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Biden kicks off outreach to Black voters as protest threat looms at Morehouse

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has kicked off a series of actions and public appearances aimed at selling his record to Black voters, a key bloc that typically votes Democratic but could tip the election by staying home in November in big numbers.

“We have a whole group of people out there trying to rewrite history, trying to erase history,” Biden said during a speech Friday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is a few blocks from the White House. “We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and should be treated equally. ... We never fully lived up to that idea, to state the obvious.”

He warned of what he called a “resistance” to that ideal “led by my predecessor and his MAGA Republican allies, backed by an extreme Supreme Court [that] gutted affirmative action in college admissions.”

He also said presumed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump “and his extreme MAGA friends” were “now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America.”

“They want a country for some, not for all,” Biden said.

The president touted his administration’s efforts to invest more in schools in Black and minority areas, as well as his moves to forgive more than $160 billion in student loan debt. A day before the speech, his administration announced it would dole out $16 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, and Biden told an Atlanta radio station he believes that Trump, as president, “hurt” Black Americans. Trump has courted Black voters, saying Biden has done little to help them.

 

Biden’s outreach push includes delivering the commencement address Sunday at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, which bills itself as “the nation’s only historically black private liberal arts college for men.” That appearance could be a tense scene with multiple interruptions. Some students remain frustrated with Biden’s self-described “ironclad” support of Israel and the Palestinian death toll in Gaza as a result of the Jewish state’s retaliation for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Morehouse President David A. Thomas acknowledged Thursday that college officials know disruptions are possible after a number of Pro-Palestinian campus protests turned violent. “What we won’t allow is disruptive behavior that prevents the ceremony or services from proceeding in a manner that those in attendance can partake and enjoy,” Thomas told CNN in an interview Thursday.

“So, for example, prolonged shouting down of the president as he speaks. I have also made a decision that we will also not ask police to take individuals out of commencement in zip ties,” Thomas said. “If faced with the choice, I will cease the ceremonies on the spot if we were to reach that position.”

Steve Benjamin, director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, declined to comment when asked about the potential for protesters heckling Biden. Instead, the Biden team would “let Morehouse do Morehouse,” he told reporters Thursday, adding of the speech: “No community is monolithic. … People have different thoughts about what they might want to hear.”

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