WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – Suspected Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged to tackle institutional racism during his first 100 days in office, while attempting to raise his voice Monday in the exploding national debate on racism and police brutality.
The former vice president offered emotional support and promised bold action during a face-to-face meeting with black leaders in Delaware and a subsequent virtual meeting with mayors of major cities struggling with racial tensions and frustrated by a lack of federal support.
“Hate just hides. It’s not going to go away, and if you have someone in power who breathes oxygen in the hate under the rocks, it will come from under the rocks, ‘Biden told more than a dozen African American leaders gathered at a church in the center of Wilmington, his face mask dropped to his chin as he spoke.
Without offering any details, he promised to “deal with institutional racism” and establish a police supervisory body in his first 100 days in office, if elected. Biden also said he would release an economic plan later this month that focuses on education, housing and “access to capital” and investment, especially for minority Americans.
“I really believe the blinders have been removed. I think this tidal wave is on the move, ”Biden told the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and St. Paul, Minnesota. “I realize we have to do something big, we can do it and everyone will benefit from it.”
In recent weeks, Biden has struggled to be heard from his makeshift TV studio at home about the sound of dueling national crises. But after another night of violent protests, he ventured into public for the second time in two days and only for the third time since the pandemic arrived in mid-March.
His hopeful and collaborative approach was in stark contrast to that of President Donald Trump, who made little effort to unify the country. The Republican president dismissed governors as “weak” on Monday during a video conference and demanded tougher crackdown on protesters. Trump also lashed out at Biden on Twitter, writing that “Sleepy Joe Biden’s people are so far left that they are working to get the anarchists out of jail, and probably more.”
Biden’s softer style may foreshadow how he presents himself in the five months before the presidential election, emphasizing calmness and competence as a contrast to a mercurial president. It’s an approach that risks risking being drowned out by Trump’s much louder voice.
“He’s not in office, and he certainly doesn’t have the megaphone like the person who currently occupies the White House, but I do think our people are looking for someone who can make them feel better in these extremely difficult times,” rep. Val Demings from Florida, who considers Biden as a running buddy. “America just needs to make sure that there is someone who understands, someone who is willing to say,” Yes, we have some problems “and someone who is willing to tackle this.”
Biden delivered a well-received speech Friday calling for white people to take responsibility for ending America’s systemic racism. But he was largely out of sight during the weekend, marking the fifth anniversary of his son Beau Biden’s death from brain cancer.
Biden and his wife, Jill, marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans memorial near his Wilmington home last week, and the former vice president’s campaign posted photos of him protesting a city site on Sunday afternoon visited. He previously wrote a post on Medium expressing empathy for people desperate for the murder of George Floyd’s police.
In the early moments of Monday’s meeting at the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Biden listened softly and took notes. All attendees, including Biden, wore face masks but lowered them while speaking.
“The vice president came to hear from us. This is a homeboy, ”said Pastor Sylvester Beaman before everyone bowed their heads in prayer.
Biden’s position with the black community weighs heavily as he works to deny Trump a second term. African Americans have saved Biden’s flaccid primary campaign, but it’s unclear if they’ll be ahead of him in large numbers in November.
“I want to make something clear. I don’t expect anything from the black community, “said Biden on Monday, who insists he has never taken his support for granted. The former vice president has cleaned up since telling a prominent black radio host a week and a half ago that African Americans who support Trump” is not black. “
But the mayors who spoke to Biden, three of whom are black, were clearly frustrated and angry with Trump, who provided military support to tackle violent protests, while refusing them federal support to deal with the effects of the corona virus and repeatedly attacking them on social media.
“To see that the President of the United States says he will send the military to our communities, but did not say he would send only one cent of aid to our communities, he speaks to where we are in America,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta. .
Much of Biden’s campaign strategy is aimed at creating a contrast with Trump over temperament and values. He called the White House match a battle for the soul of the nation and was particularly powerful in condemning Trump’s way of dealing with moments of racial tension.
In an election likely to be a referendum on the incumbent president, some of Biden’s assistants say privately that it may be the best plan to let Trump act himself.
Yet there is also an acknowledgment that Biden should do more than just wait for voters who may have been turned off by Trump to turn to him. Some of the Democrats who have criticized Biden for not being more visible during the onset of the coronavirus said he is taking the right steps now.
“I’m sure they have some reluctance to politicize it right now. That’s not who he is,” said Democratic strategist James Carville. “There may be a time for eloquence, but I think simplicity is eloquence right now. is. ”
Jaffe reported from Washington; Peoples came from Montclair, New Jersey.
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