux Klan" and its efforts to terrorize and disenfranchise black voters in the South.

Andrew Johnson — The "most racist president of all time," according to HuffPost, and quite possibly the worst president of all time (not named Carter or Obama). Johnson pardoned high-ranking Confederate officials, refused to recognize wartime orders granting land to freed slaves, and opposed amendments to the Constitution granting blacks citizenship and the right to vote.

James K. Polk — A slaveholder for most of his adult life, Polk fought to expand slavery into the new southwestern territories acquired as a result of his racist war against Mexico.

Andrew Jackson — The founding father of Democratic Party racism, Jackson was really annoyed by people who wanted to abolish slavery. His efforts to enact and enforce the relocation of Native Americans via the Trail of Tears remain one of the Democratic Party's most notable presidential accomplishments.

If Biden wins in November, he will have an opportunity to continue this proud tradition of racism. In fact, the former VP made borderline racist remarks during the same town hall in which he said Trump was America's first racist president, suggesting that Americans "don't make a distinction … from a South Korean and someone from Beijing. They make no distinction, it's Asian."

Biden's history of racial gaffes—typically, misguided attempts at imitating ethnic accents—suggest that he is well-positioned to carry the Democratic Party's torch of racism into the future.