Joe Biden drew renewed criticism about his record on race after he made comments about working with segregationists in the past.

Biden, who bills himself as a center-of-the-road consensus maker who aims to bring the soul back to America, has repeatedly boasted on the campaign trail of his successful dealings with old-school Dixiecrats during his time in the Senate. At a fundraising event on Tuesday, Biden told donors about how he had been able to work with racist lawmakers such as Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-Georgia), “one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys.” And yet, even though his fellow senators espoused discriminatory views, Biden boasted of his ability to reach a consensus and pass legislation. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything,” said Biden. “We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Biden’s comments drew backlash from many of the more progressive members of the Democratic party who think that the era of civility and consensus is in the past, and that the Democratic presidential nominee should be a fighter, not a peacemaker. “It’s past time for apologies or evolution from @JoeBiden,” tweeted 2020 candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.”

Other Democratic candidates have had similarly strong words for Biden, accusing him of being out of touch with young liberal voters and of being insensitive on issues such as race, abortion, and crime. Regardless of the comments of his opponents, Biden has been leading in polls all around the country, displaying that he still holds vast appeal for many voters. With the first round of Democratic primary debates set for next week, it remains to be seen whether Biden can counter the barbs of his opponents and maintain his lead.


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