As the oldest person to ever be elected into the office of president, and with the highest popular vote ever recorded, Joe Biden has made history. His decision in choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate has aided the Californian senator in also making her own mark on history as the first ever woman and black, Asian or biracial person to hold the vice-presidential office.
This Democrat victory echoes not only the historical importance that Barack Obama’s 2008 victory heralded; it also brings the same sentiment of hope that Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ campaign once did. However, like all politicians, for all the promising policies and unification that the Biden-Harris administration promises to bring, there are warning signs that perhaps the hope they offer is merely a facade.
The duo’s words are promising as they suggest there is a chance that a struggling and despondent America can finally begin to heal and move forward
During her victory speech, the vice-president-elect spoke of the commitment she shares with Biden to tackle systemic racism, concentrate on climate change and bring a very divided United States together again. Biden, mirroring Harris’ sentiments, swore to be a president to all Americans regardless of who they voted for. The duo’s words are promising as they suggest there is a chance that a struggling and despondent America can finally begin to heal and move forward.
However, the doctrine that Biden and Harris put forward are merely words to some voters and listeners. These same people, despite not having faith in what they were being told, still voted for Joe Biden as president. Why? The answer is simple: because for all of Joe Biden’s vices and failures, there are millions of voters who favour his persona and etiquette over Donald Trump’s. For these voters, the decision they made to back the Democrat nominees was out of a belief that they were choosing the lesser of two evils. But what is it about Biden and Harris that suggests that the much-needed change they signify is in fact a concoction of wishful thinking and political deception?
The pair have a patchy record when it comes to mass incarceration and the racism that goes hand in hand with it
Firstly, the pair have a patchy record when it comes to mass incarceration and the racism that goes hand in hand with it. It was the president-elect himself that drafted the 1994 Crime Bill that is responsible for the sharp increase in the US imprisonment rate over the past two decades. Meanwhile Kamala Harris, the former Attorney General of California, in a ‘ACAB’ (All Cops Are Bastards) climate, has been derogatorily labelled as a ‘cop’ on social media for her hand in using technicalities to keep wrongfully imprisoned black inmates behind bars and on death row. Biden and Harris’ stances and actions, in response to an issue that disproportionately affects black people, have therefore been an apt justification for typical Democrat voters to hesitate in electing the pair.
Continuing on the topic of race, during his campaign Biden infamously said “if you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black”. No doubt he intended for his words to be received by those who are both black and Trump voters, but instead his statement was poorly received because of his audacity to try and invalidate a person’s racial identity based on their voting choices. While Biden’s words were directly offensive here, he also has a history of microaggression. Prior to being his vice-president, he described then-Senator Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”. Although he did apologise for the comment, it is understandable that for some Democrat voters this comment marks Biden’s similarity to Trump in regard to its insensitivity and ignorance surrounding race and stereotyping.
Where Biden and Trump overlap once again is within their respective histories of grim sexual assault allegations. Trump’s are well-documented and a refresher is no doubt unnecessary, but Biden’s are very much glossed over because of the lack of attention surrounding them. While there is a list of women who allege Joe Biden made inappropriate contact with them, the most interesting and publicised case is that of Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer, who claims he assaulted her in 1993. Although Biden has denied any wrongdoing towards these women and issued a very poor and borderline-gaslit apology for any harm caused, there is a sentiment among voters that they may have possibly swapped one predator in the Oval Office for another.
For Kamala Harris, her biggest criticisms seem to come from her ever-changing political stances. One of the more 21st-century criticisms of the vice-president-elect is her contradictory stance on marijuana legislation. Harris is in favour of legalising the drug and claimed to have smoked it herself during her college years, with Tupac and Snoop Dogg’s music as the soundtrack to her experience. However, Harris’ college tenure was prior to the release of the rappers’ debut albums and, as District Attorney of San Francisco, she hypocritically oversaw almost 2,000 cannabis-related convictions. As marijuana becomes more socially acceptable as time goes on, Kamala Harris and her confusing web of contradictory statements has impacted her success with young American voters.
America’s contribution to climate change cannot be diminished that quickly and systemic racism cannot be rooted out overnight. This admnistration will need a full two terms if they are to achieve anything close to what they hope
The next four years are undoubtedly not enough for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to achieve all that they would like to. America’s contribution to climate change cannot be diminished that quickly and systemic racism cannot be rooted out overnight. This administration will need a full two terms if they are to achieve anything close to what they hope. But, in order to do that and avoid a possible Trump re-election scenario in 2024, they need to take responsibility for their actions.
Biden needs to show the American people that his term as president isn’t a four-year contract of overseeing stagnation and keeping Trump’s seat warm until a possible re-election in four years
Biden and Harris’ history with incarceration, drugs and race are things that they need to both learn from and build upon. Biden needs to show the American people that his term as president isn’t a four-year contract of overseeing stagnation and keeping Trump’s seat warm until a possible re-election in four years. Harris, on the other hand, has a trickier task as she has to prove herself to black voters. Her history of needlessly prosecuting innocent black men has affected her standing within the community, and she will have to work tirelessly to show that she, as the glass ceiling-breaking first black vice-president of colour, deserves the black vote.
They must show the voters who have taken a chance on them that they have made the right decision, and the only way to do that is through real action and tangible progress.