Joe Biden, Obama’s Vice-President, has entered the 2020 Presidential race.
In a three-and-a-half-minute video released on Thursday, Joe Biden has officially announced his decision to run for the President of the United States.
The 78-year-old has had a long political career. For 38 years, he served as a US senator from Delaware. He was Vice President for two terms (2008-2012, 2012-2016) under President Obama and a pretty much unnoticed Presidential candidate in 1988 and 2008. Biden’s announcement comes after weeks of speculation that he would be entering the Democratic primary race.
Following the announcement, Katie Hill – a spokesperson for former President Barack Obama – said in a statement that “the vice president’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both [presidential] campaigns and the entire presidency” was very valuable to Obama and that the two men share “a special bond”. This carefully curated statement shows that Obama is ready to congratulate his old running mate – but unwilling to formally endorse him for President, at least up till now.
Biden’s announcement video offers a perfect guide map to his campaign. Instead of offering insights on his policies or his views on contentious issues, he talks about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that led to the death of a young woman. The Delawarean presents racism, divisions and white supremacy as a major threat of American democracy and global standing. He stands in direct opposition to Donald Trump – taking the latter to task for remarking that there were “very fine people” on “both sides” of the Charlottesville conflict.
White supremacy has a historic significance in the United States – which has a long, dark history of slavery and racial segregation. Many currently see the populist Trump (who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform) as representative of these national tensions. Indeed, racist violence is on the rise since the 2016 election. Joe Biden’s reference to these issues is his way of identifying himself as a progressive who can rid the nation of hatred. No doubt this is an appeal to the liberal Democratic base.
But Biden enters a very contested race. As of the writing of this article, there are twenty-two Democratic presidential hopefuls. The Democratic Party has also moved more left in certain years. Popular candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are campaigning on a platform that supports raising taxes on the uber-rich to fund social programs like universal single-payer health care and free college tuition. Some democratic party members also openly identify as socialists, and newer Democratic senators – like Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar – have embraced leftist ideas of a marginal tax rate to better fund America’s transition to a greener economy. As more women, people of color, and youngsters enter the Democratic party, progressive policy proposals gain more Congressional support.
Biden is running as a moderate. His policy proposals will no doubt be more centrist than leftist as he believes that reasonable policy proposals that include suggestions from both conservatives and liberals are key to winning over the disenfranchised rural voters who helped Trump win the last election. His modest approach to politics will no doubt put him in the crosshairs of more his more radical opponents, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders is hugely popular with the average Democratic voter and managed to surprise pundits by winning key states in the 2016 Democratic primary, which he would eventually lose to Hilary Clinton.
At this moment it seems that Joe Biden is the front-runner. A Morning Consult + Politico poll of 1922 registered voters that ran from April 19 – 21 found that Joe Biden has a safe eight-percentage-point lead of President Trump. 42% of those polled preferred Biden, while 34% favored Trump. Amongst this fellow Democrats to Biden has a significant lead. A Morning Consult weekly tracking shows that he is the candidate Democratic-aligned voters most inclined towards. 30% would vote for him. Bernie Sanders was second with 24% support.
These rating could take a hit, though. As Biden enters the race, no doubt his opponents will bring up his controversial past and (what many see as) lackluster policies. Warren and Sanders, who have both campaigned on a platform of difference, will attack him as a remnant of the old guard of the Democratic party that failed to stop the ascendency of Trump. His long career as a Senator has some moments that could make liberal voters cringe: in the 1990s, Biden helped write laws supporting the ‘war on drugs’ that led to the mass incarceration of young black men; as a Senator, he voted against federal funding for abortions; and voted in 1996 on the Defense of Marriage Act which reaffirmed the illegality of same-sex marriage. Then there is the way he handled Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas in 1991 and the recent, post #MeToo confessions by women who say his overly friendly demeanor made them uncomfortable.
Biden’s long experience in the Senate might actually end up counting against him if he is forced to defend himself against the things he stood for that the Democratic Party now views as abhorrent. He is already planning for this. He has issued a public apology to Anita Hill and offered support in 2012 to the legalization of gay marriage in America but the ‘war on drugs’ was a question that haunted Hilary Clinton on her campaign trail and will no doubt plague Biden.
The Democratic establishment will love to have an old school party member in the running and Biden is expected to draw on the support of the Democratic Party as well as wealthy businesspeople. As he enters the race presenting himself as a moderate voice of reason, only time will tell if he can energize voters.