Former Vice-President Joe Biden is now vying to become president of the United States. He’s in the lead in the Democratic primaries and will almost certainly face Trump on 3 November. We discuss his life, political career and electoral platform.
My own father had always said the measure of a man wasn’t how many times or how hard he got knocked down, but how fast he got back up.Joe Biden
Delaware, United States. December 1972. It’s two weeks before Christmas, carols ring through the streets and the air is filled with the smell of pumpkin pie, Christmas pudding and eggnog. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., known as Joe, has just turned thirty and fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Democratic Senator for Delaware. His life couldn’t be going any better.
But everything changes when a drunk driver puts himself between the young man and his happiness, crashing into the car Joe’s wife Neilia is driving, their three children in the vehicle with her. Neilia dies, as does the youngest daughter Naomi Christina, only 13 months old. The two boys, Hunter and Beau, survive the accident. And Joe, who until that time had devoted his whole life to politics, finds himself having to raise them on his own. He even considers giving up his career. But his friends support him and, remembering his father’s words, he’s able to get back up, raising his boys with all the love he has to give.
Joe Biden’s education and political career
Joe Biden was born in 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to a modest Catholic family. He obtained a degree in Political Science at the University of Delaware in Newark and a Law degree from Syracuse University in New York state. He passed the bar exam in 1969 and was elected to the Senate three years later.
During his career he’s held several important positions: from 1987 to 1995 he was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and in 2001 he took on the prestigious role of Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; between 2007 and 2009 he also chaired the International Narcotics Control Caucus.
In 2008, he was chosen as vice-president of the United States of America, and he remained at Barack Obama’s side until 2017. Biden described Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”, in one of his many “careless and ramshackle” statements, to borrow an expression from Francesco Costa, author of the book This is America (“Questa è l’America” in the original Italian).
Two recent statements by “Uncle Joe” have caused a stir, this time in a positive sense. If he’s chosen as president of the US, his VP will be a woman and he’ll name an African-American woman to the Supreme Court, which would be a first in the institution’s history. The only other candidate still in the race for the Democratic primaries is Bernie Sanders, who no longer presents a real threat. Everything points to Biden becoming the candidate the Democratic Party will field to challenge Donald Trump in the presidential elections on the 3rd pf November. We outline some of the key aspects of his electoral platform, which addresses many of the issues held dear by the Obama administration.
How he wants to save the planet:By promoting a clean energy revolution and climate justice. According to him, using the US’s talents and unparalleled innovation will transform the threat of global warming into an opportunity to relaunch the energy sector and give impetus to economic growth. His goal is to make America an “energy superpower”, using the public procurement system to reach the point where the entire nation is powered by renewable energy, and promote electric vehicles. The transition will start with government offices.
Biden will impose strict limits on methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that, though less prominent than other fossil fuels, is 86 times “worse” than CO2. He’ll attempt to reduce atmospheric pollution generated by the transportation sector, ensuring that the provisions of the Clean Air Act are enacted and improved upon. Biden wants to work towards reducing America’s net emissions to zero by 2050. He’ll require public companies to disclose the climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions caused by their production and supply chains. He’s also promised to safeguard protected areas that Trump has endangered, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
What he thinks about firearms: The National Rifle Association is the enemy. Biden has stood up to it twice, and come out victorious both times. In 1993 he promoted the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act before Congress. This was one of the most important pieces of gun control legislation, having launched the system of background checks that firearm buyers must pass. In 1994, alongside Senator Dianne Feinstein, he guaranteed the approval of a ten-year ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. He’s promised that, as president, he won’t shy away from confronting the NRA again.
In 2002, however, he was one of the 77 senators who voted in favour of the intervention in Iraq, a decision he’s still trying to explain. Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times write that this decision shows Biden’s true essence: “a dealmaker at heart, with a reverence for bipartisan compromise”. A trait admired by his supporters, but which his opponents see as having altered his judgement on several occasions.
People shouldn’t be in a position where their children have access to weapons and ammunition.Joe Biden
What he thinks of the current healthcare system: That it was balanced by Barack Obama’s intervention. Biden wants to start from Obamacare, the major overhaul of US healthcare that took place in 2010, before adding some further steps. He wants to give every citizen, not just those in certain categories, the possibility of choosing a public healthcare option as well as a private one. Biden also plans to increase the value of tax credits to decrease premiums and extend coverage to more workers, and grant middle class families a tax credit to help them pay for coverage. Finally, his platform includes a plan to contrast violence against women.
One of the most important issues we face as a nation is ensuring affordable, accessible health care. There's work to do, but that doesn't mean starting from scratch. It means protecting and building on Obamacare. #DemDebatepic.twitter.com/7J4nC6ZUGX
What he says about immigration: Looking back at their family history, most Americans will find a decision was made. The decision to leave everything familiar to go in search of new opportunities and a new life. For Biden, immigration is essential to America’s identity, the country’s fundamental values and its aspirations for the future. And all of this has to be reflected in immigration policy. For this reason, Obama’s VP wants to take off from where he was interrupted, restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme: this provision, which Trump revoked, allowed for a minimum two-year deferral for expelling minors who entered the US illegally.
Democratic primaries, the states Biden has won so far
As things stand, Biden has won over 1,200 delegates. Sanders, on the other hand, has just over 900. Delegates are assigned based on the votes each candidate obtains at the ballot box. The winning candidate needs 1,991 delegates, which is half the total number plus one. So far, voting has taken place in 27 states and two dependent territories; expat voters have also expressed their preference. Biden won the vote in 19 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Super Tuesday is the most important day in the US primaries calendar. This year it fell on the 3rd of March, when the citizens of 14 states plus American Samoa cast their votes. It was a key turning point for Biden’s campaign. “They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing,” he exclaimed during his victory speech from a California stage. Although he normally prepares his speeches very carefully because of his stutter, this time there was a tinge of spontaneity to his words, and his eyes shone with enthusiasm. “Folks, things are looking awful good. Just a few days ago the press and pundits declared the campaign dead, and then came South Carolina. I’m here to report we’re very much alive. Make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing,” Biden told his supporters.
“We need you. When the turnouts turn out for us, that can deliver us to a moment where we can do extraordinary things. Our agenda is bold. It’s progressive. It’s a vision, where health care is affordable and available to everybody in America, with no more surprise billing; we’re going to invest billions of dollars standing up to beating the NRA and gun manufacturers, and leading the world to take on the existential and that of climate change. I’m going to start by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and we’re going to move it a long way. A country where the quality of education won’t depend on your zip code, where they triple funding for low income school district providing raises for teachers, and significant reductions in the cost of going to college. Wall Street didn’t build this country, you built this country. The middle class built this country”.
According to Fivethirtyeight, which analyses opinion polls on politics, the economy and sports, and is considered one of the most reliable sources for electoral predictions, Biden is 99 per cent likely to win the primaries at this stage of the race. But the official announcement will come at the Democratic Party Conference between the 13th and the 16th of July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The latest polls tell the same story, with Biden in the lead with over 50 per cent of preferences.
Joe Biden breaks ahead. Sanders falls but stays in the race. Bloomberg is hanging by a thread. Warren is invisible. The final results of Super Tuesday, a key day in the Democratic primaries to choose the candidate for the the US presidential elections.
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