Joe Biden is an extremely popular Penn figure. He’s a Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor, whatever that means. Every few weeks he is on campus giving inspirational talks with world leaders and offering his valued opinion on the state of current politics. Whenever he’s on Locust Walk, he’s flocked by hundreds of students all wanting to get a quick glimpse or a selfie with the former Vice President.
Therefore, I may be in the minority in thinking that, as according to reports, Biden running for the presidency in 2020 would be a monumental disaster for the Democratic Party and likely result in Donald Trump being re-elected to a second term in office. Look, I like Joe as much as the next guy, but he’s simply not what this country needs rights now — he is a man who hasn’t realized his moment has passed.
First and foremost is the issue of age. If elected, he would be oldest person to ever ascend to the presidency, a little over a month shy of 78 on inauguration day. Reagan was inaugurated at 70, and rumors that he developed dementia towards the end of his tenure in office have circled for years. Democrats should be trying to show as much contrast to Trump, who’s currently 72, in their nominee as possible. Running somebody young, vibrant, and new would be doing just that. There’s also no shortage of people up for the job, from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
But age is not the only problem with a Biden candidacy. His record in Congress would also be profoundly scrutinized, especially his role in the Anita Hill hearings, for which he has been extensively criticized for refusing to present witnesses that could have corroborated Hill’s testimony of Clarence Thomas’ sexual harassment, and failing to defend her from sexist attacks from his own colleagues. Thomas would later be confirmed to the Supreme Court, where he is rated as one of the most conservative justices on the bench. In light of Bret Kavanaugh's confirmation and the wider #MeToo movement, this political baggage could be disqualifying, especially for women.
Many of Biden’s other policy initiatives in the Senate also clearly do not fit with the Democratic Party’s zeitgeist. Remember the 1994 Crime Bill that Hillary was incessantly attacked for by the leftist, Bernie Sanders wing of the party? Biden actually authored it. The bill, officially named the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, focused largely on punitive measures, not rehabilitative, resulting in an increase of mass incarceration. Although the United States only makes up 4.4 percent of the world's population, we house 22 percent of its prisoners. Many of those incarcerated were nonviolent drug offenders, for which the bill demanded harsher sentences. Liberals today are thankfully much more focused on criminal justice reform, and Biden’s history undeniably makes him a flawed champion of this cause.
There are of course other legitimate reasons for Biden to opt out of running in 2020, a large one being that it would be his third attempt at the nation's highest office after two failures. He ran once in 1988, where he was originally considered one of the frontrunners, before a plagiarized speech derailed his campaign. He tried his luck again in 2008 but couldn’t garner much traction, getting less than 1 percent in the Iowa caucus before dropping out. It seems as though outside his home state of Delaware, his electability is far from a guarantee.
Lastly, Biden is prone to making gaffes. While campaigning in 2012, he told a predominately African-American audience that if Mitt Romney were elected, he would “put y'all back in chains.” In 2006, during a C-SPAN series, he tried to relate to an Indian-American supporter by saying, "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking." Obviously, Trump has proven that verbal blunders like this are no longer disqualifying to much of the American electorate, but Democrats should run somebody who can showcase how different they are from the current occupant of the White House, and having a candidate who can stick to the script will prove valuable.
Whether he runs or not in the end is obviously up to Joe himself. His decades of public service has earned him that right. But I genuinely think that our country would be better off if the Democratic party elders step aside and allow a new generation of leaders to rise.
And, of course, if Joe isn’t in the White House, we‘ll be lucky to see even more of him here at Penn.
SPENCER SWANSON is a College sophomore from London, studying philosophy, politics, and economics. His email address is email@example.com.
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