What would President Joe Biden do? His supporters are making it hard to read the tealeaves.
As they warn in those investment company ads, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. But there’s a reason Wall Street analysts pour over historical data: Past performance is a strong indicator of what a stock will do next. So if you want to know what kind of president Biden would be, it’s smart to study his record, which has been consistent over 44 years in public office.
With a few exceptions, Biden has always positioned himself either at the center or to the right of the ideological 50-yard line of his party. When he has written or sponsored legislation with broad implications, such as the 1994 crime bill and the USA Patriot Act, it has been so reactionary that it could easily have been authored by a right-wing Republican. Biden has never been responsible for a major law that could be described as liberal.
It’s impossible to know what was in Joe Biden’s heart as he considered policy decisions throughout his four decades in Washington. All we know is what he actually did. There were few acts of foresight, much less courage. Even when the choice between right and wrong was clear to many others, Biden was on the wrong side of history.
Biden was against it. He was so against it that he cosponsored an amendment against busing with Sen. Jesse Helms, the Republican far-right segregationist. Biden said in what ought to have been a career-killing rant: “What it says is, in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?”
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, Biden failed to protect professor Anita Hill from scurrilous attacks by Republican committee members during televised hearings. He seemed to value his working relationship with the GOP more than protecting a Democratic witness. Scandalously, Biden failed to call Sukari Hardnett, who corroborated Hill’s account. Thomas’ confirmation might not have survived her testimony.
Over the past few decades, Americans have liberalized their views about drugs, coming to favor the legalization of marijuana and opposing the “war on drugs” that criminalized substance abuse rather than treating it as a medical condition. Biden is on the opposite side of that trend. He is still against legalizing pot. And he was an aggressive proponent of the war on drugs. In 1983, he joined far-right racist Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond in cosponsoring the legislation that launched the modern asset forfeiture program, which allows police to steal property belonging to people suspected of possessing drugs even if they are not ever charged, much less convicted, of a crime.
Biden has been on the side of the angels a few times. He is fairly strong on LGBTQIA rights. He voted against the 1991 Gulf War. Most of the time, however, he sides against oppressed people and in favor of military intervention.
Trump is terrible. His nonresponse to the coronavirus pandemic and his relentless racism and dog whistling to neo-Nazis are execrable and impeachable. As awful and insane as he is, however, there’s no reason to think that he is any worse than Joe Biden would be.
At the end of the next four years, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are more likely to be alive if Donald Trump is president rather than Joe Biden. Trump has resisted new wars and is bringing an end to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; Biden has repeatedly voted for new wars and backed policies that destroyed countries like Libya and Syria.
Though he hasn’t gone nearly far enough, Trump seems to understand the need to direct stimulus money into the pockets of unemployed and underemployed Americans. Biden, on the other hand, is a devotee of austerity. He was an architect of former President Barack Obama’s decision to ignore millions of unemployed and newly homeless workers while handing $7 trillion in federal aid to big banks. One can easily imagine Biden reprising the role of former President Bill Clinton, another Democrat who became a deficit hawk, at a time when the Treasury should be spending money like water. It took former President Richard Nixon to go to China; it takes a Democrat to screw the working class.
On Foreign Policy, Biden Is Worse Than Trump
President Donald Trump is terrible. Joe Biden is just as bad. In some ways, the Democrat is worse.
At the center of the president’s worldview is a deep, admirable and prescient skepticism about foreign interventionism. Trump began criticizing the Iraq War soon after it began, when the U.S. invasion was still popular. His critiques continued during the 2016 primaries — have you known of another Republican to campaign against militarism? As president-elect Trump told a room full of service members, “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”
Trump signed the first peace agreement with the Taliban; he plans to bring home the last American troops in Afghanistan before Election Day, even sooner than required under the deal. He refuses to be goaded into a new Cold War against Russia, has met with the leader of North Korea and has offered direct talks with Iran — positions far to the left of hawkish pro-war Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Because most Americans are self-centered and unconcerned about brown people in other nations, it’s ridiculous yet necessary to remind you that the Afghans we bomb are real people like you and me; that Iraqis are scarred for life when their children are hobbled by American bullets; that Yemenis cry for their dead blown to bits by American missiles; that our insane decision to turn Libya from the most prosperous country in Africa into a failed state with 21st-century slave auctions is an atrocity; that we have murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last couple of decades for no reason that can be justified under common sense or international law.
The United States is the greatest exporter of death, oppression and exploitation on the planet. Every human being has the duty to oppose it. We who pour our taxes into the U.S. government have the biggest duty of all to fight the war machine. That begins with holding the murderers and their enablers accountable for their — there is no better word — evil.
Wars of choice are not horrors of happenstance, like a tornado. Political leaders vote to slaughter and maim men, women and children, and ruin economies around the globe, leading to still more death. Some politicians are especially nefarious, convincing other politicians to vote for mass murder.
Most recently, after Trump signaled his willingness to dump U.S.-backed rightist Juan Guaido and meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a socialist, Biden called Maduro a dictator and pledged fealty to right-wing Venezuelan exiles in south Florida. It was the latest in a long line of foreign policy calls that we have come to expect from a right-wing Republican like former President George W. Bush — yet Biden plays a “Democrat” on TV.
Branko Marcetic, writing for Jacobin, observed: “He’s registered some antiwar positions from time to time, as when he voted against the first Gulf War or opposed the funding of the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. But overall, he’s racked up a track record of supporting overseas adventures.”
Biden, notes Marcetic, pushed for “the 1999 bombing of Serbia, which actually dissolved the local pro-democracy movement and rallied popular support around the country’s dictator.” Biden voted for the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again,” Biden said in August 2003. Now he defends himself by saying he was so stupid that he fell for Bush’s lies about WMDs.
Biden was the guy who convinced Obama to ramp up Bush’s drone assassination program, which kills 50 innocent bystanders for every 1 targeted “militant” — who often gets away and is rarely a threat to the United States, just to our authoritarian allies. Someday soon, Biden’s drone killings abroad will be used to justify killing Americans here at home.
Elsewhere, Marcetic writes: “When Reagan invaded Grenada in 1983, bombing a hospital in the process, Biden said he ‘did the right thing.’ When he bombed Libya three years later, killing 36 civilians and dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 15-month-old daughter, Biden said, ‘There can be no question that Gaddafi has asked for and deserves a strong response like this.’ And when George H. W. Bush invaded Panama three years after that, an outrageous war to depose a leader who had been a CIA asset and that saw dead civilians ‘buried like dogs,’ as one witness put it, Biden called it ‘appropriate and necessary.'”
A vote for Biden isn’t just a vote against Trump. It’s a vote in favor of Biden’s vote to kill 1 million Iraqis. If we elect Joe Biden, we will send a message to the world: America hates you; we’re glad we killed all those people, and we plan to kill more.
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