Salon's Joan Walsh Says Joe Biden 'Chained' Comments Teach Us a Valuable Lesson

Liberal writer and editor defends Vice President Biden for his "chained" comments.


Joan Walsh, editor-at-large of, says Vice President Joe Biden had a point when he told an audience including black voters in Danville, Va., Tuesday that Mitt Romney would "put y'all back in chains." Biden's speech suggested the GOP candidate would help big banks and Wall Street while the middle class would suffer.

The Romney campaign called Biden's comment a new low for the election, and a debate over the racial implications of the gaffe dominated the political conversation this week.

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But Walsh, a liberal editor, writer, and blogger, says she defends Biden. "I don't think he was referring just to slavery," she said. "Most people came to this country as indentured servants. We have all been in shackles at some point—except maybe the wealthy."

Walsh's point is part of a larger argument set forth in her new book "What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was."

The book seeks to explain what she calls the two conflicting narratives about what's gone wrong in America since the 1970s—where some believe America spends too much money helping the undeserving, and others say the country gives too many advantages to the rich.

Walsh, who grew up in a working class Irish Catholic family, says the white middle class needs to understand that decisions made by the government have helped its rise.

"There is this notion that 'slackers' and 'moochers' took your taxpayer dollars, which is a somewhat racial notion," she said. "But some of those so-called 'slackers' and 'moochers' are white people. ... White people are the majority of people on food stamps."

Like Biden, who maintains his comments were aimed at more than just black voters in the audience, Walsh says Republican policies would oppress the entire middle class.

"I defend Joe Biden, because there is a broader kind of oppression," she said. "It was the opportunity to make the case that many groups are being hurt [in America]. It's not just black people."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.