Political Issue: Not your average Joe

A Biden sign in a yard emphasizes the importance of unity.

Coco Legrand

A Biden sign in a yard emphasizes the importance of unity.

Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville, VA, in August 2017, chanting racist and anti-semitic slogans as they marched with torches and carried symbols of hate. This is the scene Joe Biden recalls in his video announcing his 2020 campaign: “The current president of the United States assigned a moral equivalent between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation.”

 Born the eldest of four siblings in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1942, Joe Biden has served the American public for over 50 years as a lawyer, senator, vice president and now the Democratic presidential candidate. 

Biden graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware in 1965 and continued on to Syracuse University College of Law. While there, he met and married Neilia Hunter, with whom he had three kids. He practiced law for three years until he was elected senator of Delaware in 1972. 

Weeks after his election, Biden’s wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. He considered resigning from his position, but was ultimately persuaded not to by family and colleagues. Instead, he commuted to and from Washington, D.C. each day to spend more time with his two sons. 

Biden served six terms as senator of Delaware, leading the creation of several major acts including the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. This greatly increased prison funding, mass incarceration and allowed for 100,000 new police officers. The same year, he crafted the Violence Against Women Act, which increased federal funding for investigations of domestic violence. He also advocated for the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) talks  with the Soviet Union and served as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee for eight years. 

After serving almost three terms as senator,  Biden decided to run in the 1988 presidential election. However, months into his campaign, he suffered two brain aneurysms and had to undergo surgery. This kept him from completing his presidential run and also kept him out of the Senate for seven months. Biden ran again in 2008, but he struggled to gain support due to higher-profile candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A few months later, Obama announced Biden as his running mate because he was “uniquely suited to be [his] partner as [they] work[ed] to put the country back on track.”

uniquely suited to be [his] partner as [they] work[ed] to put the country back on track.[”

— Barack Obama

Biden served as Obama’s vice president for two terms from 2009-2017. During this time he served as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, overseeing foreign policy in Libya and Iraq. After the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, he led a task force to address gun violence in the United States. In 2017, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments as vice president. 

Biden announced that he was running for president once again in April of 2019, saying that Trump’s presidency was a “threat to the nation was unlike any [he’d] ever seen in [his] lifetime.” In September 2019,  an anonymous whistleblower reported that Trump had pressured Ukraine into investigating possible wrongdoing by Biden regarding foreign policy. There was no evidence of misconduct by Biden and the situation resulted in Trump’s impeachment.

Biden became a frontrunner in 2019 as four other major candidates dropped out of the race. In April 2020, Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race and Biden became the presumptive nominee, with the endorsements of both Obama and Sanders. Biden committed to choosing a woman as his vice presidential candidate, picking California Senator Kamala Harris. On Aug. 18, 2020, Biden was officially nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate. 

Throughout his campaign in 2019, several female politicians who had worked with Biden in the past, came forward with accusations of inappropriate intimate touching. He apologized in a short Twitter video, saying he was just “[trying] to make a human connection” but would “be much more mindful.” In March 2020, former staffer Tara Reade accused him of sexual assault. However, Biden and his campaign said the allegations “weren’t true. This never happened.”

a woman [does not have] the sole right to say what should happen to her body”

— Joe Biden

Biden has remained a moderate Democrat throughout his political career, but as the Democratic party has moved farther to the left, some of Biden’s views have shifted. Although Biden once stated that “a woman [does not have] the sole right to say what should happen to her body” and “[did] not view abortion as a choice and a right,” he has supported reproductive rights in recent years. Biden has expressed support for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion unless it is to save the life of the woman. As a senator, he voted against two policies that supported same-sex marriage, but has displayed support for the LGBTQ+ community since his vice presidency. 

Biden’s policies have also consistently emphasized the needs of middle and working class Americans. He often refers back to his own humble background in a personal manner that has sometimes earned him the nickname “Uncle Joe.” He has supported progressive policies such as reduced military spending, student loan forgiveness, renewable energy and decriminalization of marijuana. While he does not support policies such as Sanders’ plan of Medicare for All, he has expressed the possibility of adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden has promised that as president he would ensure tests are free and easily accessible, and that there will be no out of pocket cost once a vaccine is available. At the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Biden promised: “I give you my word, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. . . united we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”