“They want to put y’all back in chains!” — Vice President Joe Biden
He intoned a dialect to imitate a speech pattern common to African-Americans, nullifying the notion that his intent was anything but racial fear mongering.
Biden’s reference brought a new low to political discourse in the United States, embarrassment to the office he holds, and should leave any open-minded voter to conclude he is unworthy to hold a nationally elected position, especially given his history of regular gaffes.
Biden’s apologists claim his remark was simply a figure of speech, following a previous complaint that Romney wants to “unchain” Wall Street banks as part of a plan to spur economic activity.
But if that was Biden’s intent, he wouldn’t have introduced a racial element to his comment.
We’ve seen this type of code switching from other speakers.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did it during speeches in Selma, Ala., during the presidential campaign of 2007.
In Detroit, former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick — generally an eloquent speaker — did it on behalf of her son, Kwame, during a mayoral re-election appearance when she shrieked, “Don’t let nobody talk ’bout y’all’s boy.”
But none of these speakers raised the fear of slavery to any audience the way the buffoonish Biden did this week.
Veteran Detroit political consultant Adolph Mongo, who has practiced his own outrageous tactics in the past, wondered whether Obama gave Biden clearance for such remarks.
Presidential spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter defended Biden. Obama has argued that Biden’s words were misinterpreted.
Mongo said there’s no question Biden’s comments were intended to be racially inflammatory, even while admitting that some of his own actions in the past have gone over the top.
Biden’s comments were insidious for another reason — they assumed a certain lack of intelligence among his audience members.
“I’m offended by a lot of that. Democrats play these games and they know they can get away with it,” said Mongo.
“The Democratic Party has a history … of taking black voters for granted, their most loyal base.”
The latest Biden gaffe also serves as an opportunity for Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, who has a debate matchup with the vice president, where Biden has as much chance of prevailing as the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters.
While Biden tries to introduce an unsupportable racial element to the campaign, Romney and Ryan have an open door to bring the main issues of jobs and the economy to black voters.
The national unemployment rate is still over 8 percent — among African-Americans, it hovers close to 15 percent and nearer to 20 percent in Detroit.
The numbers serve as a stark reminder that the nation’s first African-American president has proven powerless to spur job growth in the economy as a whole and particularly in this demographic.
Would blacks, who traditionally vote Democratic with about 90 percent certainty, be open to hearing a message of hope for self-determination rather than one that includes fear mongering and the suffocating burden of government handouts?
Mongo thinks the stage is set.
“Most blacks that I know (who are) hardworking or retired are basically conservative,” said the consultant.
“They want many of the same things these Republican candidates are talking about — we’re talking about good schools, safe neighborhoods, etc.,” added Mongo.
Republican candidates have generally failed to seek the black vote, but Romney and Ryan can and should make that effort.
Only through a thorough explanation of their economic plans to stimulate private sector growth and job creation can they get their point to voters in every demographic.
The record shows they won’t engage in the type of divisive rhetoric that Biden used and Obama’s aides approved.
When Romney appeared at this year’s NAACP convention, he got a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks because he refused to patronize the audience by changing his message.
Even more importantly, he didn’t resort to the embarrassing code switching that was practiced by Biden.
Romney and Ryan don’t have to resort to such tactics now.
They simply need to give all voters credit for recognizing the failures of the past four years and point out that the gaffe-prone Biden is just a heartbeat away from assuming the presidency.
That chilling possibility should alarm voters more than the fear Biden has tried to manufacture.
(Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760). Originally posted on The Michigan View.)