By ANDREW DOVER
The media dynamics of the 2020 race are strange, to put it mildly. The incumbent president has alternated between trying to paint his rival as a dyed-in-the-wool socialist and a bumbling senior, while he stumbles his way from fiasco to fiasco. Biden is running the opposite strategy by presenting himself as moderate, sensible and experienced; above the bully pulpit. I will not attempt to make the case against Donald Trump, but for Biden. His past, his policies and personality have been seemingly ignored in non-US media, which has been overwhelmed by the sensationalist rhetoric of the president. Biden’s platform is one of the most progressive in American history. He is a charismatic, empathetic and savvy politician, with decades of Washington experience, which would enable him to enact sweeping reforms.
One of Biden’s guiding principles is that compromise is not only possible, but preferable to acting alone. In 2009, immediately after he became Vice President, Biden began cajoling Republican Senators to vote for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill (in the wake of the 2008 crash). He was successful in getting three to vote against their party, ensuring the bill passed. As a result, the American economy slowly but steadily recovered. This is perhaps the most prominent example in a decades long career built on solid personal relationships and bipartisan compromise. Joe Biden has been endorsed this cycle by many prominent Republicans, including 2016 Presidential candidate John Kasich, Cindy McCain and many national security officials from Republican administrations.
In 2021, Biden would not only try to pass policy with the carrot of compromise, but the stick of constitutional reform. He has not given clear answers on whether he would abolish the filibuster, or add justices to the Supreme Court, all of which would prevent Republicans from striking down his legislation. Biden is hesitant to do any of this but has signalled he would be willing if Republicans are not cooperative. He has said these reforms are a “live ball”; he’s willing to enact them. There are arguments for implementing these measures outside of short-term political strategy - Republican Presidents have chosen 14 of the last 18 Supreme court justices, and in that time, Republicans have won the Presidency without the popular vote twice. Biden is a moderate. These reforms would not come easy to him. Yet he has an ambitious policy agenda and is realistic in knowing it’s likely to be struck down under the status quo. He will try and reach a much-needed compromise to heal the nation, and if that doesn’t work can resort to constitutional hardball.
After their primaries, candidates tend to move towards the centre to appeal to the median voter. They tend to no longer only be focused on winning the base but the broader public as well. Biden has been an exception. He has always had an uncanny ability to change his policy positions to what he sees as the centre of gravity in the Democratic party. After his primary defeat, Bernie Sanders collaborated with Biden, forming six policy task forces, each co-chaired by a Biden and Sanders nominee. The climate task force recommended Biden bring forward the US’s current net zero emissions target from 2050 to 2030 and re-join the Paris Climate Accords on day one of his administration. The criminal justice task force recommended de-militarising the police and conducting more federal investigations on local police departments. The education task force recommended having universal pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds. These have all been taken up by Biden’s campaign.
Even during the primaries, Biden’s platform would have been the most progressive of any major party’s nominee in recent history; promising to triple child tax credits, institute a $15 national minimum wage, and make community college free to attend. Biden is far from a radical. Most of these policies have already been implanted widely in European democracies. Yet they would represent a vast shift of the American status quo.
During the final televised debate, Biden declared “…I'm going to be an American president. I don't see red states and blue states. What I see is American, United States”. The line may be a cliché, but the sentiment is welcome; Biden’s personal strengths have always been his magnetic charm and his empathy. Weeks before Biden was first elected to the Senate, his first wife and daughter were killed in a car accident; he took the train every night from Washington D.C. to Delaware to be with his sons Beau and Hunter. Beau tragically passed away in 2015 after a prolonged battle with cancer. This is not to say these experiences will necessarily make Biden an efficient operator in the Presidency, but that he has always been able to connect emotionally with voters and legislators. When Barack Obama was recently asked about Biden’s personality, he said that in every meeting, Biden would be the voice in the room asking how what was being planned would impact the average American. This can only be a beneficial trait for the leader of the free world to have.
Throughout the body of this article, I have not once mentioned President Trump. Trump is an extraordinarily polarising figure. His popularity throughout his term has remained unnervingly constant. His net approval (the number of people who approve of him minus those who disapprove) has only decreased roughly 2% over the last year. His impeachment, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic have all had virtually no effect on this figure. People have made up their minds on Trump. Yet even without considering his opponent, Biden would make a worthy President.
To read the case for Donald Trump, click here.
Image: Adam Schultz / Biden for President