COLUMN: As the 2020 election inches closer, Joe Biden has a lot of baggage that has already cost him voters.

With his past ties to segregationists and creating legislation hurting Black and Latinx communities, Joe Biden has a lot to do to improve his image as the 2020 election draws closer and closer.

Keara Shannon is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about human rights and race relations for The Maneater.

For the past four years, American minorities, the middle and lower class have suffered greatly under Donald Trump’s presidency. His bigoted and selfish mindset have left this country more divided than ever before.

The past four years could not have gone by any slower. Americans were carefully watching who would be the one to face Trump in November, and Democratic candidates were plentiful. In the end, former Vice President Joe Biden was the victor.

Americans now have an opponent to Trump, but this still doesn’t feel like a victory for everyone.

When Biden’s nomination was announced, social media posts and several news outlets brought to light many of Biden’s past decisions as a senator during the 1970s to his tenure alongside President Barack Obama. Obama is not the great savior that people thought he was. His use of drones frequently wreaked havoc on civilians in the Middle East causing at least 26,171 airstrikes in 2016.

Sen. Bernie Sanders called out Biden during the June Democratic Debate for voting in support of the Iraq War, which cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion and killed or wounded thousands of American soldiers. These actions killed, wounded and displaced millions of Iraqi civilians.

Biden has since stated that he regrets his decision and helped to end the war, but it’s a little too late for that. A comment under the debate’s YouTube video puts Biden’s sentiments perfectly into words: “Joe Biden patting himself on the back for helping to end Iraq is like someone setting a house on fire letting it burn for a few years then helped putting it out and taking credit as a hero for something he helped to start.”

Biden’s record with racism and mass incarceration has also earned him side-eyes from the public. According to the New York Intelligencer, he pushed for narrowing judicial discretion by creating a commission to set ‘presumptive sentences’ and to eliminate pardons and paroles in 1977. In 1989 he stated that President George H. W. Bush's plan crime policy plan “does not include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, enough prosecutors to convict them, enough judges to sentence them or enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.”

Calling people neglected by the government and left to fend for themselves “thugs” that need to be put away shows Biden doesn’t want to tackle the root causes of crime that the very establishment he represents created. Poverty-stricken neighborhoods aren’t given the same resources and opportunities as wealthier ones.

Education plays a very integral role in the success of individuals in America. Having anything less than a college degree is often frowned upon. When people aren’t given the opportunity to learn skills that they can apply throughout their life, it’s very hard to get a job or earn a living. For this reason, the people in these neglected neighborhoods have to find other ways to make a living no matter if it is legal or not.

There are people who need to drop out of school to help their families or don’t even have the means to get to school. Not only this, but since schools in low-income neighborhoods aren’t given the same resources, they get old hand-me-downs or used versions of materials like instruments or textbooks. Even the staff are underpaid or not enough are hired to begin with.

That’s what the government needs to focus on. Take Chicago Public Schools as an example. The teachers went on strike for eleven days demanding smaller class sizes, more staff support, higher raises and more funding. The government needs to give every school the same materials that are new and ready to be used.

Giving people a quality education with new books, refurbished classrooms and teachers paid enough to be able to do their jobs is what every American deserves. Since this is not happening in numerous places around the country, the outcome is the government’s responsibility. They can’t just lock people up and think that the problem is solved.

Biden also worked and formed friendships with segregationists like James Eastland, Herman Talmadge and Strom Thurmond. Eastland even supported Biden’s plans to narrow judicial discretion in 1977. Thurmond and Biden wrote multiple bills together.

Those bills include the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which required individuals to serve mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. Next was the 1994 Crime Bill meant to reverse decades of rising crime, then the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act which gave people harsher sentences for possession of crack than for powder cocaine though they are essentially the same thing.

Several candidates brought up dirt on Joe Biden during the Democratic debates. His now running mate, California Sen.Kamala Harris, questioned him about his problematic past.

“I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said. “But I also believe – and it’s personal, actually it was hurtful — to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career off of the segregation of race in this country.”

Harris is not innocent. She has had her own fair share of eyebrow-raising actions in the past. However, being able to work and find a common ground between those who do not share the same values is something very much needed today.

On the other hand, working with people that were so against diversity and integration in America is not the way to do it. Having two white men collaborate on bills that increased the amount of prison sentences, prison cells and led an agenda to increase aggressive policing ultimately hurt Black and brown communities that were disportionately likely to be incarcerated. That is not the collaboration that America needs.

“You also worked with [those segregationist senators] to oppose busing,” Harris said, “And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Busing is the practice of assigning and transporting students to other schools in order to diversify the racial make-up of schools. Busing was, at the time, “the fastest-acting tool to promote school desegregation,” according to Vox.

In 1975, Biden supported an anti-busing measure from civil rights opponent Sen. Jesse Helms. Biden then introduced a proposal in 1976 to stop the Justice Department from using busing to desegregate schools. He then supported a similar amendment in 1977 before introducing another bill that year opposing court-ordered busing.

It’s still confusing why Harris would still choose to run with someone she feels was involved in such a personal aspect of her life. Maybe she hopes that Biden has changed for the better.

People do change, and hopefully Biden’s past attitudes are not the same now. However, he still has moments where that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just last month, Biden was in hot water yet again for saying “unlike the African-American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community." President Trump even had something to say about this, stating that Biden "totally disparaged and insulted the Black community. What he said is incredible … It was a very insulting statement he made.”

People around the country, MU students included, are registering to vote as November nears. Biden’s past comments and actions make people skeptical about voting for him. Many people don’t even want to vote or will vote for a third party candidate like Libertarian Jo Jorgensen. While Jorgensen gaining a majority of support from voters would be encouraging, the two-party system is so ingrained in American culture that this is virtually impossible.

Dividing Democratic votes in multiple directions, while most Republicans will most likely vote for Trump, means that America might have to prepare for a second Trump term. The right to vote is something that many Americans take seriously. They hunger for change within this country and the only way to accomplish this is voting for those that they feel will do just that.

However, there’s the internal struggle of not voting and Trump winning. Or there’s the issue of voting for someone that goes against everything that someone believes in. America must hope that Biden will have something more to offer than Trump did these past four years.

There’s uncertainty on what a Biden presidency will look like. It’s up to Biden to ease the public’s concern. No politician is perfect. By November, Biden needs to be able to gain the trust of the American people because he has already lost a good amount. He needs to be more persuasive that he is what America needs because a lot of people are skeptical. Biden must also address his past actions because those certainly are not helping his campaign. If Biden is what America needs, then he has to prove it.

_The Maneater is proud to be part of the fight against racism and prejudice in America and encourages its readers to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU). According to their website, “With more than 1.5 million members, nearly 300 staff attorneys, thousands of volunteer attorneys, and offices throughout the nation, the ACLU of today continues to fight government abuse and to vigorously defend individual freedoms including speech and religion, a woman’s right to choose, the right to due process, citizens’ rights to privacy and much more.” Donate here : https://action.aclu.org/give/now?ms_aff=NAT&initms_aff=NAT&ms=web_horiz_nav_hp&initms=web_horiz_nav_hp&ms_chan=web&initms_chan=web _

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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