By Ryman Curtis
“Give me a break,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. It was early January in 2018, and Biden, transparently gearing up for a presidential run in 2020, was being interviewed by Patt Morrison of the LA Times. “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. I have no empathy for it. Give me a break.” For years, the internet has shared memes and pictures of Joe Biden doing adorable things, usually around Barack Obama. He has the effect of that slightly nutty uncle that your family has to invite to all of the holiday events, the one that all the kids love and the adults hate. Ever since the 2016 election, the nickname “Uncle Joe” has entered common parlance with millennials who fondly look back on the heartwarming days of Barack and Joe’s antics. But that’s a bad thing—if you’re a millennial, Joe Biden is anything but your friend.
Biden has been around for a long time, longer than most politicians at this point, so let’s start at the beginning. All the way back in the early 1990s, the then Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in charge of overseeing the Supreme Court nomination of archconservative judge Clarence Thomas. When a former employee of Thomas, Anita Hill, accused the judge of sexual harassment, did Joe Biden launch a thorough investigation and give Hill a platform? Of course not. Instead, he attempted to bury the allegations, discredited Hill and refused to let three other women testify against Thomas. In more recent years, Biden has apologized to Hill (although not in person or directly), but has also tried to minimize his role and power in the hearings—despite the fact that he was chair of the Judiciary Committee and the most powerful person in the situation.
Three years after the Anita Hill controversy, Biden remained as Senate Judiciary Chairman, collaborating with Democrats and Republicans alike on the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law, creating stricter sentencing standards and criminalizing gang membership. The bill, which President Clinton has apologized for on multiple occasions, caused imprisonment of primarily black youth to skyrocket and gave the United States the highest incarceration rate in the world. Biden touts it to this day as one of his greatest achievements.
But let’s go back to the quote that kicked off this article. It’s one that describes Biden in a nutshell—traditional, conservative-leaning and nostalgic. He sticks to old Democratic views on abortion, personally against it and politically murky on the issue, once voting for a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. And along with these traditional views comes a dislike for millennials—that we should just tough it out as he did. In 2005, he pushed a bill that made the billions of dollars of private student debt immune to being discharged or renegotiated in bankruptcy court like any other debt. This wasn’t some fluke either—Biden backed many other bills benefiting the financial industry, to the point where he became known in the media as “Senator MBNA,” after the credit card giant that was his top donor for over two decades. MBNA (now Bank of America), along with the other financial industry giants that Biden supported throughout his 36 year tenure in the U.S. Senate, were the cause of the economic recession and lack of jobs that Biden rails against.
So while Biden talks about college not being affordable, remember how he made student loans a much heavier burden. When he talks about criminal justice reform, remember how he raised incarceration rates to the highest in the world. When he talks about his record on preventing sexual harassment, remember how he treated Anita Hill. And when he talks about the legions of young people he’s supposedly so inspired by, remember that he has no empathy for you.
Ryman is a Political Science major with a double minor in Theater and History.
Graphic courtesy of chicagonow.com.