President Joe Biden was not making a “human” comparison between opponents of pending voting rights bills and historical racists and segregationists in his address in Atlanta this week, the White House says. In his speech calling for new voter protections, Biden asked whether lawmakers wanted “to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace,” “John Lewis or Bull Connor” or “Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis.” The comparison generated some blowback afterward, but press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was not drawing a personal link between current lawmakers and notorious southern segregationists and the president of the Confederacy. “I think everybody listening to that speech who’s speaking on the level, as my mother would say, would note that he was not comparing them as humans, he was comparing the choice to those figures in history and where they’re going to position themselves as they determine whether they’re going to support the fundamental right to vote or not,” she said Friday.
Maybe my favorite criticism came from Nancy Pelosi, who may be 81 years old, but at least is self-aware enough — probably from working with a lot of twentysomething House staffers — to realize that some of Biden’s references may also have gone over the heads of people under 60: “Nobody knows who Bull Connor is. . . . You know, if we’re making the case to say, ‘We’re going to be with Martin Luther King or Bull Connor’ — who’s that?” Frankly, by 2024, the median Democratic voter may be someone who doesn’t know who George Wallace was, or for that matter, who John Lewis — the namesake of one of their bills — was.