It was a typically hectic 2019 week: Trump refused to turn over his requested tax records, Billy Ray Cyrus appeared on a song, but the narrative that most dominated headlines was Joe Biden versus the world.
The potential presidential candidate, who has teased an announcement for so long it feels like an impending Star Wars trailer, has been accused by four women of inappropriate touching on the job. Even though his behavior doesn’t necessarily fall under the category of sexual harassment, it’s a pattern of unwanted intimacy, and there are reams of video documenting it over the years. This behavior might end up being politically surmountable, but so far Biden has done a terrible job at owning up to any wrongdoing, opting instead for more of a “I’m sorry you were offended”-style approach.
Last night’s SNL did a solid job fleshing out the many reasons primary voters should be wary he isn’t more contrite than that.
The sketch begins with campaign aides (Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson) painting Biden as a good guy who means well but is just a little behind the times. It’s the exact light his actual campaign wants us to see him in. When Biden took the stage to make a speech on Friday, he made jokes about the scandal his behavior has provoked, a misguided jab at how people are just so uptight these days.
“I’m sure this whole ordeal is tearing him up inside,” the aide played by Thompson notes, before Biden (Jason Sudeikis, reviving a role he used to play as a cast member) comes charging into the room, all smiles.
The rest of the sketch finds Sudeikis’s spirited Biden undergoing sensitivity training for his inappropriate behavior. But while the sketch takes some obvious shots by having him behave inappropriately with the sensitivity trainer herself (Kate McKinnon), the writers smartly incorporate Biden’s other issues as well. In reality, Biden isn’t out of touch simply because he likes to “connect” with people in hands-on (and sometimes, notoriously, nostrils-on) ways. He also has outdated views on race and gender as well.
Sudeikis’s Biden greets Thompson as “Brother man,” touches his hair, and later on seems let down when Thompson (“of all the people”) makes Alexa turn off the Lou Rawls song Biden put on to set the mood for the women he’d interact with as part of his training. This fictitious behavior reflects the reality of a guy who just 12 years ago called Barack Obama “the first sort of mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean,” and whose racial justice record is not great, to say the least. The fact that he was VP to the first black president in history, however, probably only emboldens him to think he has a free pass with black voters for life–a possibility the sketch notes with the help of Leslie Jones’s potential voter character.
Elsewhere, he casually refers to Elizabeth Warren as “Lizzy,” tosses out a dick joke, and makes Aidy Bryant’s potential voter so uncomfortable she punches him in the stomach. It’s all in good fun, though, because as Sudeikis’ Biden notes, he “promised to try to learn.” Unfortunately, that’s probably the best one can hope for from a man unabashedly stodgy in his ways. If a majority of people have long been telling you, a public figure, that you’re killing it, you’re probably going to think the people suddenly telling you otherwise are the ones who have it wrong. But if Biden can’t read the room now, who knows what he’ll get wrong when it counts.
One thing the real Biden and his supporters have wrong is that Trump’s issues with women would make Biden invulnerable to attacks on that front from the MAGA faithful. It’s an idea that’s already proven ridiculous, something SNL notes incisively.
After the fictional Biden dismisses Trump as “the guy who actually bragged about on tape,” Cecily Strong’s character assures him: “Unlike his voters, your voters actually care.”
We’ll find out how much Biden’s potential voters do care as the never-ending 2020 primary continues to almost begin.
Watch the full sketch below: