In a meeting with black Wilmington leaders Monday, Joe Biden said he will create a police oversight board in the first 100 days of his presidency.The former vice president and presumed Democratic presidential nominee met with about a dozen community leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, including U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.It was his first in-person campaign event since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past two months, Biden has campaigned virtually out of his basement in his Wilmington home.“I don’t expect anything from the black community,” Biden said, adding that he’s never taken for granted their support.
“It has to be earned,” he added. “Earned every single time.”
The meeting with community members was just blocks away from where this weekend’s protests took place.Like in cities across the country, Delawareans protested in Wilmington following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into his neck for about eight minutes.
In the meeting with Delaware leaders, Biden also said he is focused on campaigning in battleground states with Senate seats also on the line in November, naming Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.
He said the Senate’s control of judiciary confirmations is central to efforts to address racism through policy-making, saying that while presidents come and go, “justices don’t … some will be there 20, 30, 40 years, making bad policies.”“It’s not enough to win the presidency. We have to win back the Senate. We have to change the leadership in the Senate. Mitch McConnell cannot remain the majority leader in the Senate,” he said.
But Delaware State Senator Darius Brown said the protests, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, were about deeper, longstanding issues of injustice.
“What African Americans are expressing over the past few days are the need for economic opportunity,” he said. “The African American community wants you to bring home the bacon for us.”
Brown noted that blacks did not share equally in the country’s recovery from the 2008-2009 economic crisis overseen by Biden as President Barack Obama’s vice president.
“The African American community did not experience the same economic opportunity as they did during the 90s,” he said.
Biden met with the leaders as cities around the country have endured days of protests, vandalism and looting.
“The Band-Aid has been ripped off by this pandemic and this president,” he said. “It’s been minorities. It’s been blacks. It’s been Hispanics” who have kept working, and getting ill during lockdowns.
“They are the ones out there making sure the grocery stores are open,” he said.
The Reverend Shanika Perry urged Biden to address his previous support for the 1994 Crime Bill that many black leaders fault for sending an outsize number of black men to prison.
“They have issues with the participation in that,” she said of her parishioners. “They want to know how you plan to undo the impacts of the mass incarceration.”
Noting that “representation matters,” she also called on Biden to name a black woman as his vice-presidential pick. “We have qualified black women who are capable of helping you lead this country.”
When Mr. Biden finally stood up to speak, he quoted the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard — “‘Faith sees best in the dark,’” he said, “and it’s been pretty dark, it’s been real dark” — before condemning Mr. Trump for, he said, publicly legitimizing the racism that protesters are fighting against.
Earlier in his career, “I thought we could actually defeat hate,” Mr. Biden said. “What I realized — not just white supremacy, hate — hate just hides. Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away. And when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen to the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks.”
Mr. Biden said that he did not take black voters for granted and that he was putting together a detailed set of policy proposals to address their concerns.
He said that he believed the events of the past few months — between the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affecting black communities and, now, Mr. Floyd’s killing — would force more Americans to confront institutionalized racism.
“Ordinary folks who don’t think of themselves as having a prejudiced bone in their body, don’t think of themselves as racist, have kind of had the mask pulled off,” he said.
As Mr. Floyd’s death and the resulting unrest convulsed the country last week, Mr. Biden gave the sort of address to a nation in crisis that Americans normally would expect to hear from the Oval Office. In the Friday speech, he sought to paint a contrast with the president, who was mostly stoking the flames, calling protesters “thugs” and suggesting that they could be shot.
This is the sort of moment that can define presidential races, and it fits neatly with one of the biggest messages Mr. Biden’s campaign has sought to convey all year: that he can provide steady leadership instead of chaos. But, occurring as it has during a pandemic that has shut down in-person campaign events, it is a uniquely difficult moment to seize.
In Friday’s speech, which he delivered virtually, Mr. Biden urged Americans to grapple with the fact that the country’s long history of racism was not history at all, but a “deep, open wound.”
“The pain is too immense for one community to bear alone,” he said. “I believe it’s the duty of every American to grapple with it, and to grapple with it now. With our complacency, our silence, we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence.”
Two days later, after a night of unrest in Wilmington, Mr. Biden visited the site of the protests and toured damaged businesses with Ms. Blunt Rochester.
In late April, as COVID-19 panicked the nation and all but paralyzed his campaign, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. huddled—virtually, of course—with his team of economic advisers. Being stuck running for the presidency from the basement of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, had given the former vice president a lot of time to think, he told them, and he wanted bigger ideas.
Go forth, he urged his financial brain trust, and bring back the boldest, most ambitious proposals they’d ever dreamed of to reshape the U.S. economy, with an eye toward making it more fair for all Americans and less easily unhinged by a future crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Should he unseat Donald Trump in the November election, the challenge before him would be at least on par with what Franklin Delano Roosevelt contended with when he came to power in 1933. Biden wanted FDR-sized solutions.
At least a few of the participants on that call hung up in shock and awe. “Did that really happen?” one texted another in messages shown to Newsweek. “Yep. Sleepy Joe is awake,” the other replied, invoking a mocking nickname used by Trump—one that feels so absurd to those who know the workaholic Biden that it’s become a standing joke among campaign insiders.
Even accounting for the magnitude of the pandemic-fueled economic meltdown, their surprise was understandable. Biden had just spent more than a year arguing successfully to Democratic primary voters that he was the sensible candidate, the one offering familiarity and experience rather than radicalism. He was the advocate for incremental not sweeping change and the one willing to ask his more populist, big-thinking rivals the critical question: How are you going to pay for all that?
But as the pandemic gripped the country this spring, sickening or killing nearly two million Americans and putting tens of millions out of work, Biden began issuing a raft of new proposals that move his positions closer to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, with a promise to unveil an even more transformative economic plan this summer. Now it’s a yes from Joe to student debt cancellation for large numbers of borrowers and yes to free public college for lower-income and middle-class families. It’s a yes to adding $200 a month to Social Security benefits and lowering the qualifying age for Medicare from 65 to 60. Yes to trillions in new spending, yes to new regulations on banks and industry, yes to devil-may-care deficits.
As recently as late February, after his definitive South Carolina primary victory thwarted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ takeover of the Democratic Party, Biden exulted that “talk about revolution isn’t changing anyone’s life.” By mid-May, though, he took to his Here’s the Deal podcast to declare—in a discussion with former rival and universal basic income champion Andrew Yang, no less—”We need some revolutionary institutional changes.”
Biden’s historical reference point these days when he talks about the policy shifts needed to repair what’s broken in the economy is not the Great Recession but rather the Great Depression. That’s true even though his role in the financial-crisis recovery, particularly when it came to overseeing the auto-industry bailout and stimulus spending, has been Biden’s signature economic achievement to date in a career more focused on foreign policy and criminal justice reform. And the leader he most often invokes—in interviews, in public addresses, on his podcast—is no longer Barack Obama but Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Former vice president Joe Biden released his much-anticipated disability policy plan last Thursday. In fact, he released two plans: one for general policy and one addressing how the Covid-19 pandemic affects disabled Americans. Disability rights advocates have been deeply concerned for months about the lack of attention Biden has shown to disability policy priorities—most recently using the hashtag #AccessToJoe on social media to try to push the campaign. Biden and his staff have been tight-lipped on the contents of the plan. Many disability rights advocates who contributed to other primary candidates’ plans felt boxed out. Given the uncertainty and secrecy, the disability community did not know what to expect from Biden’s plan, or if he would even release a plan at all.
To their surprise, Joe Biden’s disability policy plan is good.
While Biden’s plan isn’t as ambitious as those put forward by former rivals Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it addresses many of the major policy goals of the disability community. It ends subminimum wages for disabled workers, reviews state guardianship laws, and tackles racial disparities in special education. Rebecca Cokley, the director of the Center for American Progress’s Disability Justice Initiative, praised the plan, saying it “shows a steadfast commitment to the values laid out in the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]. While there has been so much damage perpetrated by the Trump administration that needs critical attention, it’s also exciting to see attention to new ideas like accessible childcare and entrepreneurship. We look forward to further details and dialogue about the vice president’s agenda to improve the lives of 61 million Americans.”
Before Biden released his plan, many activists were concerned that Biden might embrace the worst parts of Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar’s mental health plans: forced medication and more money for involuntary, long-term hospitalization. Instead, Biden’s plan supports increased access to voluntary psychiatric treatment. Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, a mental health advocate who helped shape Sanders’s plan, commended the move. “The Biden disability plan on mental health and in general when we apply other parts to it, emphasizes voluntary treatment and autonomy,” she told The Nation.
The plan also calls for Housing First, a strategy based on the idea that homeless people need a safe and stable living situation before they can deal with more complex issues like addiction and mental illness. Biden’s embrace of Housing First is refreshing. In contrast, President Donald Trump has said on multiple occasions that the solution to homelessness is the construction of new “mental institutions”—a chilling call to return to a practice disability rights activists fought hard to end.
Matthew Cortland, a grassroots disability rights activist and lawyer who worked closely with Warren’s primary campaign, lauded Biden’s general disability plan. He was especially enthused by proposed changes to Social Security; one reform he highlighted would grant marriage equality to the disability community. Currently, disabled people, including Cortland himself, lose Medicaid, which they rely on to survive, if they legally marry. “I want to thank you for promising to work to tear down the barriers that keep us from enjoying the same legal recognition of our love that you & [Dr. Biden] enjoy and celebrate,” he declared on social media.
President Trump on Monday ripped members of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign for donating money to a fund that helps arrested protesters pay bail in Minnesota amid demonstrations over the police-involved death of George Floyd.
The president in a tweet accused the former vice president’s staff of “working to get the anarchists out of jail.”
“Joe doesn’t know anything about it, he is clueless, but they will be the real power, not Joe,” Trump added. “They will be calling the shots! Big tax increases for all, Plus!”
Over the weekend, several Biden staffers went on Twitter to say that they would direct money to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a group that opposes cash bail and is putting up money to help arrested protesters avoid imprisonment ahead of their trials.
A Reuters analysis found that 13 Biden campaign staffers had posted about their donations to the group.
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