Saturday, March 1, 2014

the last book I ever read (Promises to Keep by Joe Biden, excerpt ten)

from Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics by Joe Biden:

Eastland and Georgia senator Herman Talmadge suggested I go home and “demagogue the shit out of the issue.” But I wasn’t interested in widening divides or stirring up emotions. People were angry enough. Legal challenges had postponed the implementation of the New Castle busing orders as schools opened in September, but there was no school opening anyway. Teachers went on strike to protest the busing plan. And in early October they were still on strike. People in Delaware just got more and more frustrated. There was something almost primal in voter anger as Election Day neared; all the rational talk in the world wouldn’t change that. The voters would trust me to be fair, or they wouldn’t.

I think I instinctively understood that my most important duty was to be a target. People were desperate to vent their anger, and if they could yell at a United States senator, all the better. Part of being a public servant, I came to understand in 1978, was absorbing the anger of people who don’t know where to turn. If I couldn’t solve the problem for them, I had to at least be an outlet.

I’ll never forget going to an event in the school gymnasium in a working-class town near Wilmington. The room had tiered seating, filled to the rafters. It had to be filled to double its capacity. People were standing in the aisles; it was hot and it was tense. I noted a big police presence when I walked in. As I pushed through to the podium, I could hear people murmuring under their breath: “There he is . . . . Goddam Biden . . . . Kill the sonofabitch.” And these were my voters—working-class Democrats.

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