Dr. Thomas Swan studied cognition and culture at Queen's University Belfast. He enjoys exploring the interplay between politics and culture.
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden made several promises to progressive Democrats and independents. These included a $15 minimum wage, a public option for healthcare, codification of Roe v. Wade, and student debt forgiveness.
Many Democrats and international observers have been wondering what happened to these promises. Rather than keeping them, Biden has been governing like a moderate Republican, causing many US voters to suspect they were lied to. Indeed, Biden's approval rating is so low that 75% of Democrats do not want him to run in 2024.
Unfortunately, this story of betrayal should not be a surprise, especially to the progressives who tried to warn voters about Biden in early 2020. Put simply, Joe Biden was always a conservative, which is why he is governing like one.
To convince you of that, this article will cover 11 things about Biden's voting record, beliefs, motivations, and character that you are unlikely to know, and which demonstrate why he was never going to be a progressive President.
1. Biden Is More Pro-Life Than You Think
At the beginning of Joe Biden's political career, he was unashamedly opposed to abortion and had a dismal view of women's rights. In 1974, he said:
I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.
— Joe Biden
His admittedly "social conservative" outlook changed little over time. In 1981, Biden voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade and, in the same year, passed the Hyde Amendment, banning federal funding for abortions and US foreign aid for abortion research.
Biden repeatedly upheld the Hyde Amendment, saying in 1994 that, "those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them." In 1996, 1998, and 2003, he also voted to ban "partial-birth" abortions, despite the lives saved by such procedures.
Biden's social conservatism also contributed to his vote against gay marriage in 1996, and a history of racially discriminatory policies and statements (see below).
As recently as 2019, Biden still supported the Hyde Amendment, but, after receiving considerable criticism, he changed his mind shortly before his election as President.
Biden's history on the abortion issue is consistent with his broken promise about codifying Roe v. Wade, and his lack of response to the Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn it.
2. Biden Wants to Cut Social Security
Despite Biden's pre-election promises, he has been trying to cut Social Security for 40 years. In 1995, he told the Senate:
When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.
— Joe Biden
As early as 1984, Biden had teamed up with Reagan Republicans to demand Social Security cuts. Decades later, and after dozens of other examples, his strategy had not changed. In 2018 he said:
"Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare."
Could it be that Biden's very recent change of heart is more a case of telling people what they want to hear? Biden recently appointed someone to lead his Social Security Advisory Board who wants to privatize it. These programs are not safe under Biden and never were.
3. Biden Voted for the Iraq War
To say that Joe Biden voted for the disastrous Iraq War is an understatement. He was instrumental in obtaining Democratic support for the War and spoke several times in support of it himself.
He even took credit for writing the 2001 Patriot Act that destroyed the rights and privacy of US citizens and, in 2018, he pinned a Liberty Medal on George W. Bush for "services to veterans."
Giving a medal for "services to veterans" to a war criminal who ordered 4,700 American soldiers to their deaths, with around 9,000 veterans taking their own lives afterwards, is abhorrent and an insult to all those who died. The following video contains one veteran's reaction.
In many other ways, Joe Biden's foreign policy mirrored that of Republican administrations. In 2019, he sided with Donald Trump and John Bolton in supporting a coup in Venezuela (they have the largest oil reserves in the world). Biden has also supported regime change wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
Although Biden withdrew US forces from Afghanistan, he merely redeployed them to eastern Europe and the Horn of Africa. He may also be dragging out the Ukraine war to benefit US energy and weapons companies.
4. Biden Is Opposed to Medicare for All
The idea that Biden would have provided a public option for healthcare, despite promising it, is laughable.
The progressive position on healthcare is to actually go one step further. Medicare for All (M4A) is a program that would save 68,000 lives and prevent over half a million bankruptcies annually. It would save families about $2,800 annually after taxes, increase life expectancy by two years, and reduce serious illnesses by 15%. For these reasons, most of the developed world has public healthcare and 70% of Americans want M4A.
Joe Biden, however, has said he would veto M4A if it crossed his desk. Instead, Biden treasures Obamacare, a failed system and highly profitable gift to the health insurance industry. This friend of the health insurance industry (more on that below) would never have implemented a public option.
5. Biden Voted for NAFTA
In 2016, Hillary Clinton was hammered in the Rust Belt for her support of NAFTA and the TPP. Such "free trade deals" depress wages and send jobs overseas, and Clinton's support ultimately allowed Donald Trump to win crucial swing states in the 2016 election (e.g., Michigan and Wisconsin).
Joe Biden was always a loyal supporter of the Clintons. He voted for NAFTA, free trade with China, and supported the TPP, and he defended these actions during his 2020 campaign. He was never going to support the American worker (e.g., with a $15 minimum wage.)
6. Biden Does Not Care About the Climate
Joe Biden may have rejoined the Paris Accords (a non-binding collection of words that promise little action), but the Obama-Biden administration oversaw the greatest US oil production gain in modern history, opened the arctic to drilling twice, and laid more oil pipeline than any previous administration.
Biden's own words also said plenty about where his commitments lay. He was unwilling to ban fracking and, in almost Trumpian fashion, borrowed his climate policy directly from fossil fuel companies. When confronted about his destructive policies, Biden told a voter to "go vote for someone else" (see video below).
7. Biden Wrote the 1994 Crime Bill
In 1994, Joe Biden helped write a notorious crime bill that led to the mass incarceration of African Americans. The bill imposed higher sentences for drugs commonly used by minorities compared to drugs used by white people. It also included the widely condemned "three strikes" rule for imposing life sentences (affecting minorities who are targeted more by police), and greatly expanded use of the death penalty.
Biden argued strongly for the bill, saying it was to "keep predators off the streets" who were "beyond the pale," perpetuating harmful myths about communities of color. Since being elected, Biden has predictably ignored calls to defund the police.
8. Biden Wants to Keep Student Debt High
Despite promising to reduce or eliminate student debt, Joe Biden's history tells the opposite story. He has backed several bills that make it harder for people to reduce their student debt.
For example, in 2005, he was chiefly responsible for passing legislation to prevent people from accessing bankruptcy protections to discharge their student debt in court. The financial industry, which benefits from such legislation, has donated millions to Biden over the course of his career.
9. Corruption and Money in Politics
To understand why a politician would have no qualms about making promises that he never intended to keep, we should revisit 1974, when Joe Biden participated in a revealing interview about political corruption.
When the interviewer politely assumed his innocence, Biden appeared to question that, saying: "I’m not sure you should assume I’m not corrupt, but thank you for that." He then proceeded to say that corruption is "implicit" in Washington and, in an apparent admission, said, "you have to go to those people who have money, and they always want something."
Even worse was his allocation of blame for the situation: "I think the American public, in a way, rips off we politicians by forcing us to run the way they do." The most damning statement came near the end of the interview, confirming that even when Biden wasn't able to be corrupt, he wanted to be:
I didn’t have many larger contributors, and the only reason, see, I went to the big guys for the money. I was ready to prostitute myself in the manner in which I talk about it, but what happened was, they said, 'Come back when you’re 40, son.'
— Joe Biden
Well, Biden did come back and about 64% of his cash came from "large contributions" in the 2020 election. The first day of his campaign was spent at a lavish fundraiser with corporate lobbyists, GOP donors, and health insurance executives.
Many of these corporations are registered in Biden's home state of Delaware, which may be the epicenter of US corruption. The state has a lax court system with loopholes that allow corporations and criminals to avoid taxes, create anonymous shell companies, and launder money. Over a million companies are based there (285,000 in one building alone).
The consequence of all this corruption is policies that widen wealth inequality and increase poverty in America, as they did during the Obama-Biden administration. The top 1% of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 90%. In fact, Biden voted to repeal Glass-Steagal banking regulations in 1999, paving the way for the 2008 recession and the greatest upward transfer of wealth in history.
Biden's unwillingness to change this situation should therefore come as no surprise. He even assured his wealthy donors on the 2020 campaign trail, saying:
No one’s standard of living will change. Nothing would fundamentally change.
— Joe Biden
Accordingly, Biden said in 2018, "I don't think 500 billionaires are the reason we're in trouble. The folks at the top aren't bad guys."
10. Biden's History of Racism
It would be unfair to say that Joe Biden is motivated solely by money and power. He is also motivated by offensively regressive beliefs about race.
In 1975, he opposed desegregation efforts (busing black children to white schools) with the use of some shaky "separate but equal" arguments from the 1890s. The arguments might not have been so transparent if he hadn't praised a segregationist that same year, calling George Wallace's arguments "right."
Then, in 1977, he voiced concern about America becoming less white, saying he didn't want his kids to grow up in a "racial jungle." In 2006, Biden also made a racially insensitive remark about people from India:
In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans, moving from India to America, you cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts without at least a slight Indian accent.
— Joe Biden
In 2007, Biden suggested that minorities are inherently less intelligent than white people, attributing Iowa's better schools to a lack of minorities. In the same year, he implied black men assault women and have a problem using contraception, saying,
"I spent last summer going through the black sections of my town holding rallies in parks trying to get black men to understand it’s not unmanly to wear a condom, getting women to understand they can say no."
Also in 2007, Biden said that Obama is making history because he is:
...the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
— Joe Biden
Taken together, these remarks suggest that Biden was only chosen as Obama's VP to appease white closet-racists who were afraid of a black President. Yet, in 2020, many African American voters appeared to support Biden precisely because of his association with Obama.
Of course, all races make uninformed choices for various reasons, but Obama-nostalgia appeared to be the reason for this particular uninformed choice among this demographic. (We should principally blame the media for not informing the public.)
11. Biden's Lies and Plagiarism
Finally, to understand what it takes to break these promises, support these abhorrent ideas, and engage in this corruption, we should revisit Joe Biden's unsuccessful run for president in 1988, a year in which he lied to a room full of people about his time in law school.
Biden claimed (see video below) to have finished in the top half of his class and to have been awarded a full scholarship and numerous honors on his way to completing several degrees. All of this was untrue.
Biden also plagiarized five pages of an essay he claimed to have written in law school. He went on to plagiarize other politician's speeches without giving citation or credit to the original authors. Biden claimed to have been "dumb," presumably because "dishonest" would have sounded worse.
Whatever was in his mind, the American public thought they could do better than a dumb president, and Biden was forced to withdraw his candidacy. Thirty years later, was it any less of a sin?
Unfortunately for Biden, his dishonesty (and I think we can call it that) was not limited to 1988. In 2020, he claimed to be have been arrested in South Africa for trying to visit Nelson Mandela. He was caught in this lie while on the campaign trail in South Carolina—apparently trying to fool the state's large African American population into voting for him.
Joe Biden Was Never Progressive And Never Will Be
If you have read this far, I hope you now understand why Joe Biden broke all of his promises to progressives (despite empty tweets from his progressive cheerleaders in the party).
Anyone who feels betrayed should have already known that he supported wars that killed millions, trade deals that decimated the Rust Belt, a crime bill befitting his bigotry, a healthcare system that kills 68,000 people annually, and policies that destroyed the environment, stripped benefits from the vulnerable, and prevented women from accessing reproductive care, gay people from getting married, and students from accessing bankruptcy laws.
Joe Biden has this rotten record because he is corrupt, as made clear by his own remarks and the corporate swamp that is his home state of Delaware. He is corrupt because he is a compulsive liar, bigot, and plagiarist with an inability to tell right from wrong.
Joe Biden is not progressive. He never was, and he never will be. He is a conservative and has been his entire career.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Thomas Swan