Joe Biden’s speech to the NAACP was a rousing, good ol’ camp meeting time in downtown Houston. With his trademark boldness, Biden’s speech to the NAACP showed the delineation between the Democratic Party’s idea of society and the Republican idea of society. Most importantly, Biden connected with the African-American tradition of oratory and rhetoric, much to the delight and response of the crowd.
President Obama was absent from the convention except for a two-minute video speech before Biden’s talk. The vice president, however, was the right choice to follow up the staid and stiff Mitt Romney. While Romney didn’t seem to understand that the countless organ riffs were trying to get him to wrap it up, Biden reveled in his connection to the crowd. Unlike Romney, Biden was not an outsider to African-American life. Giving shout-outs to his friend Mouse from one of his first jobs, and engaging the crowd, Biden hit on the two issues important to the NAACP: voter suppression and education.
The speech/preach also served another purpose: recounting the testimony of what President Obama has accomplished while in office, and what Republicans have done to obstruct progress for the nation. While Romney had a hard time recounting a litany of things he had done, Biden went down the list of what the NAACP did for him as a young kid, as well as what the president has accomplished with the Affordable Care Act, and trying to stave off the effects of the 2008 financial crash. Most importantly, Biden reminded the NAACP that one of the big battles of the civil rights movement—voter suppression—is the business of the Republican Party today.
What separates Vice President Biden’s speech from Romney’s is an appreciation and respect for cultural differences. While Biden is not a natural preacher, his energy and lively delivery resonated with the crowd. It did not seem forced to hear Biden say “We are our brother’s keeper, we are our sisters’ keepers” as he closed out his speech. Calling on scripture, Biden showed that President Obama’s presidency has been about taking care of those who are in need, and of character.
Contrast this with Mitt Romney, who had no frame of reference to make this staggering statement to the NAACP “If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. You take a look.”
We’re looking at you Mitt. What we see is a man who, despite his wealth, has not spent much time outside of his social, religious, or business circles to get to know the people he wants to serve. President Obama could be criticized for not attending the NAACP convention, but he sent his right-hand man who connected with the community, giving a genuine testimony about the current administration’s support for the African-American community. Fully present, Biden’s only boos came when he said it was time for him to close.
Mitt may want to pretend that the boos he received from the NAACP are all in a day’s work, but the comment of a woman interviewed by CNN at the NAACP convention said it all. When asked about booing Romney, she said, “I booed him for Jesus.”