Joe Biden, or rather the staffers running his campaign, love to describe Biden as “the most progressive candidate in history.” But like most things that come out of Biden’s mouth, this is pure malarkey.
Senate Career: To the right of Reagan and Bush
After graduating law school despite plagiarizing a paper, Biden began his law career in 1968 clerking for well known local Republican William Prickett. At the time, Biden said he “thought of himself as a Republican” and he even supported the Republican candidate for governor.
In 1969 at the age of 27, Biden registered as a Democrat and immediately ran for elected office as a Democrat. Biden won this election for New Castle County Council,an elected office he intended to use as a springboard into the Senate.
Just three years later, Biden won a Senate seat by running on a liberal platform that included withdrawing from Vietnam and supporting the civil rights movement. Once elected however, Biden immediately shifted right.
In the mid 1970’s, Biden famously supported bus segregation in schools. In a 1977 speech supporting such segregation, Biden said “I don’t want my children to grow up in a jungle…a racial jungle.”
By 1984, Biden was working as the Democratic floor manager in the Senate. That year, he personally led the charge to pass the 1984 crime bill. That crime bill dramatically lengthened prison sentences for people convicted of drug crimes, reduced access to bail, eliminated parole at the Federal level, and expanded civil asset forfeiture. Biden even positioned himself to the right of the Reagan administration on the issue, saying “My patience for action in the drug arena by this (Reagan) administration is beginning to waiver.” This bill mostly hurt poor Black and non-white people because of the extremely racist nature of policing in the U.S.
In 1987 Biden ran for President on a moderate platform. Despite being an early frontrunner due to his establishment support, Biden’s campaign imploded after he was caught plagiarizing multiple speeches. In total. Biden plagiarized a 1988 speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, a 1967 speech by Robert Kennedy, the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, and a 1976 speech from Hubert Humphrey. This is also when it was first discovered that Biden plagiarized an assignment in law school.
In 1991 Biden, then a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, gravely mishandled Anita Hill’s accusation of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas. Biden refused to make Hill’s accusation public until Hill agreed to testify. When Hill did testify, Biden did not allow three other women to testify in support of Hill’s testimony, including Angela Wright who also alleged that Thomas sexually harassed her. After completely bungling the hearing, Biden voted against Thomas’s ascension to the Supreme Court.
In 1994 Biden led the effort to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, arguing that George Bush hadn’t been “tough enough” on criminals. With the help of Democratic President Bill Clinton, Biden once again set out to expand U.S. prison camps. In addition to funding more prisons and cops, the act introduced harsh three strike sentencing guidelines and incentivized police to make more drug arrests. Biden has repeatedly called the act the “Biden Crime Bill.”
In 1996, Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. That act formally outlawed same-sex marriage and effectively shut LGBTQ+ people out of the financial benefits of marriage. Biden would continue to publicly oppose same-sex marriage until 2012, when he reversed his decades long opposition to same-sex marriage just as public opinion polls on the issue began to reach a critical mass.
In 1998, Biden said he was “one of the Senate’s most conservative Democrats.”
Biden was also one of the loudest proponents of attacking Yugoslavia during the series of wars there. In addition to repeatedly calling for increased NATO intervention, Biden supported a bill to arm Bosnian Muslims. Not wanting to violate the UN arms embargo, Bill Clinton publicly vetoed the measure. Secretly though, the Clinton administration and the CIA had been running guns to multiple parties involved in the conflict since the beginning, using terrorists and drug cartels as intermediaries.
Biden supported President Clinton throughout the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals of the 90’s, calling Clinton’s impeachment a “partisan lynching.”
In 2001, Biden voted to invade Afghanistan. A few years later, Biden criticized the Bush administration for not waging a large enough war, saying in 2005 that “I’ve been calling for more troops (in Afghanistan) for over two years, along with John McCain.” The illegal U.S. occupation of Afghanistan continues to this day.
As for Iraq, Biden had called for an invasion as early as 1998, saying on the Senate floor that “all of us here really know, and it’s a thing we have to face, that the only way we’re going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we’re going to end up having to start it alone and it’s going to require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking this son of a — taking Saddam down.” Biden got his wish in 2002 when he voted to invade Iraq. As chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Biden was responsible for choosing all 18 witnesses to testify before the Senate on the Iraq war vote. With few exceptions, Biden chose pro-war hawks that repeated the now infamous lies about non-existent WMDs. Funny enough, Biden claimed in 2004 that he “never believed they had weapons of mass destruction.” An odd statement, considering that Biden publicly said Iraq had WMDs multiple times before the invasion.
While campaigning for President, Biden also voted to bailout the banks in 2008. Despite triggering the financial crisis by engaging in illegal subprime mortgage lending, major banks received a $700 billion corporate handout through the bailout.
Presidential Aspirations: “Progressive” Imperialism
In 2008, Biden, never lacking political aspiration, ran for President again. While campaigning, he called eventual President Barack Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Eventually, Biden lost the Presidential election to Obama and went on to serve as President Obama’s Vice President. As Vice President, Biden bears major responsibility for the illegal wars waged by the administration. In 2011 Biden publicly supported the bombing and destruction of Libya.
Biden also became the administration’s point man for the disastrous Iraq occupation, and it was while Biden was in this role that ISIS and other terrorist groups came to rule most of Iraq and parts of Syria. Making things worse, Biden then supported arming many of the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria that ended up fighting alongside ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Biden was also complicit in the Obama administration’s deportation of 3 million people at a significantly higher rate than the Trump administration. Rather than taking any sort of responsibility for the mass deportations, Biden has instead chosen to lie, claiming that the “Obama administration didn’t put people in cages”, a claim recognized by Politifact as false.
In 2014, Biden supported the euromaiden coup in Ukraine in which neo-nazi’s and other far right elements, working in conjunction with the U.S., seized power from Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Later in 2014, Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was appointed to the board of Director’s of Burisma Holdings Ltd, Ukraine’s largest natural gas company, despite having no relevant experience and a history of drug abuse. While sitting on the Board, Hunter Biden collected an annual salary of $850,000 while never once traveling to Ukraine. In 2016, Joe Biden pressured the far-right government to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had previously led an investigation into Burisma Holdings Ltd.
In 2019, Biden once again announced he was running for President. Biden also took this time to reverse his half a century support for the Hyde Amendment, a Republican amendment that seeks to ban federal funds for abortion. In large part because of this record as an extremely conservative Democrat, Biden seemed destined to not win a single state in the primary. However, Biden’s fortunes changed when Obama called and convinced the other eight moderate Democratic candidates, including the then front runner Pete Buttigieg, to drop out and endorse Biden in what amounts to a blatant conspiracy designed to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination.
In March, Tara Reade, a former Biden campaign staffer, accused Biden of sexually assaulting her. Reade’s story is now corroborated by 5 people whom she told of the assault. Additionally, Biden has a well documented history of inappropriately touching and groping women. Biden denies Reade’s allegation of sexual assault, and has publicly apoligized for other incidences of inappropriate touching and groping.
Liberal or Conservative?
Biden is not a liberal or a conservative, but rather an ambitious politician. He is quite willing to support whatever policy best serves his career, working people be damned. Biden is even running to the right of Trump on certain major issues. For example, he is currently running an ad that accuses Trump of “rolling over to China”. On the DPRK, Biden accuses Trump of “rushing to legitimize a dictator”. Biden’s extreme right positions are the direct result of “lesser evilism” voting that enables Democrat’s to simply argue that they are not quite as bad as Republicans. This electoral strategy is driven in part by a belief that anyone to the left of Trump will automatically vote for Biden because he is not as bad as Trump (debatable). If we want to hold the Democratic party accountable, refusing to vote for Biden is the only sensible option. If you want to vote, vote for candidates running that do not support U.S. imperialism and seek to help oppressed people (check out the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s candidate Gloria La Riva). While such candidates cannot win, voting for anti-imperialist candidates sends a powerful message to both Democrats and Republican’s that an ever growing number of people refuse to take part in rigged elections. That message directly challenges the legitimacy of the U.S. capitalist dictatorship and is far more significant than making an educated guess about which candidate will do less harm.