Written by Issie Yewman and Elias Burke
It has been a week since the votes started rolling in, for what has been, a very long-awaited election for the 46th president of the United States. Though it took some time, Joe Biden managed to pull through with winning 290 electoral votes, with states like Michigan and Wisconsin making the difference. On November 7th 2020, it was finally reported that Biden had won the election. The celebrations that followed his win managed to put a smile on the faces who were watching and rooting for Biden and Harris across the world. It was a victorious win, and the icing on the cake was to see Trump’s press conference taking place in a parking lot:
The win for Harris is historic. She is the first woman and the first Black and South Asian to be the vice president-elect. The importance of representation goes without saying, for young girls and women to see a woman having such an important role in the White House (who isn’t the president’s wife) is quite something. But the fact that it is 2020 and America has only just reached this milestone… there is still so much work to be done. Subjectively, Biden winning is the better option for America. Trump only fuelled division between the right and left and even though the Republicans most likely still have a sour taste in their mouths, I believe Biden will bring more unity as president. However, I could not emphasise more that Biden is the better option, but not the best. There is never a perfect candidate to run a country during a pandemic (with the exception of Jacinda Ardern).
Biden has been in the Senate since 1973 and has run for presidency three times (1987, 2008 and 2020). He wanted to run for president in 2016, however, Obama advised him otherwise, believing Hilary had more of a chance against Trump. At the age of 78, this means that he was elected to the US Senate 47 years ago. A long time. On Instagram, I came across a right-wing post explaining that Biden has roughly been in politics for almost 20% of the time America declared independence (1776). I thought this was just something to chew on since he doesn’t have the most stable political history. So even though he will succeed Trump in January 2021, it is up for question about whether he will be an eventful president. With Kamala Harris as his VP, she also does not have a great track record – with her nickname being ‘Top Cop’, as well as being known to be transphobic. On the surface level, Kamala seems to be progressive for America and it is somewhat positive, but as soon as one starts to dig, she has quite a bit of controversy that follows her.
Elias and I have decided to break down five key issues that should be made a priority for the American people during Biden’s term as president and Kamala’s term as VP. Just a reminder to anyone who is reading this: politicians should never be idolised (yes, including AOC), even if they appear to be in support of your political leanings and beliefs, you should always remain critical of their actions when in power. This is a somewhat long-winded article, so boil the kettle and delve into the issues that divide the United States.
On Biden’s website, you can easily access his campaign manifesto that has been sectioned into different issues such as the environment, women’s rights, minorities rights, ICE and health care. You can browse all of his policies and funding sources that he plans to implement during his presidency. For Democrats and those who are more left-leaning with politics, his manifesto sounds brilliant – it tackles everything many on the left have been fighting for. Reading it through myself on issues that concern me most, it seems that Biden does have a thought-through plan for each one. However, some of his plans are more vague and open-ended than others.
For example, here is what Biden’s team pledges for the next four years concerning women’s rights:
- Improve economic security
- Expand access to healthcare and tackle health inequalities
- Help women navigate work and families
- End violence against women
- Protect and empower women across the world
Reading through these five pledges, it would be naïve to believe that Biden could fulfil all five and even if he really wanted to tick off all five, it would probably mean that they had been rushed through. To read more on this section click here, but I am now just going to touch upon two important rights for women that Trump worked hard to not protect.
First, the topic of abortion has always divided the right and the left, it is an ongoing debate – one that is currently happening in Poland. As a woman myself, I find it extremely backwards that we are still having to push for these kinds of laws. The need for governments to still control women’s bodies is beyond me, and with Amy Coney Barrett as a selected new Supreme Court judge, the ruling of Roe v. Wade is sitting on very dangerous grounds at the moment. Although, what Biden promises appears to be more promising for women and their rights to such healthcare and support. Not forgetting the fact that in 1974 he told a reporter that “when it comes to issues like abortion … I’m about as liberal as your grandmother. I don’t like the [Roe v. Wade] decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” (Politico) And then in 1981, he also voted in favour of a constitutional amendment that would allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite the fact that this was now 40 years ago, and political beliefs have somewhat progressed, it is important to stay very critical of these pledges that Biden has given. To read in full, click here, but here are some of his main goals:
- Biden wants to pass a federal law that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion – meaning that states cannot individually impose their own abortion laws.
- He has also said he will protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court were to strike down Roe v. Wade, if Amy Coney Barrett is to get in as the new judge, then this is very important for Biden to make sure of.
- Aims to restore federal funding to planned parenthood.
- Supports the repealing of the Hyde Amendment – “because healthcare is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income.
- Wants to restore the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate in place before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
This is a complete 180 of the laws Trump was trying to impose. This is a relief, seeing how women in Poland are having to protest their rights to healthcare during a pandemic/deadly virus is very upsetting, made worse to see the lack of empathy from the Polish government. With all of Biden’s policies, from a left perspective, they are obviously better than what Trump would’ve tried to implement if he got a second term, however, to think that Biden will 100% commit to this is highly optimistic. As long as he can keep Roe v. Wade in place and also introduce a federal law, then that is a step in the right direction for women.
Secondly, Trumps attempts to invalidate transgender people was not done in secret, especially towards transgender women and those of colour. Trump blatantly showed America his transphobia, which has only led to an increase in violence towards trans men and women. Biden has plans in place to reverse these actions of the Trump administration, starting with his plan to eradicate the epidemic of violence which he aims to tackle within the first 100 days in office. He also plans to:
- Overturn Trumps decision to block transgender people from serving their country.
- Better access to healthcare funded policies to ensure transgender
- people are not turned away from homeless shelters and to make sure transgender
- women especially are allowed to sleep in the women’s section and use the women’s bathrooms
- Support transgender and non-binary people in the workforce.
- Affirm one’s gender marker and expand access to accurate identification documents.
- Guaranteeing transgender students have access to facilities based on their gender identity.
- Increase safety for incarcerated transgender individuals (more funding).
Transgender people, most notably, transgender women of colour are the most vulnerable because of “a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny”. Therefore, Biden can protect these people and make sure their rights and their standard of living is visible to the rest of the public to put an end to violence and transphobia.
Click here for more information.
Biden has not had the cleanest past when it comes to women’s rights. It is worrying that he is the “upgrade” from Trump, but then again, I don’t think there is one old man in politics who does not have an allegation for sexual harassment and assault against him. It is disgusting that this is still the backwards climate we are having to live in, but there is hope with Kamala and AOC bringing women to the forefront of politics, hopefully changing the attitudes towards women for the better. Biden cannot just pour money into these plans and expect a quick fix, these are systemic issues that warrant a change in beliefs that takes time. But by starting to implement laws, funding and policies, this at least gets the ball rolling (the bar is literally in hell).
What it means for people of colour
Written by Elias Burke
Trump was the global face of representation to those in society who harbour views of hate and intolerance to people of colour. After the backward steps under Trump, It would be wrong to argue that Biden and Kamala Harris do not symbolise hope and progression. But, there is a school of thought amongst the left-wing that the new incumbents are not the right candidates to enable long-term progression for people of colour in the United States.
Biden and Harris have a very checkered history in enabling the foundations to be set for the mass prosecution and incarceration of Black and Brown people. Joe Biden, along with then-President Clinton, drafted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994, better known as the Crime Bill. The Crime Bill authorised the death penalty for 60 new federal offences, including drug offences unrelated to homicide, where 74% of defendants since have been people of colour. Black people are far more likely than white people to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated for drug crimes – even though Whites use and sell drugs at similar rates to Black people in the United States. The unequal contact with the police and justice system for people of colour manifests itself further in the ‘Three Strikes Law’, another feature of the infamous Crime Bill that has ballooned convictions for Black and Brown people in inner cities. The ‘Three Strikes Law’ tends to require a single violent felony, as well as two other convictions, to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. However, in some states including California, a person can be sent to prison for life on account of them being caught possessing drugs on three occasions.
The ’94 Crime Bill, allied with the precedence set by Reagan and the Republican Party in the 1980s, is attributed as a major factor in encouraging the Mass Incarceration crisis. Most Democrats see this particular bill as indefensible, and it has been criticised heavily publicly. Worryingly, Joe Biden is still defending the ’94 Bill, according to CNN:
“Inside Biden’s camp, some aides believe he must do more to accept the consequences of the law, as Clinton and many supporters of the bill have done. But Biden has been insistent on defending what he believes were good portions of the bill that led to a drop in crime across the country.“
Unfortunately, Kamala Harris’ history as a prosecutor working as a District Attorney and Attorney General in California is not much more encouraging. It is well documented how Kamala, working as Attorney General for the state of California, had a reputation for convicting people of colour for drug offences. Under Harris, the D.A.’s office obtained more than 1900 convictions for marijuana offences. This was significantly higher than the previous incumbent, though she did send fewer people to state penitentiaries than her predecessor. Perhaps even more shockingly, when she was questioned whether she had ever smoked marijuana – in reference to her history as a harsh prosecutor for minor marijuana possession offences – she started laughing, brushing it off as insignificant. As well as being unprofessional, Kamala’s behaviour in this instance is extremely disrespectful to the integrity of the criminal justice system that she was supposed to represent as District Attorney and Attorney General. She failed to be understanding, and significantly, she failed to recognise these convictions as a product of an unbalanced system that has been formulated to unequally prosecute people of colour in neighbourhoods with high police concentration.
From an economic perspective, Joe Biden has a massive job to try and repair the country after COVID-19. However, irrespective of the global pandemic, the systemic economic issues that plague communities of colour demand immediate and focussed attention. According to his campaign website, Joe Biden intends to “advance the economic mobility of African Americans and close the racial wealth and income gaps”. It is particularly notable that his campaign was largely centred around his proximity to Obama as his unique selling point to Black voters, and it was ultimately successful. Yet, the Black economic prosperity under Barack Obama was limited. The rate of poverty for people of colour was at record levels in 2016, an awkward truth about the legacy he left after completing his second term in office. Biden is entering the Oval Office in similar conditions to 2008, when Obama became President, as he also inherited the presidency during a global economic crisis. Biden must learn from the mistakes of Obama’s heavily bank-slated policy which disproportionately victimised Black people across the socio-economic spectrum, to ensure he is the right candidate to build stronger and wealthier Black communities.
As somebody of mixed heritage, I found it particularly insulting when Joe Biden suggested that if you are not voting for him, “You Ain’t Black”. For a Democratic presidential candidate to assume that they already have the Black vote is unbelievably damaging to the economic and social prosperity of Black communities. If Biden is instead focusing his policy attention on attracting the white vote, the urgent issue of systemic racial inequality in the United States will not demand the immediate attention it deserves. In 2016, while he was Vice-President, Joe Biden watched as Barack Obama insulted the 60% Black city of Flint. Obama pretended to take a sip of their poisoned and unclean water supply, before meeting with Flint’s criminal governor where Obama refused to declare the city a disaster area, which would have provided necessary aid. This is environmental racism. There is no question that if the city was mainly white and middle-class, the situation would have been sorted much more quickly. Yet the people of Flint, four years later, are still without clean water. If Biden does not see the prosperity of Black communities as a priority, I fear the possibility of more ‘Flint’s’ across cities and towns where people of colour are the majority.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have an incredible task on their hands to repair mistakes of the past and attempt to build the United States equally and fairly. It is encouraging that there has been a global concentration of interest on the systemic issues that oppress communities of colour in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, but the spotlight needs to be shone even more brightly on Biden and Harris. This is especially significant after the strong turnout in support of the new president from American voters of colour, who are desperate for much-needed change.
ICE and Immigration
Written by Elias Burke
Trump’s Presidency revolved around his sickening stance on immigration, characterised by his infamous plans to build a wall and the deplorable enforcement of a ‘Muslim Ban’. Of course, Joe Biden pledges to immediately rescind these policies, but there are more systemic and sinister issues that Biden will need to address as President.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been heavily criticised for the disgraceful violations against human rights that they have enforced upon undocumented immigrants. Under Trump’s presidency, there have been several horror stories of people being sent to detention centres and having their integrity and rights to basic human resources revoked in humiliating and shocking ways. Notably, a particular detention centre in Houston, owned by private corrections company CoreCivic, was sued by a Mexican woman who was sexually assaulted and impregnated at an immigration detention centre just hours before she was deported to Mexico.
It is essential Biden addresses the increasing privatisation of ICE detention centres. Under Trump, ‘Brennan Centre for Justice’ program director Inimai Chettiar commented how “[the government] is rapidly increasing immigration detention and outsourcing it to the private sector”. These privately-run detention centres have been known to hire fewer staff members and not provide necessary training to them, to keep costs low and profits high. Some have even been sued for imposing forced labour on immigrants. The disgraceful personal accounts do not stop there, and Biden has failed to comment on these issues, ignoring them as isolated instances and not a manifestation of inhumane rhetoric and policy by the 45th President. When questioned about whether he intended to abolish or overhaul ICE, Biden was very unclear. It was not until a campaign spokesperson reached out to the Washington Post stating that he intends to ensure, “human rights are protected”, that there was any official comment on his personal stance on ICE. Forgive me for not seeing this as particularly encouraging.
After all, it was under Biden and Obama when ICE was at its most prolific, deporting more undocumented immigrants than at any point since its formation in 2003. According to AXIOS:
“Under the Obama administration, total ICE deportations were above 385,000 each year in fiscal years 2009–2011 and hit a high of 409,849 in fiscal 2012. The numbers dropped to below 250,000 in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. Under Trump, ICE deportations fell to 226,119 in fiscal 2017, then ticked up to over 250,000 in fiscal 2018 and hit a Trump administration high of 282,242 this fiscal year (as of June).”
Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom, and there are reasons to be encouraged now the Democrats are back in office. Biden, like President Obama, will provide solace for ‘Dreamers’, and understands that Trump has, as stated on Biden’s campaign website, “misallocated resources into bullying legitimate asylum seekers.” He and Kamala also pledge to reinstate the DACA program within the first 100 days of his term. DACA provided young people who passed a background check and application process with temporary work permits and protection from deportation. These policies are a marked improvement in comparison to Trump’s hostile immigration policy, but as explored above, there is a lot for the new president to repair.
There was some speculation surrounding whether Biden was going to support AOC’s New Green Deal, to which he responded in the presidential debate that he does not. Instead, Biden has his own plan – The Biden Plan – a name I am sure took some time to think up.
However, this plan does hold some weight, and it still is a good start for combating climate change. This plan already has $2 trillion in funding, to which experts say that the plan could reduce global heating by about 0.1 Celsius by 2100.
More of what Biden promises can be found on his campaign website, but here are a few extra key points he singles out:
- Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
- Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change.
- Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of colour and low-income communities.
- Fulfil our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth.
The Biden Administration also plans to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. An Italian diplomat, Alessandro Motta states that after the U.S. re-joins Paris it will be more difficult for countries such as Saudi Arabia that “have been hiding in the shadow of Trump” to continue dragging their feet on their commitment (Bloomberg). Thus, Biden’s commitment to his plan will show the rest of the world that America is ready to become more serious about reducing emissions to zero, which is important for other countries to follow.
As you might be aware, healthcare is very personal to Biden due to the passing of his late wife and baby daughter in 1972 and his son in 2015. Also, in 2010 he stood by Obama’s side as he signed the Affordable Care Act into law. The A.C.A (otherwise known as Obamacare) is a health care reform law which aimed to make health insurance affordable and accessible to more people. “The law provides consumers with subsidies (”premium tax credits”) that lower costs for households with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level” (Healthcare.gov). Altogether, Obama’s primary goal was to lower the costs of healthcare. On Biden’s campaign website, because of Obamacare:
- Over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums.
- Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage.
- Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance.
- Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option t stay covered by their parents’ plan until 26.
Biden plans to protect and build upon Obamacare, attempting to put back together what Trump tried so desperately to sabotage. The A.C.A has not only divided the Republicans but also divided the Democrats to some extent too, and has been highly controversial since it was signed. I have a feeling that weighing up the pros and the cons of the law are needed, which I have gathered from the New York Times and Forbes:
- It has brought about a historic drop in the number of Americans without health insurance (20 million more people have coverage now than before the law).
- Those with pre-existing health conditions are covered, insurance companies cannot deny or raise premiums. Before Obamacare “insurance companies could deny you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition”, this affected 50 million people, including 17 million children.
- It has made people healthier, “we can say confidently that giving people health insurance produces health impacts and positive health changes” (Benjamin Somers).
- Premiums have more than doubled in the four years after the law was passed.
- Families can’t afford the costs and are thus, losing their insurance.
- Raised the income tax rate, people are choosing to pay the tax rather than actually paying to be covered.
- The deductibles – allows insurers to set deductibles significantly higher than those typically faced by Americans who get health insurance at work.
“The biggest problem,” said Bob Kocher, a former health policy adviser to President Obama, “is that health care costs have grown relentlessly.” (NY Times) However, according to research, those with pre-existing conditions before Obamacare was implemented left hospitals, insurers and those unwell with higher health care costs. So the pros and cons are somewhat balanced, despite Trump’s Administration only releasing the problems with Obamacare and for a country that is now in dire need for healthcare, maybe it isn’t so bad.
Due to Covid-19, Biden is walking into an extremely tough position. Taking over a president who refused to listen to any advice given to him, the US is not doing well in terms of controlling the virus and the economy. As of today, the US has 239K deaths, with cases over 10 million. Back in June, CNN reported that the US has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of its coronavirus cases and this amount of cases is not just from anti-maskers and those partying in Florida. These cases are from front-line workers, putting themselves at a greater risk to provide a service to the American people, helping to sustain the economy. Among these workers, Black workers are disproportionately found in these kinds of jobs.
During the start of the pandemic, according to the Economic Policy Institute, Black workers continued to go to their workplaces, putting theirs and their families health at severe risk due to the inability to sustain adequate social distance from their co-workers and customers. It was reported that Black Americans are dying at a higher rate than white Americans from the virus because of these systemic inequalities. Black Americans are more likely to live in areas experiencing outbreaks, such as inner-city areas like Brooklyn or Dallas. Although Black Americans make up 12.5% of the US population, they account for 22.4% of Covid-19 deaths (EPI Research).
If the pandemic has exposed anything, it is the systemic inequalities in America, to which, Biden should be prioritising immediately. However, you would naturally think that after a pandemic and 200,000+ deaths, Biden would be onboard the Medicare-For-All proposal, which has been endorsed by left-wing politicians like AOC and Sanders. Medicare-For-All would create a nationwide single-payer health insurance plan for all Americans.
Instead, Biden believes that “this is an opportunity to look at reconstructing the health care system in a way that can respond more rapidly and more effectively to these kinds of crises. Because it’s going to come again,” calling for a focus on finding a vaccine and using resources to anticipate the next virus. (NBC News) Even so, all eyes will be on Biden to turn America around from the mess that the virus and Trump caused hand in hand. With the economy, healthcare and the systemic inequalities that run deep within both – Biden has the opportunity to create an equitable difference for Americans who have been the most affected from this year and also years before.
If you’ve made it to the bottom, you’re a real one. What started as a brief synopsis of certain issues, Elias and I both found that it was important to go into some depth. There is not that much left to say except for ‘let’s wait and see’, because the truth is, there is only so much Biden can do in the next four years. With the Senate currently tied between the Republicans and Democrats, it is difficult to say how much Biden will be able to get passed. Although the Democrats do have the majority in the House now. I am not too sure about whether this win is even that progressive for America, I think if anything, it is back to how it was in 2016. The only reason it seems progressive is because of Trump’s complete regression whilst in office. After speaking to a few friends, many are not too hopeful about what he will accomplish but for now, it is positive that Trump has been fired and there are dogs again in the White House.
The question is though, who will be running in 2024? Bernie and Warren are too old and AOC is too young and is still too radical for America. We will see. But ending on a lighter note – if anything was to sum up this article, it is this meme my friend sent to me (thank you Núria).