Deconstructing Joe Biden’s Problematic Past

    Vice President Joe Biden was a part of Americans’ lives for eight years. He was America’s dad, offering us a small reprieve from the seriousness of politics. He was also Obama’s right-hand man. Obama has described them as “brothers” on many accounts, as they have been through more together than one can even imagine. When Obama left office in 2016 and Trump took over, many Democrats began looking for potential 2020 candidates right away. Biden has consistently been the frontrunner of these speculations since polling began for the Iowa caucuses. However, people on both sides of the political aisle have questioned Biden’s fit for the presidency. Below I have compiled the three most prominent cases against Biden’s bid for 2020.

 

Anita Hill

    Before Joe Biden was VP, he was the Senate Judiciary chair in charge of confirming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas’ confirmation process was supposed to be fairly routine, but when Anita Hill came out saying Thomas sexually harassed her, all bets were off. There are two main complaints against Biden’s handling of the case: 1) that he should have been more supportive of Hill’s testimony, and 2) the structuring of the hearing.

    To the first point, Biden claims that the rules of the Senate barred him from defending Hill, especially when other lawmakers were asking the questions. However, Biden was contributing to the unfair questions Hill was being pelted with. Charles Ogletree, Hill’s attorney, said of Biden, “he’s supposed to be neutral, but his questions to Anita Hill were as piercing as anyone’s.”

To the second point, Biden allowed Clarence Thomas to give his testimony first, and then Anita Hill’s, and then Thomas was allowed to give another chance to speak. This meant that Thomas was given the chance to disregard everything Hill said, even though he had already given his side of the story. Biden also didn’t call any of the other women who accused Thomas of sexual harassment to strengthen Hill’s testimony. Angela Wright Shannon, another woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment, said, “The Republicans metaphorically stoned Anita Hill, while the Democrats, Biden being the gatekeeper, let it happen.”

Biden has since publically expressed remorse regarding the hearings. In 2017, he told Teen Vogue, “My one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her.” In March of this year, at the “Biden Courage Awards”, he said, "To this day I regret I couldn't give her the kind of hearing she deserved." To many Americans who supported Hill, Biden’s “apology” comes up short. Will it break Biden’s 2020 bid? Only time will tell.

 

Inappropriate conduct

    The MeToo movement has empowered many women to come out against their employers who took advantage of their power to sexually harass them. Many figures in Hollywood, from Harvey Weinstein to John Lasseter, have been exposed through this movement. The political world was also impacted by the movement, with many coming out against President Trump. Biden has also recently been accused of inappropriate conduct by his previous staff members.

    In March of this year, Lucy Flores formally accused Biden of "demeaning and disrespectful" behavior. Flores recounts how in 2014, Biden visited her because she was the nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada. Flores said Biden came up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, leaned down to smell her hair, and kissed the top of her head. Flores said in her blog post on The Cut that she thought about the consequences of coming out for a long time. However, she arrived at the conclusion that “hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer.”

    Since Flores’ post, another woman has come out against Biden for his inappropriate touching. Sofie Karasek, a survivor of sexual assault advocate, started a discussion about the viral photo of her and Biden touching foreheads at the Academy Awards. Karasek wrote that she told Biden a story about a woman who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted and then he “leaned down, took my hands and put his forehead to mine.”

    Although Flores and Karasek are the only ones who have written scathing accounts of their inappropriate encounters with Biden, there are other videos on the internet that show other women clearly taken aback by Biden’s actions. These instances are ironic considering that Biden’s handling of Hill’s case coupled with these accounts makes a strong case against Biden’s presidential bids. While Trump’s base may not care about Trump’s sexual misconduct, Biden’s base does. Biden often makes jokes about his tendency to be touchy, and it will be interesting to see if this ends up hurting his bid.

 

Support for segregationalists

    Biden has been a public servant for 46 years, and 2020 is going to dig up everything that Biden has been a part of during those years. Many problematic instances have come up, including Biden saying he didn’t “think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body” in 1974. Biden had described himself as “socially conservative” during that time, yet when he left the White House in 2016, he had the opposite viewpoints.

    CNN has recently highlighted his desire to stop busing to desegregate schools. During his first term in the Senate, Biden wrote letters to Senator James Eastland asking for support of his anti-busing legislation. James Eastland was a Mississippi Democrat who referred to African Americans as the “inferior race,” so it’s clear why this is a troubling topic going into 2020.

    Even though it’s a far cry to call Biden a racist, it is worth considering Biden’s past actions. Ronnie Dunn, a professor at Cleveland State University, told CNN that while Biden's actions should be contextualized from his many years in office, "If it weren't for the busing during that time period, we likely wouldn't have seen our first African American president.”

    There are two ways Biden could handle his complicated past: he can run from it and pretend it didn’t happen, or he can face it and own up to it. If he were to ignore his views from all those years ago, his views today will be tainted with his views of the past. If he were to own up to his past, he could clarify and be transparent about his past. This would help him put his past in the past, and make him a fresh candidate for 2020.