In a crowded and contentious arena for the 2020 presidency, Joe Biden emerged as an early frontrunner, with credentials, centrism, and charisma to spare.
The 76 year old former VP was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Catherine and Joseph Biden Sr. before moving to Delaware 10 years later. He attended the University of Delaware where he studied history and political science and met his first wife Neilia. After attending Syracuse University Law School, he worked as a public defender and became an active member of the Democratic party, serving as a city councilman in 1971. Unfortunately, Biden’s life has been plagued by personal tragedy. In 1972, Biden lost his wife and youngest child to a car accident shortly after winning an upset victory to become a Delaware Senator at age 29.
He represented Delaware in the senate from 1973- 2009, chairing the senate judiciary committee and the committee on foreign relations at various points throughout his service. During his senate years, he made headlines with the Violence Against Women Act which protects abused women and gives enhanced ability to prosecute their abusers. In 2008, he was elected as the 47th Vice President of the United States under Barack Obama. Due to his experience in foreign relations, he played an active role in dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan and oversaw the $787 billion economic stimulus package authorized by the Obama administration. In 2015 tragedy struck again and Biden lost his eldest child, Beau to a battle with brain cancer.
Joe Biden is considered to be the most centrist of the 2020 nominees. His platform focuses on strengthening the middle class, acting as a responsible world leader, and reforming our democratic institutions. He is one of the few candidates who have not endorsed the Green New Deal or Medicare for All as part of his platform.
Rather than sign on to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s sweeping climate policy proposal, Biden has released his own plan to address the current climate crisis starting on his first day in office. His plan includes a commitment to getting the country to net-zero emissions by 2050, redeveloping infrastructure to guard against climate change, signing back on to the Paris Agreement, and pursuing climate justice for disproportionately affected communities. Joe Biden has also pledged not to accept campaign contributions from oil, gas, and coal corporations or executives. However, he came under fire during the CNN Climate Town Hall for his links to Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of a natural gas production company. Biden and host Anderson Cooper noted that Goldman currently holds no role within the company.
Joe Biden believes that every American should have access to affordable, quality health care. In order to achieve this, he has proposed expanding and improving President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He plans to offer a public health insurance option that can negotiate prices with health care providers and that will limit price increases to inflation for those drugs that are included in government health care plans. Consumers will also be able to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
In order to tackle economic inequality, Joe Biden plans to reverse recent tax breaks for corporations and the super wealthy and eliminate the capital gains loophole for multi-millionaires. He also plans to provide universal pre-k, but his views on free public college are more nebulous. In 2015 he stated that “We need to commit to 16 years of free public education for all our children”, but more recently he has only made statements in support of free 2-year community college. His education plan does not mention funding for any college education.
In regard to foreign policy, Biden plans to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, bring troops home from the Middle East, and renegotiate trade deals. He will immediately stop the practice of family separation at our borders and will work to provide a pathway to citizenship for employed, law-abiding undocumented immigrants as well as reinstate the “Dreamers” program introduced by the Obama administration. Biden has gotten heavy criticism from the left for his participation in a strict program of deportation under the Obama administration, as well as for his support of the Iraq War as a Senator. He has since reversed and condemned U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Progressive Democrats have also expressed concerns about Joe Biden’s record on women’s issues. As a practicing Catholic, Biden believes that abortion is wrong, however, his current plans reflect his commitment to reproductive rights, even if he himself does not support abortion. His health care plan includes free contraception, restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and going after state laws which infringe upon women’s right to choose. Former VP Joe Biden also has a reputation for touching and kissing women even when they are clearly uncomfortable and has garnered criticism for dismissing Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas during Biden’s time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, an action he has since stated that he regrets.
Biden also has a controversial record on segregation and criminal justice. In 1978, Biden worked with segregationist Senators to oppose federally mandated busing to integrate schools. He also helped write the 1994 “tough on crime law” that critics say was a key contributor to mass incarceration and escalated the now-infamous war on drugs, both of which disproportionately impacted African-American men and communities of color. He has continually defended his involvement but has since introduced legislation to remedy some of the problems created by the original bill.
Joe Biden’s extensive political resume, traditional likeability, and high name recognition made him an early frontrunner in the Democratic Primary, but recent gaffes have jeopardized a healthy 13-point lead over Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In the past few weeks, Biden has upset Latino leaders over using loaded rhetoric to discuss immigration policy, saying that the country has been right to “cherry pick” immigrants with advanced degrees, and that others should “get in line” to become citizens. He has also mixed up deceased British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with current Prime Minister Theresa May. While speaking on education at an Iowa town hall, Biden apparently misspoke, saying, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids” which critics say is reflective of outdated and detrimental racial stereotypes.