By P.K.Balachandran/Ceylon Today
Until recently, Joe Biden, the 77-year-old presumptive candidate of the Democratic Party for the November 2020 US Presidential election, was thought to be trailing behind his opponent, Donald Trump, the presumptive candidate of the Republican Party. Trump’s strong personality marked by a sharp tongue and a fanatic commitment to putting “America First”, had the White, non-college educated American majority eating out of his hands.
Trump even appeared to be weathering the unprecedented coronavirus storm by putting the blame on China and contemptuously declaring that “sleepy old” Biden is guaranteed to hand over America to the crafty and ruthless Chinese.
But a video of a White Minneapolis cop killing a handcuffed and fallen Black American man by crushing his neck for almost nine minutes in full view of the public on May 25, brought about an unexpected sea change in the American political scene.
Entrenched racial discrimination and unmitigated injustices perpetrated against Blacks led to unprecedented rioting across 75 American cities. But instead of dousing the fires of resentment with appropriate steps and words of comfort to a deeply hurt Black community, Trump rubbed salt in the wound by calling the protestors thugs and terrorists. Hiding in the White House bunker, he demanded that State Governors use force and threatened to unleash the US army. But this order went largely unheeded and his own Defense Secretary opposed it.
To Trump’s embarrassment, there were many Whites among the non-violent protestors. He promptly and insensitively blamed it on the “Antifa”, a Far Left anti-Fascist group and threatened to list it as a terrorist group. To add to his woes, his White majority constituency did not counter the Blacks with violence on the streets. Internationally respected US media like New York Times and Washington Post, condemned him for his insensitive utterances. The stony silence of his European allies was another noteworthy feature.
While Trump was floundering, his rival Joe Biden went about saying the right things. He entirely sympathized with the Blacks saying that they have been victims of systemic and systematic discrimination, injustice and brutal oppression for far too long. But at the same time, he also addressed the White majority’s concerns about rising violence. He said Americans cannot allow rage to consume them when the need of the hour is to constructively address the issues before them.
He told the Blacks in Philadelphia: “It will take more than talk. We’ve had talked before. We’ve had protests before. Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes. That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term. It is the work of a generation.”
Unlike Trump, Biden had promoted Black interests in judicial appointments and voting rights during his long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He worked on federal stimulus spending after the recession and on Obamacare. He was Vice President to the nation’s first Black President, Barack Obama, and being the sheet anchor for a President with little previous political experience.
Biden’s Comprehensive Plan for Blacks
Even before the George Floyd tragedy and the aftermath, Biden had put together a comprehensive plan for Blacks and placed it on his website. He promised to ensure that first time home buyers are able to get US$ 15,000 in federal down payment assistance. He promised loan forgiveness and an increase in funds to the State Small Business Credit Initiative to US$ 3 billion to assist small businesses, especially those owned by people of color.
He promised to build new and repair existing affordable housing and bring housing and community development capital to low-income communities; end redlining and other discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market; protect tenants from eviction and expand funding for shelters and other homelessness programs.
Biden believes that every American should have access to affordable and quality health care. Under Obamacare, three million uninsured, non-elderly Black Americans had gained coverage by the time President Obama and he as Vice President, left office. He pledged to give Americans a new choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare. He would automatically enrol individuals in the public option, without a premium, who would be eligible for Medicaid. He would stop the abuse of power by prescription drug corporations and also expand funding for mental health services.
Biden pledged triple funding to schools with a high percentage of low-income students; investment in innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color and reinstate the Obama-Biden actions to diversify schools. He would provide two years of community college or other high-quality training programs without debt for any hard-working individual.
He would help tackle barriers, such as child care and transportation costs, that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credentials. He would also make a US$ 50 billion investment in workforce training.
To improve infrastructure, Biden had promised to invest US$ 1 trillion over ten years to rebuild our roads, bridges, etc., and boost federal investments in low-income neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of our nation’s decaying infrastructure. Biden has said that he would strengthen democracy by guaranteeing that every American’s vote is protected. He would start by restoring the Voting Rights Act and then ensure that the Justice Department challenges state laws suppressing the right to vote. He would support automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and other steps to make exercising one’s right to vote easier.
The US criminal justice system is plagued by racial, gender, and income-based discrimination. Biden would create a US$20 billion competitive grant program to spur states to focus on prevention and reduction of jailed populations. He would expand and use the power of the Justice Department, under authority created by legislation he authored, to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices. He would invest in public defenders’ offices, eliminate the death penalty and mandatory minimums. He would decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all cannabis use convictions, end incarceration for drug use alone, and expand effective alternatives to detention. He would also end cash bail and private prisons.
Biden would invest US $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform. He would also set a goal of ensuring 100% of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry and expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as educational opportunities and job training during and after incarceration.
Trump’s stock has fallen appreciably. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll over the weekend found that Trump bested Biden on the question of who respondents saw as a “strong leader”, but the same survey had Biden with a 10 percentage point lead over Trump among registered voters. A Monmouth University poll found Trump’s approval rating at 42% among all Americans, but this was lowest since early fall. Just 21% said the country was headed in the right direction, a drop by nearly half since March. Notably, the biggest drop in confidence in Trump came among Republicans: Only 45% now say the country is going the right way, down from 75% in March. Callous handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the race riots since May 25 have had a political impact and will continue to do so.
To add to his stock, Biden is believed to be mulling the prospect of taking a Black woman as his running mate as Black women are thought to be a block vote. Among the distinguished names mentioned is Senator Kamala Harris (55) who is part Black part Indian, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (50) and Florida Rep. Val Demings (63).
(The picture at the top shows an apologetic Joe Biden in a Black church)