Joe Biden’s Uphill Battle

USA – With the Democratic primary all but officially over, Joe Biden now must unite the party around him – a task that after mass support for candidates far to his left was always going to be difficult. But the landscape of US politics has changed dramatically since the former VP officially announced his candidacy in April of 2019. Running an already deeply flawed campaign, with a candidate who often appears as senile and regularly fails to coherently finish sentences without a teleprompter, along with his status as an establishment figure who on many issues has leant heavily to the right of the Democratic party, Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency has been hit with accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate touching by multiple women and his past positions of issues surrounding race have come to light in a damaging way. This is all paired with an election year that is host to three of the biggest issues to ever face presidential candidates – the Coronavirus pandemic, looming economic depression, and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd.

From a left-wing perspective, the failure of Bernie Sanders’ presidential hopes is a tragic loss of a chance for major change in the US. This is made all the more bitter by the backdrop of this tragedy – ‘Medicare For All’ and healthcare reform will have to wait while America suffers its worst public health crisis since more than half a million died in the US from the Spanish Flu, and the Keynesian economic strategies that saved the nation from the Great Depression won’t see the light of day under Trump or Biden, despite being the only hope for recovery to come and save the most at need from the torment of austerity while Jeff Bezos makes his way to a net worth of a trillion dollars. Joe Biden representing the hopes of American liberals to protect both the nation’s health and economy is an impotent gesture. How can swing-voters believe in his policy of no-one paying for coronavirus testing or treatment when he has spent the past year telling Senators Sanders and Warren, and the American people for that matter, that a single payer system is a fantasy that he as president would veto? How can anyone who sees the state of the US economy support a man who has told his billionaire donors that with him as POTUS “no one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change”? It is fair to assume a Biden administration would likely ditch many of the conspiracy theories perpetuated by President Trump, perhaps not endorse injecting disinfectant, and support a better network of testing and tracing. But to conclude that ‘better than Trump’ is enough is to delude one’s self.

The Democratic Party was pushing for better in 2020. The progressives that flocked the race would not have only presented a more competent and not senile but represented this century and its values. Biden is not just not up to speed with these values, embodied by the ‘Me Too’ and Black Lives Matter movements, but has spent his career opposing those values, shown by his abuse of Anita Hill, who claimed that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Tara Reade, a former staffer in Biden’s senate office, has claimed he sexually assaulted her. Biden denies this allegation. But what his candidacy has done to his party, forcing all high-ranking Democrats to completely contradict their belief of women and claims of sexual assault which united Democrats during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings, is immensely damaging. From a purely pragmatic perspective it makes Democratic opposition to Kavanaugh seem like a partisan witch-hunt and forces party leaders to contradict themselves in a major way. But on a moral level, this is a betrayal of principles and a betrayal of survivors. It damages the movement and erodes any newfound faith survivors of sexual assault have in their political leaders.

If there was an antithesis to the enthusiasm of the Democratic base by the  idea of putting a woman in the Oval Office in 2016, it is nominating a potential assailant of sexual assault. And if there is an antithesis to a person of colour being the Democratic nominee, or someone who truly embodies the spirit and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is someone who opposed de-segregation busing, gave a eulogy at the funeral of his “closest friend” Strom Thurmond (a unapologetically racist segregationist) the co-author of the 1994 Crime Bill, once known as the ‘Biden Bill’. This is Biden on the Senate floor in 1993 in support of this bill:

“We must take back the streets… I don’t want to ask, “what made them do this?” They must be taken off the streets!”

“Born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing… a portion of them will become the predators fifteen years from now”

“You take back the streets by: more cops, more prisons, more physical protection for the people.”

"Rehabilitation. When it occurs, we don't understand it and notice it, and when, even when we notice it and we know it occurs, we don't know why. So, you cannot make rehabilitation a condition for release.”

“Every major crime bill since 1976 that has come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill has had the name of the Democratic Senator from the state of Delaware, Joe Biden, on that bill”

The impact of the 1994 Crime Bill signed into law by President Clinton, particularly on Black Americans, speaks for itself. Both Clinton and Biden have publicly apologised for their parts in the creation of this law, but the former Vice President only has since deciding to run in 2020 – in 2016 he was “not ashamed at all”.

In the midst of a mass movement, coloured by hundreds of spontaneous protests globally with public opinion on aggressive and militarised policing rapidly moving against the status quo, JJoe Biden is a dream Democratic candidate for a sexual predator, ‘tough-on-crime’ Republican incumbent. President Trump’s re-election campaign knows he has very little chance of winning big with Black voters, but all they need to do is convince enough African American voters that Biden is not worth their vote either. This attempt to turn voters of colour away from Biden may well be enough to tip some must-win swing-states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden’s appeal was as a capable leader who was likeable and not too radical. Now, Democrats have a nominee who is appearing more and more senile, and has a habit of pointing fingers in voters faces, raising his voice at them, or repeatedly telling them to ‘vote for the other guy’ if they have a problem with his platform. On top of this, he fails to represent a way forward during the worst public health and economic crisis the world has seen in his lifetime, and stands on the wrong side of two major cultural shifts that define our current cultural and political atmosphere. The name Biden can be listed with Kavanaugh, Trump, Weinstein, Spacey, Thomas, Clinton and the countless other men who have been credibly accused of abusing their positions of power to take advantage of those around them, as well as alongside alongside Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton (again) and Trump (also again)... as politicians who cry for ‘law and order’ and are ‘tough-on-crime’ – when the reality of this rhetoric is the militarisation of police forces, policies such as stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimum sentencing that disproportionally affect Black Americans, mass incarceration, and a culture within the US justice system that combines racism with a lack of accountability – and leads to deaths like George Floyd’s.

Lewis Quinn

24 Jun 2020

POLSIS in Colour /

Joe Biden’s Uphill Battle