Biden leans on empathy as election nears



Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., Friday Sept. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

After a turbulent summer that saw a national reckoning on race and a persistent pandemic, the upcoming presidential election must be able to respond to the needs of a passionate electorate.

Unlike the 2016 presidential election when the major candidates were often referred to as the “lesser of two evils” by their supporters, presidential candidates are put under higher scrutiny as voters not only look to their advertised policies, but to their history in politics. 

Jeffrey Blevins, head of the journalism department at the University of Cincinnati, said that voters want an experienced candidate but a candidate’s history impacts the public’s perception of their policy stance.

“The thing that comes with experience, you know, you have a record,” Blevins said. “And then there’s a lot more things that your political opponents can dig into and frame a certain way.”

Former vice president Joe Biden is the official Democratic nominee for the 2020 election. He runs on a campaign that advocates for racial justice by promising to close the economic disparities that disproportionately affect Black and Brown Americans.

Biden also claims to want criminal justice reform but has not taken a strong stand against law enforcement. Instead, one of Biden’s policies is to reinvigorate community-oriented policing and provide a 300 million dollar investment into hiring community police officers under the condition that they “mirror the racial diversity of the community they serve.”

Speculation on Biden’s stance on police brutality largely concerns his role in anti-crime legislation in the 1980s and 1990s that is often credited for the increase of mass incarceration in America’s Black communities. Biden was a key senator in the construction of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also referred to as the 1994 Crime Bill. 

The bill provided $8.7 billion dollars for states to build more prisons. Biden has defended the law in the past and is quoted saying that the bill did not generate mass incarceration in a statement in Nashua, New Hampshire on May 2019. 

Despite this stance on the 1994 Crime Bill, Biden still promises to promote racial equality if elected to office. He insists that the U.S. Justice Department address systemic misconduct in police departments on the national level, end incarceration for drug use and expand on reformative alternatives to detention.

Blevins said that Biden may need to reframe his stance on racial injustice as a result of his track record in politics.

“There’s a longer track record you have to pick up and it’s not to say that, you know, he can’t change his mind, he can’t change his position based on where he was and where the country was in the 1990s,” Blevins said.

From the start of the pandemic, President Donald Trump has been critiqued for his delayed and ineffective response in handling the virus. An Associated Press poll shows that 8 in 10 Democrats say that the current government has not done enough to assist an individual’s financial issues with COVID-19.

Joe Biden’s plan, if elected, is to provide free COVID testing, increase production of personal protection and set up a national tracing program so Americans can determine the level of national transmission within their zip codes.

Dylan Suffredini, an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and a former field intern for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, said that Biden has experience in dealing with a virus outbreak because of his experience as vice president during the Obama administration.

“And so I think that, you know, Biden is somebody who listens to the scientists who does what the epidemiologists tell him to because he understands that this is an issue that has literally killed almost 200,000 Americans,” Suffredini said.

President Trump’s early response to COVID-19 was to dismiss the virus, and stated throughout the early months of the outbreak that the United States “has it under control.” As the coronavirus became increasingly out of hand in the United States, President Trump allocated responsibility to state governors to control the virus. 

The United States still leads in coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center with 6.2 million cases. This is compared to the next leading country, Brazil, with 4.1 million cases. 

 Kellen Brown, a sophomore political science major at DePaul University, said he believes the United States could have had a quicker and more effective response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I think that what’s kind of been shown from this is that coronavirus in the United States has gotten completely out of hand,” Brown said. “Because of the complete lack of federal oversight and federal guidance and direction, which is exactly what this nation needs and looks to depend on in times of crisis.”