Joe Biden won the Democratic primary thanks to Black voters in various states who repeatedly turned to him over the other contenders for the nomination. He won the presidency thanks in part to the overwhelming support he received from Black voters. Then his party was handed control of the Senate thanks to the unprecedented registration and turnout of Black voters in Georgia.
Biden has paid back the faith the Black community put in him with one of the most diverse administrations in American history. He has put forward the most diverse slate of federal judicial nominees and has nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. And, unlike his predecessor, he’s done these and other things without giving aid and comfort to white supremacists. The Biden era has been a reminder of what a pluralistic, diverse government looks like.
For some of Biden’s Black supporters, that will be enough. In a world where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis can’t go a fortnight without coming up with some neo-Confederate policy to excite his white supremacist base, Biden’s commitment to racial inclusivity can’t be taken for granted. He’s a lot better than the former guy.
But when I filled in the bubble for Biden in November 2020, I was hoping for something more. I was hoping for actual policies, not merely appointments and platitudes. I wanted Biden to address the state-sponsored terrorism carried out by the police as well as the Republican attacks on voting rights. And I wasn’t alone. Many Black people spent an entire summer—during a pandemic—protesting in the streets, demanding reforms to policing. Meanwhile, Black activists and voting rights experts have been warning for years that Republican voter suppression policies will return us to a Jim Crow–style electoral system.
The Biden administration and congressional Democrats have done nothing to address these two critical policy concerns rising up from the Black communities who put them in power. The response to the attacks on voting rights—which are really attacks on democracy—has amounted to some speeches and bills that have passed the House, only to die in the Senate. The inability of the Democratic Party to protect its own electoral interests when it has the power to do so will be studied by future historians trying to puzzle out what went wrong in late-republic America.
Still, at least the subject of voting rights gets the occasional speech or news segment. The fight against police brutality has fallen out of fashion altogether. Democratic leaders have spent more time in the past year blaming those protesting police brutality than doing anything to stop the perpetrators of police brutality from killing again. It’s like having your house burn down while the firefighters stand there and say, “You seem preoccupied with having the fire extinguished, while most Americans only support fire prevention.”