The 2020 election has been one of the most, if not the most, sensationalized presidential races in the history of the nation. With a record-high voter turnout between in-person and mail-in ballots, it is clear that it was an election that the American people care deeply about.
After a brief and nerve-wracking delay of vote counting in key states, former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden clinched the necessary electoral votes to win the election. This victory means that Joe Biden is the next term’s president-elect, to be inaugurated into office on Jan. 20, 2021.
Barring desperate court appeals and recounts from a losing party trying desperately to hold on to their fading power and influence, this dreadful election can finally come to an end.
Many of us here in the Griffin office, and, according to our poll, much of the campus as a whole, can sigh a breath of relief as President Trump is ousted from the White House. His nature as an authoritarian figure, coupled with the power of the United States presidency, proved to be worrying — even anxiety-inducing — for many Americans.
Many people in marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, the immigrant community, and the numerous racial and ethnic communities that call this nation home felt as if another Trump term was a direct threat to their civil liberties and basic human rights.
Given the president’s controversial actions both before and during his time in office it is hard to argue against this fear. However, a concern that some of our editors have is that Biden also has his fair share of issues in his past — a trait shared with his running mate Kamala Harris. And while the shadier dealings of Donald Trump have been largely publicized since his election, Biden’s are much less known. For that reason, it is hard to feel genuine excitement about Biden’s victory, just the relief that he is marginally better than Donald Trump.
Credit where credit is due, Biden’s victory does mark at the very least a minute step on the path to recovery in the wake of Donald Trump. Harris’ status as both the first woman and the first person of color elected to the office of vice president is monumental, albeit a little sad that it took this long.
In his acceptance speech Joe Biden made several declarations regarding his plan to help the nation get back on the right track. In addition he has promised to, through executive action, rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Climate Accord, reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, reverse the Muslim ban, and reinstate roughly 100 Obama-era health and environmental regulations. This will ease the minds of many who were worried about healthcare, the climate crisis and a possible nuclear catastrophe. But due to the likely Republcan majority in the Senate during his term it is unclear how much else he will manage to accomplish beyond this.
Biden is famous for his hand in the 1994 Crime Bill, a document which largely influences America’s penal system to this day. The bill provided financial incentives for states who adopted the “Truth in Sentencing” laws. These laws require longer prison sentences in exchange for increased federal funding for prison construction. This led to 28% increases in incarcerations in 2000, compared to 1990 according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The bill also demanded harsher sentencing, gutted prison education budgets and created 60 new death penalty offenses. In short, the crime bill was one of the reasons incarceration rates have continued to climb.
In his acceptance speech, Biden stated that a large amount of support for his campaign came from the Black community, stating that they “have always had [his] back.” Biden, in reality, has quite a troubled history with the Black community, having opposed several school integration plans in the mid 1970s.
In 1975, Biden voted to bar the Departments of Health, Welfare, and Education from having to provide information on the racial makeup of their schools. In an era where withholding funding was a major component in encouraging desegregation this made it incredibly difficult to push integration movements forward. He later proposed an amendment to a $36 billion education bill which provided that none of this funding could be used “to assign teachers or students to schools … for reasons of race,” meaning that the money could not be used to incentivize integration. This was an act that former Senator Ed Brooke deemed “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.”
Biden, like Trump, is no stranger to sexual assault allegations. While claims against Biden are fewer than the number levied against Trump, any amount of substantial allegations are too many. On March 25, 2020, Tara Reade alleged that she was sexually assaulted by then Senator Joe Biden in 1993 while she was working as an aide in the Senate. Following that, seven other women came forward citing acts of sexual misconduct performed by Biden. While investigations into Reade’s claims have been criticised for lacking evidence, they cannot be easily dismissed.
The point in highlighting these more problematic items in Biden’s career is to serve as a much-needed return to reality. While Trump’s defeat is a victory for the United States, Biden’s presidency is far from a win, and it is a mockery of the democratic process that these were the options available.
Yes, Biden’s acceptance speech was thickly coated in all the inspirational, hopeful “we are Americans” rhetoric that is to be expected from the president-elect, and were that language not effective in inspiring hope it would not be employed so often. But this speech should not blind people to the kind of man that Biden is.
It is imperative that the president-to-be faces harsh criticism and is held to the same standard of accountability that the current holder of office is. Biden is not a heroic figure; he is a politician, and it is important that he be viewed as such.