By Zander Kurita ’22
Joe Biden, one of the most well-known politicians in the United States, has made the most out of his life and career. He served for 36 years as a Senator from Delaware and eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president. He does not lack policies, experience, or support; the Democratic primaries have shown as much. Unfortunately for Biden, the primaries have also made him seem older and less able to speak and remember. For most presidential candidates, especially those previously in the Democratic field, support comes from the candidate’s ability to inspire or ignite some feeling deep in the souls of voters. Biden’s support comes not from his ability to rally people, but instead from his broad coalition of supporters and his old-age charm. Some may say that this broad coalition makes him the best candidate, but that is far from the truth.
Not once throughout the Democratic primary have I felt motivated to get out and throw my full weight behind Biden. There is always something (Tara Reade, gaffes, etc.) that makes me doubt Biden’s ability to beat President Donald Trump.
I love Joe (when Obama surprised him with the Medal of Freedom, I was tearing up), but he is not the right candidate for an increasingly youthful and progressive Democratic Party. So, why is Joe Biden running for President?
First on my list of grievances is his age. The former Vice President has always been one step away from the presidency, but Biden is 77 years old. If he won two terms, he would be 86 the day he would leave the White House. Not only do I worry about his physical health and ability to undertake the stressful duties of the presidency, but I also have no faith in his mental capacity.
Throughout his campaign, Biden’s inability to think quickly on his feet has become impossible to ignore. In a presidential campaign, every word out of a candidate’s mouth is scrutinized. Biden often misspeaks or loses his train of thought. In August 2019, he said, “Poor kids are just as bright, just as talented, as white kids.” At a campaign event, he said, “Super Thursday” instead of Tuesday. Biden cannot have slip-ups like these in a general election against Trump, whose campaign will scrutinize any error.
One might say that Trump is similar in his incapacity to form a coherent sentence or use real vocabulary, but Biden’s bid for the presidency rests on his experience in the world of politics—a world in which delivering speeches is crucial—whereas Trump prides himself on being an outsider who rejects all of Washington’s traditions. Hillary Clinton—a well-spoken, experienced politician—did not defeat the unorthodox Trump campaign in debates or over the airwaves. I cannot imagine Biden, a far worse speaker than Clinton, faring any better against the Trump media juggernaut.
A larger problem for me is Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual assault. In Trump’s run for President in 2016, his past terrible conduct with women was revealed to the public. While I knew that he did not amass great wealth by preferable means, the things I heard during his campaign utterly horrified me, and I could not imagine having a rapist in the White House. When he won, I marched with thousands of women and male allies to show that this behavior was unacceptable. As a self-proclaimed Democrat, I pride myself on fighting for what I believe to be just and moral. I consider my party one that fights for all people’s rights, especially women’s—as women are too often failed by our current systems.
While Biden is not the first person who comes to mind when I think of politicians who fight for women’s rights, he was a leading force in passing the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. He may not understand modern ideas about personal space or the manner in which a man should interact with women in a professional setting, but his political record proves that he does care about women’s rights.
I had thought, because of his record, that Biden was the opposite of Trump in respect to his treatment of women. When Reade alleged that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 while serving as the Junior Senator from Delaware, my high regard for him was shaken. After watching Reade’s interview on Democracy Now!, I could not help but draw comparisons to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony regarding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While I believe the accusations that Ford leveled at Kavanaugh were more believable because of Kavanaugh’s known drinking problem than the short interview with Reade, accusations like these are impossible to ignore or disregard simply out of respect for the women involved.
When running against Trump, Biden must draw every possible comparison and prove that he is the better candidate in both policy and character. Reade’s allegation makes it impossible for Biden’s campaign to say that Biden is the morally sound man while Trump is not.
It is a shame that this narrative may form as we near the election, especially since their records on women’s rights are opposites. While Biden has made homes safer for women and supported their right to choose, Trump said at a Republican primary debate: “I hate the concept of abortion.” I know Biden will serve American women well from the White House, but Reade’s allegation cannot be ignored. It makes Biden’s bid for the presidency that much harder because I have no doubt that the Trump campaign will place as much attention as possible on Reade’s story.
The Biden candidacy is further undermined by the incredible amount of young, progressive candidates who entered the field. From the moment Former Representative John Delaney (D-MD) and Andrew Yang announced their respective runs in 2017, we saw promising candidate after promising candidate enter the race. Any of the Democrats had the potential to defeat Trump, and many of them, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, could inspire widespread enthusiasm to organize and vote. When Biden jumped in the race, Sanders, Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris were already in the race.
So, why did Biden enter the race? Did he feel it was necessary since he had been Vice President? Many people have attributed his run to a lack of strong, moderate candidates. This judgment holds back the party because a field without Biden represents the party’s future. People will almost always stick to the people who make them feel comfortable. In the primaries, we saw Black voters mainly supported Biden. The trust that many voters placed in Biden is likely out of fear of losing. Perhaps if Biden had not entered the race, most of the people who voted for him would still vote; therefore, they would support a different candidate—a person with experience and who is unproblematic compared to Biden.
Since Biden is the presumptive nominee, Democrats will have to work extremely hard to get him elected. Although I do not believe that Biden is the best candidate for the Democratic Party, it does not mean that I won’t call, knock on doors, or donate to his campaign. I believe he can win. We have seen the Trump administration work for nearly four years to tear down legislation that protects our country’s most vulnerable and line the pockets of the wealthiest Americans. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that our current leadership is unable to serve this country with compassion and competence.