Joe Biden is hardly an evil person by nature. But due to various circumstances, he regularly made political decisions that make him a dubious force to oppose Donald Trump. In many cases, Biden's actions created the conditions for the destructive manifestations of Trumpism. But representatives of the Democratic Party were also involved in this, for many years they have reduced the space for an alternative political agenda. And therefore, in the next presidential elections in the United States, Biden remains the only electoral tool against the most reactionary wing of the Republicans.
Biden's career took place at a time when America was making the transition from New Deal to neoliberal politics. Beginning in the 1930s, marked by the Great Depression, a surge in social inequality and the concentration of power in the hands of the business elite, the four terms of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped the United States to focus on protecting the interests of the general population. During this time, America did not manage to stand on a par with the European welfare states, improving living conditions for all social groups, without exception. But the degree of social protection of people in the post-war period was an order of magnitude higher than the current one. And even when the Republicans came to power in the 1960s, they mostly appreciated and recognized Roosevelt's achievements, believing that only political suicides could question this structure.
The first cracks in this consensus appeared in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement, advocating an end to the Vietnam War and improving the quality of life of black people and other minorities, shattered the legitimacy of the New Deal. The cracks continued to grow in the 1970s due to the incipient economic crisis caused by the same war, limited economic opportunities and high social spending by the state. This situation also provoked the conservative part of white Americans from the suburbs to oppose the New Deal, although they owed their well-being to it. But radical conservatives, who for decades have been building a mass movement against generous social policies, sided with the Republican Party and made the discontent of the American periphery their electoral resource.
Just as the election of Roosevelt marked a rapid departure from poverty and inequality, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 turned out to be just as symbolic, only in a negative sense. The Reagan presidency also tried to solve social problems, but in the opposite ways: by lowering taxes for enterprises, less government intervention in the economy, and general policies aimed at business development. All this was supposed to lead to the prosperity of the wealthy stratum of society, which would then redistribute their fortunes further. Transferring more and more power to business and the super-rich, the American state was forced to weaken government programs that guarantee people an acceptable standard of living. With the advent of Reagan, their situation deteriorated - wealth was concentrated only in the hands of a privileged group. At the same time, there were fewer and fewer politicians ready to challenge the emerging order. And those who remained true to social ideals were instantly marginalized.
But a series of crises that followed, especially the 2008 financial turmoil, began to revive American interest in social issues. As a result, the neoliberal order was broken, as evidenced by the failure of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Her victory was hampered by a number of shortcomings characteristic of the entire political establishment, whose interests she was going to represent. In her unwritten agenda, Clinton put business interests ahead of ordinary Americans. She advocated an aggressive foreign policy that claimed the lives of civilians and reduced social spending. At the same time, Clinton demonstrated a lack of firm political principles and carried a train of corruption scandals, as her political activities repeatedly contributed to the enrichment of her own family.
Trump's rhetoric stood out against this backdrop. He criticized the corruption inherent in the American political system, rejected war and lamented the bloated military budget, criticized free trade agreements that put corporate interests above those of vulnerable groups, and promised to take many aggressive actions during his presidency. Of course, these promises were consigned to oblivion immediately after Trump was elected president, but he still managed to pull off part of the electorate from the Democrats.
Biden, considered one of the safest candidates by the media, is not free from Hillary Clinton's flaws. The past Democratic nominee was often criticized for her husband's criminal policies against black society. The paradox, however, is that Biden was one of the main developers of this racist mechanism. Moreover, Clinton pushed many voters away with statements about the need to cut social spending, although Biden was a much more ardent supporter of such measures at the beginning of his career. And, no less important, the current democratic leader is hardly less belligerent - he quite easily agreed with the need for military operations in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria (although he proposed to reduce the presence in Syria to bombing with the help of drones). The biographer of the current favorite of the presidential race, Branko Marketic, talks about this in detail in his book "The Man of Yesterday".
Biden's change in political orientation happened quite abruptly. He joined the Democratic Party in the late 1960s when he was a practicing lawyer and was just looking at politics. He was embarrassed by the head of his home state of Delaware, Charles Terry, who, as a Democrat, supported racial discrimination. So in the early 1970s, Biden became a member of the Democratic Party. But after a string of presidential losses in the early 1980s, Biden, following his colleague Bill Clinton, began to defend the interests of big business and conservative elites.
A striking manifestation of this was the scandal that erupted shortly before Biden's re-election to the Senate in 1990. The politician became friends with David Paul, the main fundraiser of the Democratic Party and the founder of the CenTrust bank. Regulatory authorities accused Paul of using the financial institution as his own bank. And when the bank collapsed after a lot of speculative deals, it cost taxpayers more than $ 1 billion to restore it. After this incident, it was revealed that Biden helped ease criminal penalties for banking fraud through a proposed banking reform bill. As a result, Paul was sentenced not to life (350 years), but to 11, and in 2004 he was released.
Working in tandem, Clinton and Biden felt that they were trying to walk in the middle of the political spectrum, deviating from both the economically expensive humanism of the Democrats and all the excesses of the Republicans. In fact, they continued Reagan's endeavors: cutting government spending on social programs and curtailing civil rights protections. When Clinton managed to take the presidency, Biden immediately worried about attracting experts who would suggest the easiest way to fire 252,000 federal employees - mostly grassroots workers, and not high-ranking officials. And while voters waited for an increase in the number of jobs - a key element of the Democratic campaign, Clinton and Biden launched a brutal fight against the budget deficit, achieving the opposite result.
However, Biden had antisocial tendencies even before Clinton. In 1991, when George W. Bush, Sr., began work on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as president, Biden was one of 27 Democrats to approve the fast track deal. Promising citizens new positions in the labor market and shared prosperity, the agreement only resulted in the loss of 700,000 jobs. Unscrupulous enterprises took advantage of it to transfer their production to Mexico without sanctions and fines. There they did not have to pay high taxes, high wages for workers, and somehow reckon with the norm of working hours and the need to provide benefits. There has been no promised improvement in life with a free trade agreement, cuts in government social programs, and a reduction in budget deficits. By 2005, the number of Americans living in extreme poverty exceeded two million, with single-parent families with children being the hardest hit. The number of families living on less than $ 2 a day has doubled. It is this stratum of people, which is increasing more and moreover the years, will subsequently become Trump's electoral core.
Racism, militancy, and anti-social attitudes
At the start of his career, Biden adhered to the principle of racial equality not only in words. In 1970, he led the New Castle City as a supporter of the public housing program. But after 10 years, he began to promote a package of bills to combat crime, the main result of which was the tightening of punishment for drug trafficking. The paradox was that residents of black areas were often engaged in it in order to make ends meet with the curtailment of social protection programs.
In addition to the bills, when he became chairman of the judicial committee of the US Congress, Biden allowed several extremely conservative judges to work there. The result was an avalanche of harsh sentences against black citizens, multiplying the number of prisons and prison populations across the country. Although earlier Biden lamented about Reagan's punitive approach to the issue of crime, since the maintenance of one prisoner, in his opinion, was more expensive than studying at Harvard. Subsequently, Biden began to call on the Democrats to refuse to create a coalition with other races, which was the ideological basis of their party. He argued that his comrades-in-arms had lost the middle class, becoming the conductors of the interests of all kinds of minorities - racial, sexual, ethnic, etc. The apotheosis of this reincarnation was Biden's eulogy, read in 2003 at the funeral of segregation supporter Strom Thurmond.
In 2002, Biden once again found himself in a difficult position. Confidently opposing America's military presence in Vietnam 30 years ago, he decided to support George W. Bush's anti-terrorism foreign policy after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. However, three years before that, Biden was the main supporter of the idea of America's intervention in the Yugoslav conflict among the senators. After the NATO bombing he approved, not only the democratic movement against the threat of ethnic cleansing was defeated in the country, but 500 civilians were killed, including 150 refugees fleeing the fighting in Kosovo. Not to mention the fact that by 2008 Yugoslavia had split into several states under the weight of outbreaks of nationalism, religious sectarianism, and the consequences of the "shock therapy" of the local economy, which drove people into poverty.
The shock of American society after September 11, 2001 - one of the largest terrorist attacks in human history - has increased the demand for a "strong hand" at the head of the country. This allowed Bush to surround himself with loyal officials and advisers, who immediately supported the idea of organizing several missions in the Middle East. At first, Biden, who had previously criticized Bush's foreign policy, faced a dilemma - to hinder or facilitate the implementation of the president's intentions. He chose the latter, not finding in himself the desire to confront a person with high ratings.
As a result, Bush launched military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the first of which has not been completed to this day, and the echoes of the second will continue to spread throughout Iraq for several decades. At first, Biden suggested that Bush limit himself to trade sanctions against Iraq since the latter did not provide convincing arguments in favor of war. But then he supported the president's idea of having a vote in Congress to authorize military intervention. By agreeing, Bush received the majority of votes, and Biden could only express his complete solidarity with his actions, which subsequently killed 110,000 civilians.
Two years before the 2008 presidential election, Biden began preparations for the Democratic primaries. However, closer to the date of their holding, the politician assessed his chances of winning not very high. He was not capable of raising money for his own campaign as well as Hillary Clinton, and he also considered himself not the best spokesman for the party's views due to his tough foreign policy program, doubts about the need for the right to abortion, and lack of interest in the issue of same-sex marriage. But when Barack Obama won the presidential election, Biden's candidacy, which satisfied the representatives of Wall Street and the Republican Party, seemed optimal as vice president.
In this position, Biden was to tackle the mess that his actions of past years had caused. The most serious were the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, which happened, among other things, due to the Glass-Steagall Act, canceled ten years earlier, which prohibited commercial banks from simultaneously engaging in lending and investments. Biden, like most Democrats, voted against it in 1999. The law itself was not the cause of the crisis, but it helped strengthen the positions and appetites of financial institutions. The result was that between 2007 and 2011, the wealth of a quarter of American families fell by 75%. Against this background, the Obama administration faced the task of stabilizing the economy, preventing the collapse of the medical system, leading the United States out of devastating wars, helping people who lost their homes due to the crisis and solving the problem of legal and illegal migration.
Despite big ambitions, all these ailments were inherited by Trump. The Obama administration has failed to find ways to temper the fervor of Wall Street's financial elites, let alone hold them accountable for the crisis and oblige them to improve the plight of the affected population. Responsible for these failures, of course, is the entire team of the former president. However, Biden stood out somewhat against the general background. He, for example, was responsible for the appointment of Tim Geithner as finance minister, the architect of a generous bailout program that ignored the interests of affected borrowers. In addition, Biden insisted on providing care for the select categories of the population, and not for the masses of people burdened with debt and left without housing and income.
At Biden's suggestion, Obama threw a lifeline to Main Street officials in the hopes of appeasing his conservative critics. The stake was made on small and medium-sized businesses, which the establishment considers to be the engine of the grassroots economy. In addition to cheap loans, business owners also received a reduction in the tax burden. For all this, ordinary citizens paid through taxes, who, in turn, did not receive any support. Democrats discussed several legislative changes and the possibility of restoring trade union positions that could improve working conditions for people. But the priority of these measures was constantly decreasing, and their discussion was protracted, because of which the proposed instruments soon lost their relevance. In a public announcement in 2010, Biden will say that she does not regret the lost opportunity to support people. He literally stated that the mainstream Democratic constituency needs to "stop whining": if they haven't gotten everything they want, they need to "just cheer up" and learn to live without housing and previous income.
When it came to health care reform, Biden was again on the side of the Republicans. At first, he, along with other Democrats and Obama, voted on the reform plan proposed by clinics across the country. But the Republicans rejected him - and Biden went over to the side of the conservative majority, inclining Obama to this option. Even more remarkable was the decision to cut costs on an already modest health insurance program that had just been launched. In 2011, Biden, imbued with the panic of the Republicans about the US approaching the national debt ceiling, first proposed to cut budget spending by $ 4 trillion, and then by another $ 2 trillion. Although this budget stimulus, which allowed, among other things, to implement the Obamacare program, as times and saved a significant part of American families from complete impoverishment after the 2008 crisis. This decision looked especially controversial against the background of the military budget bloated after the September 11 terrorist attack: by 2020, its volume was supposed to amount to $ 6.4 trillion.
Thanks to Biden, the migration situation did not find even a minimal solution. The vice-president's proposed plan of financial incentives for Central American states in exchange for mass deportation and militarization of the borders turned out to aggravate all the accumulated problems. The proliferation of free trade zones with a special legal regime for foreign investors, as well as the creation of logistics corridors for the movement of goods and new infrastructure, worsened the economic and environmental situation, due to which migrants were in a hurry to leave the region. The United States, meanwhile, began to massively and quickly deport newcomers, often for minor crimes. And on the border, people expelled from the country faced a derisive attitude, and sometimes torture with rape by the border service, for the creation of which Biden, along with other Democrats, voted back in the 1990s.
If Biden succeeds in defeating Trump - as opinion polls have been saying for several weeks now - America may well face an escalation of the current crisis. Instead of appealing to material and social interests that unite voters on racial, gender, religious, and other grounds, Biden continues to try to find a nonexistent middle ground between ordinary Americans and elites, often leaning towards protecting the interests of the latter. This can be seen even from the fact that the election campaign does not promise any improvement for the bulk of voters. Although it is precisely what it needs on the eve of the coronavirus recession, which can deprive the economy of 57% of enterprises.
Biden is renowned for negotiating reforms with conservatives. But in reality, these agreements consisted of complete surrender to the republican agenda, when its goals became Biden's own goals. However, sometimes the current favorite of the presidential race surpassed the conservatives in his antisocial zeal, especially during the study of issues of crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, and budget programs. All this was done in the name of the "middle class" - a group of white conservative voters from the suburbs, whose interests Biden considers to be central to political success.
It is likely that the current and largely democratic composition of the Congress will restrain its destructive impulses. If only because Biden participates in electoral contests as a consensus figure obliged to reckon with the expectations of the Democratic Party and its voters. But in the past four years, we've seen how hard it is for American political institutions to resist Trump's monstrous policies. And if Biden does not pass up the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerability of the current political order, will they have enough strength for a second long standoff?