Boston Political Review writers Jackson Tarricone and Ryan Metz examine the case for former Vice President Joe Biden’s election. The case for his opponent, sitting President Donald Trump, can be found here.
Candidate Background and Political Experience
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He and his family moved to Delaware when he was ten years old. Biden studied History and Political Science at the University of Delaware. He then attended Syracuse Law School and was a practising lawyer from 1969-1972.
He served on the New Castle County Council in Delaware from 1970 to 1972 before being elected to the Senate, where he would remain until 2009. Biden remains the fifth-youngest person ever elected to the US Senate when he defeated Republican incumbent Senator Cale Boggs in 1972.
Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995. He also served as Chair under two stints, first from 2001 to 2003 then again from 2007 to 2009.
In 1987, Biden ran for President but quickly withdrew over controversies related to plagiarism. He ran again in 2007 but once again withdrew after finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses. A year later, former President Barack Obama announced Biden as his running mate. Biden served as Vice President under the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2017.
Should Biden win the Presidential Election, he would become the oldest person to ever be inaugurated at 78 years of age. The previous record-holder is Donald Trump at 70 years of age, with Reagan preceding him at 69 years.
Domestic Policy Platform and Record
Throughout his career in politics, Biden has leaned both to the left and the right depending on the issue. In 1974, he was quoted as saying the following: “When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I’m a liberal but that’s it. I’m really quite conservative on most other issues”.
During the second Democratic Primary Presidential Debate, his now-running mate Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) confronted him on his opposition to bussing in public schools during the ’70s, siding with segregationists at the time. In the past, Biden has been vocally opposed to abortion and the Roe v Wade decision. In 2003, while he was in the Senate, Biden voted in favour of banning a late-term abortion procedure.
On the other hand, Biden also played a part in extending the Voting Rights Act as well as imposing sanctions on Apartheid South Africa.
Biden also helped draw up the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the largest crime bill ever passed in the United States. The legislation greatly increased the funding and resources for police and prisons, as well as border control. This law disproportionately affected African American men, facilitating a greater level of mass incarceration in the US to this day.
This same legislation also included the Violence Against Women Act, which included a $1.6 billion budget dedicated to investigating violent crimes against women and imposed harsher penalties on those convicted of such crimes.
Today, Biden is running on a platform that ranges from moderate to progressive. Biden intends to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and make the first two years of college free. He has pledged not to raise taxes for any American earning under $400,000 a year; he also wants to raise taxes for higher-income Americans and corporations, but not to a level higher than in 2017.
Vice President Biden is opposed to Medicare for All, instead wanting Americans to keep their private plans but offer an expansive public option to those who need it.
The vast majority of Biden’s environmental policies combat climate change and reshape the American economy in a more sustainable manner. His website says otherwise, but also includes provisions for a plan of his own. Biden wants to tax carbon emissions and bring an end to new oil leases on federal land. This would still permit fracking on non-federal land, where the majority of fracking occurs. In a February rally, however, Biden was quoted as saying that he would “phase out fossil fuels”. Biden intends to rejoin the Paris Agreement and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Biden supports DACA, a policy granting a path to citizenship for children who immigrated to the United States illegally. Biden also supports universal background checks for firearms and is against the death penalty.
In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Biden has committed to combatting racial injustices and social inequalities in the US. Biden is in favour of abolishing public prisons and intends to invest $640 billion over a ten year period to ensure that “every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy-efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to their jobs”.
Biden has more-or-less the full backing of the Democratic Party and has received numerous endorsements from his peers on both sides of the aisle, including former President Barack Obama and Former Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump in 2016 for the GOP nomination.
Foreign Policy Platform and Record
Although foreign policy seems to be taking a back seat this election season as the nation continues to grapple with the fallout of a public health crisis, the election still offers two competing futures for how America will act on the world stage.
Biden’s vision for America’s global presence stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s “America First” rhetoric. His campaign’s central theme has been a return to decency, which he has extended onto repairing U.S relations with its foreign allies, many of whom have felt mistreated by the Trump administration’s unilateral focus. In keeping with this message of decency and decorum, the Biden campaign emphasizes diplomacy and multilateral cooperation as the primary way America should engage with the international community.
Biden has expressed his desire to renew US support of NATO and maintain an active membership in the World Health Organization; Trump has threatened to rebuke both organisations. In dealing with adversaries like China and Iran, Biden also follows this multilateral diplomatic approach. Although Biden agrees with Trump on China’s “abusive” trade practices, Biden wants to build a united front with allies to exert pressure on Beijing as opposed to using broad tariffs as a tactic for coercing the Chinese government.
On the topic of Iran, Biden has pushed for re-entry into the Iran Nuclear agreements in tandem with a more narrow focus for the US military in that region. Overall, it would seem that Biden’s foreign policy offers a way for America to interact on the world stage that relies more heavily on diplomatic strategy and alliances.
Joe Biden’s message has centred around restoring the soul of America; and in a year filled with pain and uncertainty, this promise will be attractive to the American people.
Further articles written in collaboration with the Boston Political Review can be found on our website.