If there’s one name that gets floated around too often when discussing 2020 presidential candidates, it’s Joe Biden. The former Vice President has all but formally announced his intentions to run, and admittedly, he may have good reason to consider it. According to numerous polls, Biden is more popular than any declared or potential 2020 hopeful, including big names like Bernie Sanders. Biden’s relationship with President Barack Obama, often portrayed in memes, has garnered him considerable name recognition, and that affiliation is bound to signal a much-desired return to normalcy for some Democratic voters. However, political capital alone doesn’t make you worthy of the highest office; Biden should be the Democratic party’s past, not its future.
Whether or not the establishment wants to admit it, there’s a new Democratic party emerging. Potentially due to figures like Sanders and representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the overton window has shifted left, a phenomenon which is particularly noticeable in the primary voter base. 71 percent of likely primary voters support the Green New Deal, and 71 percent of the country supports Medicare For All. Biden has yet to get behind these causes, and his record suggests that this is unlikely to change.
Speaking of his record, let’s address it. The 1990s were dominated by bipartisan, tough-on-crime rhetoric which served to benefit the private-prison industry at the expense of the poor and minorities, particularly African-Americans. Few were more aggressive than Biden, a driving force behind the 1994 Crime Bill, who once bragged that he had “made it a death penalty offense for everything but jaywalking.” During this time he routinely stoked the fears of his colleagues by insisting that they and their families could fall prey to superpredators—a myth with racial undertones targeting black youths. One can argue that these were just the measures that were necessary to be politically viable in the 90s climate, but he’s sure to have a difficult time grappling with this legacy while competing against numerous candidates who entered politics later on. Furthermore, a leader should actually lead and stray from the pack if popular policies are wrong.
Also worth considering are his tendencies to make gaffes as well as his creepy factor. His first presidential bid was brought to an end when his long history of plagiarism came to light. His second bid was called into question when he described his then primary opponent Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright.” Also, the elephant in the room are his dealings with women. To be fair, Biden is a well-known close talker with men and women alike, but his contact with women needs to be questioned in today’s social context. There are numerous videos in which he gets touchy with women, some of them being rather young. Democrat Lucy Flores recently revealed that he had kissed the back of her head during a 2014 campaign rally. Many have come to his defense insisting he’s old school, that he’s never been reprimanded and his actions weren’t meant to be sexual. This doesn’t change the fact that he acted without Flores’ consent, something which the pro #MeToo Democrats should condemn if they wish to remain logically consistent.
Biden’s name recognition makes him a compelling 2020 candidate, but there’s nothing else to him. His policy has ramped up mass incarceration at the behest of private prisons, he refuses to support positive legislation now popular within the base and he conducts himself questionably at best with women. His proclamation that he could be the most progressive 2020 candidate is a bold lie, and his comments about “working across the isle” indicates a lack of political awareness and an obliviousness to the asymmetric polarization of Washington. Biden should be part of the Democrat’s history—the part we visit so we don’t repeat our mistakes.