With the campaign behind him, Joe Biden is apparently taking a less solicitous tone with progressives, blaming the defund-the-police movement for hurting Democrats at the polls and warning that executive orders won’t be a panacea.
Republicans were able to paint Democrat candidates as favoring defunding of police departments, which is “how they beat the living hell out of us across the country,” Biden said in a teleconference with civil rights leaders, according to a report Thursday by the Intercept based on a leaked recording of the event. Republicans added at least eleven House seats in the November 3 election.
In audio obtained by The Intercept, Biden told civil rights leaders that the Republicans’ ability to define the Democratic Party as in favor of defunding the police is “how they beat the living hell out of us across the country.”Full story: https://t.co/ryYhjWzkMupic.twitter.com/jfRxDCvE29
— The Intercept (@theintercept) December 10, 2020
Biden’s two-hour meeting with Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders was held on Tuesday. Some participants urged the nominal president-elect to use executive orders to quickly implement his agenda, but Biden reportedly cautioned that he won’t stretch Constitutional limits of his authority to implement reforms that should first be passed by Congress.
“I am not going to violate the Constitution,” Biden said. “Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds.” He gave the example of banning assault weapons by executive order. “We do that, next guy comes along and says, well, guess what? By executive order, I guess everybody can have machine guns again. So we gotta be careful.”
Biden stated that he will use executive orders to undo “every single damn thing” that President Donald Trump has enacted by executive authority, but claimed won’t rely on that method when the authority is questionable under the Constitution.
He also appeared unwilling to budge after NAACP President Derrick Johnson warned that appointing Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture would anger black voters in Georgia, where crucial Senate runoff elections will be held in January. While holding the same post in the Obama administration, Vilsack fired Shirley Sherrod, whom Johnson called a hero for black voters. Biden said that Johnson would soon learn more about Vilsack’s record, suggesting that he will stick with plans to appoint the former Iowa governor.
Progressives have their own reasons to oppose Vilsack, whom they dubbed ‘Mr Monsanto’ during his tenure, alleging favoritism of big corporations and GMO crops.
Biden tapped the brakes on pressing for policing reforms before the January 5 runoffs in Georgia, which will determine which party will control the Senate for the next two years.
I just raise it with you to think about how much do we push between now and January 5 – we need those two seats – about police reform.
After defeating progressive rival Bernie Sanders in the Democrat primaries, Biden held together a fragile alliance with left-wing voters to help win the presidential election. Trump is now challenging Biden’s victory in court, alleging massive election fraud.
Biden’s comments in Tuesday’s meeting will likely frustrate progressives who reluctantly supported him to defeat Trump. Other party leaders, including former President Barack Obama, have spoken out about the defund-the-police movement contributing to the loss of House seats in the election. All four members of the Squad, a group of progressive House Democrats, criticized Obama for his comments.
“The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the polite-language policy game, and all it did was make them easier to ignore,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). “It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do anything, even if it wasn’t their full demands.”
The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the “polite language” policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore.It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn’t their full demands.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 2, 2020
Biden’s transition team didn’t question the authenticity of the leaked recording, saying he’s the same “honest, direct and realistic” person behind closed doors as he is in public.
“As he made clear throughout the campaign, he believes in supporting bold and urgent reform to our criminal justice system while continuing to support law enforcement’s mission to keep our communities safe,” their statement said.
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