The dispatch of Vice President Joe Biden to the NAACP national convention in Houston this week is a stroke of political brilliance. Despite the fact that conventional wisdom suggests that the first Black president be sent to speak to African Americans, it’s actually much more strategic and effective to send White “blue collar” Joe Biden to speak with this constituency. Biden is just as capable as the president in passionately focusing on President Obama’s record and achievements and calling out voter suppression laws nationwide. The unconventional use of the former Senator from Delaware is something that the White House may do more often after his glowing praise and reception at the NAACP.
In his closing keynote speech, Biden fired up the crowd listing off President Obama’s most significant achievements as well as addressing concerns related to voter suppression laws and the disenfranchisement of voters in communities of color,
“[President Obama] stepped up and rescued the automobile industry. It was not popular. It was not popular, but it was critical and he was right, saving a million jobs and creating 200,000 new jobs in the automobile industry. General Motors now leads the world again and Chrysler is the fastest growing company in America. This is a man who made the call to go after Osama bin Laden. It was a bold — it was a bold decision, a bold decision with profound risks for our warriors as well as his presidency, but he made it and he made that decision on his own. Bin Laden is dead and America is more secure because of this man’s decision. He passed the Affordable Care Act, a goal strived for by presidents starting with Teddy Roosevelt. It required him, early on, to use up almost all of his political capital. He prevailed where no president had done before. He was right. He was right. He cut $100 billion from the federal debt over the next 10 years, providing access to affordable health care to 30 million Americans, eight million black Americans who would never have had insurance.”
“This is a man, this is a president, who has the character of his convictions and almost never since we’ve taken office, during this entire time, did the Republican congress reach across the aisle to help.” said the vice president to the rowdy crowd.
Biden then went on to contrast the character of the president with the character of the alternative, Mitt Romney and Republicans who have made it their sole purpose to make Obama a one-term president no matter what harm they do to the country and the economy. Biden’s ability to speak to the issues near and dear to African Americans while not actually being a person of color is a testament to his authenticity and skill as political communicator. Biden was certainly among friends and as he pointed out “preaching to the choir” but it’s the unexpected appearance of Biden before these groups and effectiveness that make him an undeniable asset to the reelection campaign which needs to both shore up the base and attract independent voters in the battleground states.
Biden’s speech was so well received by the NAACP convention goers that they actually booed when he signaled he was closing his remarks. Unlike Mitt Romney who was booed for saying he would get rid of Obamacare, a piece of legislation that will help millions of people in the Black community, Biden seemed among family like your cool uncle at the dinner table riffing about old stories and using catchy quips and applause lines. It just may turn out to be Vice President Biden who brings the base back into fold and gets them fired up and ready to go, setting it up for President Obama to bring them across the finish line to a victory in November.