Will “Sleepy Joe” Show America He’s Wide Awake?

Currently, the United States is going through a number of crises – from a free-falling economy to the public speaking out, despite the panic caused by a deadly pandemic, against blatant racism and prejudice. Mr. Biden, now the democratic nominee, has responded to these crises by stating that Donald Trump’s “angry, divisive” politics is not what the country needs.

“The country is crying out for leadership.” He said, “Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together.” But can he provide that leadership?

Due to the recent, deeply saddening events that have occurred in the U.S. recently, such as the death of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd, as well escalating unemployment levels, it isn’t farfetched to predict that the U.S.’ 2020 elections will most-likely be dominated by these issues. So what are Mr. Biden’s thoughts and track-record on these issues?

Economically, Biden’s political career prior to 2008 has enormously influenced his proposed economic plans. Having first been elected senator in 1972, this should come as no surprise. In fact, some of the points in his proposed plan can be traced directly to his experiences with legislature in the Senate. For instance, Biden’s proposed banking reforms are linked to his experience during the 2000s with bankruptcy legislation.

His eight years in the Obama White House has also allowed him, according to the BBC, to lay claim to some of Obama’s legacy. This includes the passage of the economic stimulus package and financial industry reforms, among others. It is this association with the famous, first African American president whom Biden often referred to as “Brother” that also makes him feel somewhat entitled to the black vote.

Recently, however, he had to backtrack on a statement he made challenging the blackness of African Americans considering voting for Trump. This, as well as other famous gaffes, such as his dubious Obama compliment in 2007, show that maybe the Democratic nominee isn’t as racially sensitive as he thinks he is. Despite poll figures such as those of Monmouth University suggesting that more people have confidence in Biden’s handling of race relations that Trump’s, 52% to 20% respectively, the remaining 46% that have little to no confidence in Biden cannot be ignored. It is well known that early on in his career, he sided with southern segregationists in opposing court-ordered attempts to integrate public schools, after all.

Regardless, some argue that Biden does have a good record with African Americans and is prone to error sometimes, as we all are. Some of these supporters go as far as saying it was his sensitivity in dealing with race that informed his decisions during the Anita Hill Hearings in 1991. However, this explanation is problematic for a few reasons. Firstly, both Justice Thomas and Ms. Hill are African Americans; and secondly, was there really no other way to handle the delicate issue than to potentially, indirectly endorse sexual assault?

That said, Biden does have a shaky reputation with women. Recently, a woman named Tara Reade came out with allegations that the Democratic nominee had sexually assaulted her in 1993. And although those allegations have somewhat been quelled, Biden’s self-proclaimed “tactile” approach to women isn’t doing him any favours. He has, a number of times, been accused of inappropriate contact with women, and there are even videos of his awkward tactility in action. None of these bode well for a political candidate wishing to distinguish himself from President Trump, a man known for his shaky record with women.

However, some, like Barbara Boxer, assess Biden’s candidacy differently:

“I think anybody who was in public life for as long as he was… is going to have to respond to those moments in history when they wish they had done it a little differently.” Mrs Boxer, a former Democratic Senator for California stated when questioned about Biden’s track record and the nominee seems to agree with her.

“To this day I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved.” Biden stated regarding Ms Hill and the hearings of 1991 showing he has grown tremendously since then. He was even instrumental in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 showing he does understand the severity of sexual violence and assault. If he wants to win come November, he needs to show how much he has grown and be ready to demonstrate that growth.

When asked by The New York Times about whether, given his history, Joe Biden would be able to distinguish himself from President Trump, Anita Hill gave an answer that echoes the thoughts of many Americans:

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m willing to give him the chance. And I hope he will step up.”

Whether he will step up, or falter in his third presidential bid remains to be seen.

Zoe Mebude-Steves
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