An Iowa farmer told Biden he was too old to run before accusing him and his son Hunter of behaving inappropriately in Ukraine.
“You’re damn near as old as I am,” he told the former vice president. “You’re too old for the job. I’m 83, and I know damn well I don’t have the mental faculties I did 30 years ago.”
Continuing to pick apart Biden’s campaign, the man said: You “sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company that he had no experience with gas or nothing, to get access to the president.”
“You’re selling access to the president, just like he was,” the voter added.
Biden called the voter “a damn liar” before moving closer to the man to continue pushing back on his accusations.
“And you want to check my shape, man, let’s do push-ups together here, man,” the former lawmaker said. “Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test. Okay?”
This is not the first time Biden used language to communicate that he was stronger, tougher and more of a fighter than someone opposing him politically. In March 2018, the University of Miami College Democrats posted a video of Biden saying he would have wanted to fight President Trump in high school.
“When a guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it’ and then said, ‘I made a mistake,’ ” Biden said according to the video posted on Facebook.
“They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman, and I said, ‘No,’ ” he added. “I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’"
When some of Biden’s competitors have shown aggression over policy issues, pundits criticized them and voters may have penalized them for it.
When former housing secretary Julián Castro went after Biden in a September debate for appearing not to remember a recent remark he made, Castro was called mean for appearing to make a jab at Biden’s age — especially after fact-checkers at The Post noted that Castro was incorrect when trying to explain the differences between the two candidates’ health-care plans.
“It was a callow, nasty moment in a race in which many Democrats have been pleading with candidates not to attack one another,” wrote The Post’s Jennifer Rubin. “Everyone else seems to get it, but not Castro.”
And according to those on the ground in Iowa, Castro is viewed by some voters in the state — many of them older and white — as angry when he goes after his opponents.
Explaining the preferences of older Iowa voters, Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times in northwestern Iowa, told the New York Times last month: “Castro kind of comes off with fangs every now and again.”
And when Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) zeroed in on Biden early in the debates over his past policies on busing and the impact it had on children of color, she was penalized by some voters who deemed her approach too aggressive. After she ended her campaign, author and professor Howard Fineman cited the July incident, suggesting it contributed to her unpopularity with voters.
“Another lesson from the demise of Kamala Harris: among voters who are Democrats, you don’t have to support Joe Biden, or even like him, but don’t attack him directly, especially face-to-face,” he tweeted Tuesday. “People are sort of fond of the old dude.”
But the extent to which fondness manifests as privilege is another layer of the drawn-out conversation about “electability” and who is deemed presidential and not. Studies have shown that when women and people of color are confrontational in the workplace, they are penalized.
A 2008 Harvard study examining gender and emotion is expressed in the workplace found:
Displays of anger from men are often viewed as a response to external circumstances, (i.e. they were provoked), while displays of anger by women are more likely to be seen as an internal trait (I.e. she is an angry person).
In fact, one of Biden’s attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), the highest-polling woman in the presidential race, was that her critiques of his policy come from a place of anger — a description many critics viewed as highly gendered.
After Warren suggested that Biden’s politics were too conservative for today’s Democratic Party, he wrote in a Medium post: “These kinds of attacks are a serious problem. They reflect an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics.”
And Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, found that black professionals often had to police their own emotions in the workplace out of fear of professional consequences. She previously wrote in the Atlantic:
In particular, black professionals had to be very careful to show feelings of conviviality and pleasantness, even — especially — in response to racial issues. They felt that emotions of anger, frustration, and annoyance were discouraged, even when they worked in settings where these emotions were generally welcomed in certain contexts — think litigators interacting with opposing counsel, or financial analysts responding to a stressful day on Wall Street. Interestingly, this often played out at trainings meant to encourage racial sensitivity.
Some defenders of Biden's interaction with the Iowa farmer — and even Warren — might argue that the former vice president was responding to unfair and inaccurate attacks. And as a result, he has a right to be angry and to respond as such. There's an idea that a “tough guy” is needed to defeat Trump.
But the question to be considered on this issue is: Do other candidates get that same right? Would Harris be allowed to get in a voter’s face and call him a liar without consequence? Or would Castro be allowed to brag that he’d punch the president in the face and maintain his standing, were he a front-runner?
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 rival, certainly wasn’t allowed to appear angry without attracting criticism. After a debate, former GOP chairman Reince Priebus called her out on it on Twitter.
These candidates are applying for a job. They hope to replace a president who many voters believe misbehaves in ways that his predecessor — America’s first black president — or his general-election opponent, the first woman to become a major party’s presidential nominee, never could.