by Christian Solar | An artist and writer out of the DC area
It is disheartening to see so many people look at Joe Biden as America's sweet uncle, when time and time again he has been on the wrong side of history. Let me compare him to Bernie Sanders, his biggest 2020 Democratic rival and the candidate who, I believe, has the most progressive past. Both Biden and Bernie are going to have to fight off being dismissed because they are just ‘old white guys,’ which is the regrettable opinion of some on the left. However, I constantly hear about how Bernie is going to struggle with women and people of color and that Biden can appeal to these people. I do not know how much more wrong you could be. In 1994, Joe Biden supported the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a bill that hit the black community hard. “It doesn’t matter if they were deprived as a youth, it doesn’t matter if they had no background to [...] become socialized into the fabric of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not they are the victims of society. [...] I don’t want to ask what made them do this. They must be taken off the street,” Biden has stated blatantly multiple times that he does not care what brought people to commit crimes, that he does not care about helping them, about trying to solve any problems.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders asks, “How do we talk about crime when this congress this year is prepared to spend eleven times more for the military than education? When 21% of our kids dropout of high school. [...] The rate of poverty continues to grow, do you think maybe that has something to do with crime?” Here we can see that Bernie understands that many people have no way to weave themselves into the fabric of society. He understands that they were deprived as youths, and he is actively fighting to stop poverty and oppression. Bernie Sanders understood this back in the 1960s when he was marching with Martin Luther King and leading sit-ins and protests during the civil rights movement.
While Joe Biden would rather sweep these problems under the rug, Bernie Sanders is actively lifting the rug to clean. It seems many Democrats think that black people will vote for Joe Biden because he was the Vice-President to Barrack Obama, which is the political version of “I have a black friend.”
While both men eventually went on to vote for the crime bill, they did so for two very different reasons: Biden to lock up people in need of support, and Bernie to help abused women. Bernie clarified, “I have a number of serious problems with the crime bill, but one part of it that I vigorously support is the violence against women act. We urgently need the 1.8 billion dollars in this bill to combat the epidemic of violence against women on the streets and in the homes of America.” Joe Biden seems to have been aloof to issues regarding women in the 1990s: “Can you tell the committee what was the most embarrassing of all of the incidents you have alleged.”
Not traumatizing, not fear-provoking, not even uncomfortable. Joe Biden used the word “embarrassing” when questioning Anita Hill. Joe Biden insinuated that she was just embarrassed by the (alleged) sexual harassment she suffered at the hands Clarence Thomas. Biden clearly underestimated the severity of sexual harassment. This dismissive language is consistent throughout the hearings and the rest of his questions. Whether to cover his tail or out of sheer ignorance, he says, “I do apologize to the women of America if they got the wrong impression about how seriously I take the issue of sexual harassment. I must tell you, I must tell everyone else, I take sexual harassment seriously.”
Flash forward to the beginnings of the 2020 presidential race. What do we see? Bernie is appointing many women to powerful campaign positions to help fight and counteract sexual harassment and assault; this comes in response to cases of sexual harassment coming from his 2016 presidential campaign. Bernie says, “It appears that as part of our campaign, there were some women who were harassed and mistreated — I thank them from the bottom of my heart for speaking out. [...] When we talk about — and I do all the time — ending sexism and all forms of discrimination, those beliefs cannot just be words. They must be based in day-to-day reality and the work we do, and that was clearly not the case in the 2016 campaign.” These are two things that we rarely see from politicians: admitting mistakes and taking substantive action.
When we look to Biden, we see allegations of sexual harassment and generally creepy behavior and not understanding boundaries. While Bernie sounded sincere and heart broken by what happen during his campaign, Biden seemed annoyed to be asked about his own allegations: “The fact of the matter is I made it clear that if I made anyone feel uncomfortable I feel badly about that, it was never my intention.” When directly asked if he was sorry for how he acted, Biden responded, “I’m sorry that I didn’t understand more; I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I am not sorry for anything I have ever done.” His tone and attitude have not changed much from the early 90s, and it certainly does not feel like he is taking people’s concerns seriously.
Outside of Joe Biden’s lack of real support of people of color and women, we can see that Joe Biden did not support LGBT people either. Only recently in 2012 did he announce his support of gay marriage, while in 1996 he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. This is blatant discrimination against gay people, no way around it. This act prevented gay couples from receiving benefits such as favorable protection, estate tax and gift treatment, as well as other protections and services. DOMA was a huge setback in the gay rights movement, preventing gay couples from being seen as couples at all. For example, if a gay man was sick in the hospital, his partner would not be allowed to visit. This is just one example of how this bill continued the pain that was felt by the LGBT community through their fight for equal rights. In 2009, Biden said to the community at an LGBT fundraiser, "I don't blame you for your impatience." The next year, the Obama administration worked to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but Joe Biden’s direct involvement is unclear. Plus, it still took two more years for him to come out in support of gay marriage.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has supported gay rights since as far back as the early 1970s: “Let’s abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people. Let’s abolish all laws dealing with abortion, drugs, sexual behavior (adultery, homosexuality, etc.).” Back in 1983, while Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie backed a Gay Pride parade and approved a resolution to make a Gay Pride Day. In 1995, when Rep. Duke Cunningham ranted about a cut of defense spending, he referenced putting “homos in the military.” Bernie proceeded to call him out despite his objection being risky, perhaps even unpopular, at the time. “You have used the word, homos in the military,’ you have insulted thousands,” he said. While he officially stated his support for gay marriage in 2009, Bernie’s status as an Ally was never in doubt.
While I understand that people change and so do their opinions, I take issue with gaslighting, and that is exactly what Joe Biden is doing. “The most progressive record of anybody running” – That title clearly goes to Bernie Sanders.
The Rational National’s video “Biden Vs. Bernie: Who’s On The Correct Side Of History?” was a major inspiration for this article. Consider it required viewing. My thanks to them.
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Because no one else