American and global audiences have now had a formal introduction to all the primary contenders in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. With the conclusion of two presidential and one vice-presidential debate, all four contenders in the November 3 elections have presented themselves on public platforms, where their ideas, policies, and positions on key issues of concern in the upcoming elections have been duly scrutinized. PREMIUM TIMES presents comprehensive bios of all election hopefuls.
• Full name: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
• Age: 77
o University of Delaware, History and Political Science (1965)
o Syracuse University, College of law (1968)
• Public Offices Held:
o Member, New Castle County Council (1970 -1972)
o Senate, Delaware (1973 – 2009)
o Vice President (2009 – 2017)
When Joe Biden declared his intention to run for the president of the United States in April 2019, it was only his fourth time of trying. His first try in 1984 appears to have been half-hearted, with hardly any records of his bid. In 1987 Mr. Biden ran a short-lived campaign that lasted for three months, dropping out following a speech plagiarism accusation. His campaign did not survive the media onslaught and he quietly returned to his duties at the Senate. He again threw in his hat in 2007 but his campaign lost steam against the much stronger bids of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. He would eventually be nominated as running mate to his former competitor, going on to win the elections in 2008 and a re-election in 2012. His current race is different. This time around, Mr Biden’s campaign has successfully placed him not just squarely in the race but with polls indicating that incumbent Donald Trump is trending behind the Obama-era Vice President.
Mr Biden entered the U.S. Congress at age 30, one of the youngest senators in U.S. history, and served for 36 years before moving on to his new post as VP to Mr Obama in 2009. His solid credentials in politics and legislation make him the most experienced person in the current presidential race. At Congress, he chaired the International Narcotics Control Caucus, as well as the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. He was also member of many other key committees including: Finance; Health, Education, Labour and Prisons; and Homeland Security and Government Affairs. His legislative interests also focused on these key sectors and many more, having sponsored an average of 100 legislation per year between 1973 and 2008. Of note are his legislative actions on campaign financing, climate change, violence against women, and arms control. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1986, his impassioned quizzing of the Reagan-era Secretary of State, George Shultz, during a congressional hearing on apartheid South Africa made clear his support for South African blacks and challenged what appeared to be a tacit tolerance of the country’s segregationist policies by the U.S. His legislative actions related to Africa since then have revolved around the conflicts in Libya and Sudan,
Although a long-standing democrat, Mr. Biden has a checkered history with regard to race-related issues. In the days leading up to the Democratic Party primary elections, then presidential hopeful Kamala Harris skewered the former VP during the debates, resurrecting his early years clash with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the country’s foremost pro-black civil rights organisation. In the mid-1970s, through multiple, related legislation, M Biden, siding with republican senators, voted against policies to encourage race-integration in public schools, thereby invoking severe rebuttal from NAACP lawyers. Mr Biden’s flipflopping on same-sex marriage, another core value of the Democratic Party, has also earned him criticism from his core base. In 1993 and 1996, then Senator Biden voted to uphold laws limiting freedoms for persons in same-sex relationships. By 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the legislation that prohibited same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional, Mr. Biden had switched positions and was fully in support of the court’s ruling in the landmark case. Yet, his evolvement is hardly peculiar; his position on same-sex marriage has evolved much as national attitudes towards the issue have changed and marriage equality has become a core value of the Democratic Party.
Mr Biden’s nomination as flag bearer of the Democratic Party after a surprisingly tough primaries process points to his national appeal in the face of the divisiveness and toxicity in U.S. politics today. Popular for his centrism, likely honed from decades of legislation experience, the former VP was able to appeal to a broader range of the electorate than his main opponent Bernie Sanders, whose progressive political ideas had invigorated political participation, particularly among young people. Lacking the charisma and eloquence of Mr Sanders, or indeed of many contenders for the primaries, Mr Biden stuck to his moderate positions on issues, often showing a willingness for compromise, thus appealing, not just to minority voters, but also a broader range of White voters, including college and non-college educated demographics. In this way, his sensible, moderate policy positions, helped straddle the divide between progressive democrats and moderate conservatives.
On a whole, Mr. Biden’s likeability and relatability remain his key selling points. He has marketed himself as an ‘average Joe,’ working-class, relatable, even poor – compared to his colleagues in the senate. He is well-loved in his home state Delaware, as evidenced in his seven-times election into the senate, making him the longest serving senator in the state. His personal losses – the deaths of his first wife and two children – and his public displays of compassion and affection have served to humanize him. Mr Biden’s maintenance of a middle class lifestyle throughout his years of public service have also endeared him to working class Americans. For example, as a sitting senator, he doubled as an adjunct professor of law at a university in his home state from 1991, continuing to teach even after he became Mr Obama’s VP nominee. For all these and more, the Democratic Party hopes that Mr Biden can carve a chunk out of President Trump’s support. Whereas in 2016, President Trump won over White, middle-class votes, Mr Biden’s supporters project that a Biden-Harris ticket will split those loyalties. In particular, the state of the U.S. economy, exacerbated by this administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has placed the economy solidly as a core election issue. It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party’s bets on Mr Biden will pay off.
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