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VICTOR JOECKS: Travel bans, filibusters only racist when Republicans use them

Anyone else old enough to remember when travel bans were xenophobic?

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden instituted severe restrictions on travel from India. While U.S. citizens and some others can enter the country from there, most travel is now prohibited. Biden wants to limit the spread of the coronavirus variants that are wreaking havoc in the Asian country.

The move is similar to the China travel ban that then-President Donald Trump instituted in early 2020. The reaction hasn’t been: “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus,” Biden tweeted, the day after Trump announced the travel ban. “We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering.”

This wasn’t a one-off sentiment. “A wall will not stop the coronavirus,” he tweeted in March 2020. “Banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed Trump’s move as “scare tactics.”

What a difference a year makes.

Now it’s Biden banning travel from a hard-hit country. Democrats who once saw this behavior as a sign of deeper racial hostility are no longer outraged.

To be clear, Biden’s behavior isn’t xenophobic. He’s responding to the reality of what’s happening in India, not acting based on animus toward Indians. But by the standard he set last year, Biden is a xenophobe.

There’s something ironic here, too. Biden promised voters that he had a “plan to beat COVID-19.” The coronavirus is still here, and Biden’s plan is largely to keep doing what Trump did — from vaccine distribution to travel bans.

Biden’s hypocrisy is one example of a larger pattern. Democrats and the national mainstream media — but I repeat myself — routinely accuse Republicans of racism for actions they ignore or approve of when done by those on their own “team.”

For instance, in May 2020, Sen. Kamala Harris and more than 20 other Democrat senators introduced a resolution condemning the term “Chinese virus.” Trump frequently used that and similar terms to describe COVID, which originated in China. The resolution said the term “perpetuated anti-Asian stigma.”

The national media repeatedly reinforced this message. The Washington Post labeled the phrase a “slur.” CNN said the “name is both inaccurate and is considered stigmatizing.” HuffPost called the term “racist.”

This leaves you with two possibilities. The first is that referring to a virus based on its presumed country of origin has been standard practice, at least in everyday conversation, for decades. The Spanish flu may not have originated in Spain, but people believed it did, which led to the name. The second is that referring to a virus based on its country of origin is racist and unacceptable.

Here’s proof that Democrats and the media don’t actually believe the second contention. “U.K. virus variant is probably deadlier, scientists say,” The New York Times reported in February. NBC News offers a map to track “the U.K. variant, the South African variant and the Brazilian variant.”

Yet, there has been little to no outcry over these “slurs” against the British, South Africans and Brazilians. It’s almost as if those outraged over the “Chinese virus” term weren’t defending a principled position but manufacturing a narrative to score political points.

This same thing is happening with the filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the U.S. Senate on many issues. Biden and former President Barack Obama used the filibuster while serving in the Senate. In 2005, Biden attacked Republicans who wanted to change the filibuster as pursuing a “naked power grab.” Last year, Senate Democrats, including then-Sen. Harris, filibustered a police reform bill proposed by Republican Sen. Tim Scott.

Now, Biden agrees that the filibuster is a relic of Jim Crow and wants to gut it.

If he really believed that, he should resign in disgrace for the decades he spent defending it. He won’t, of course, because it’s all a cynical political game.

This galling hypocrisy is worth remembering the next time Democrats play the race card to smear their political opponents.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698.

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