Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. served as the 47th Vice President of the United States from 2009–2017 and is currently the polling leader for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Prior to that, he served as a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973–2009. Biden, a Pennsylvania native and member of the Democratic Party, grew up in a Catholic family. He attained his bachelor’s degree at the University of Delaware and attended law school at Syracuse University. After law school, he worked in Delaware, both as a public defender and in private legal practice.
Biden first married Neilia Biden (née Hunter), who tragically died — along with the couple’s one-year-old daughter Naomi — in a car accident shortly after Biden’s first U.S. Senate electoral victory in November 1972. Along with Naomi, Biden and Neilia also had two other children: Sons Beau and Hunter. Beau died at the age of 46, while Biden was serving as vice president, due to brain cancer. Biden eventually married Jill Biden (née Jacobs) in 1977 and the couple has had one child together, Ashley.
In 2008, Biden made history by being the running mate to the first black American to be elected to the office of president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Electoral History: Biden first successfully sought elected office in 1969, when he ran for New Castle County Council in suburban Delaware. Biden then ran for U.S. Senate in 1972, narrowly defeating incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs. Biden served in the Senate for seven terms, including a notable stretch as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987–1995. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman during this period, Biden oversaw the committee’s vetting of various U.S. Supreme Court nominations from Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Later, in the 2000s, Biden also served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The 2020 election marks the third time that Biden has sought the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. In 1988, Biden ran for president, although his campaign proved short-lived after allegations of perjury surfaced. In 2008, Biden ran a foreign policy-centric campaign that focused largely on his plan to divide Iraq into different religious/ethnic-based political units. He dropped out after the Iowa caucuses and was eventually named as the vice presidential running mate to 2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama.
In 2008, Obama and Biden prevailed over U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin by an Electoral College margin of 365–173. In 2012, Obama and Biden successfully sought re-election, defeating former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) by an Electoral College margin of 332–206.
Biden has long had a penchant for verbal gaffes. His political campaigning style, which some believe to be highly up-close and personal, has led some to nickname him “Uncle Joe.”
On The Issues: Although Biden now presents himself as a moderate, centrist figure, the totality of his political career, overall, suggests that he is a firm leftist. Biden has dabbled at times in moderation, including previous support for tough-on-crime legislation and his longstanding stance that he is “personally pro-life” despite his support of legalized abortion. However, he has long been a progressive on legal issues, economic issues, and foreign policy issues, and even preempted President Obama’s “evolution” when, in 2012, he confirmed that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage.
Constitution: As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987–1995, Biden oversaw two of the most contentious U.S. Supreme Court nominations in recent memory: Those of Reagan nominee Robert Bork and Bush nominee Clarence Thomas. Along with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Biden helped orchestrate and lead the personally nasty, full-frontal assault that ultimately resulted in the Bork nomination’s failure. Biden’s legislative posture has indicated an expansive view of congressional regulatory power: He helped lead the passing of the Violence Against Women Act, which was partially invalidated on constitutional grounds by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Economy: Biden is best described as a Keynesian who believes in the purported economic benefits of large-scale government investments and deficit spending. Along with then-President Obama, Biden shepherded through a massive fiscal stimulus package in the duo’s first year in office, oversaw the passing of the regulation-heavy Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, dramatically expanded the national debt, and hiked income taxes on the wealthy. Biden has long been supportive of a greater federal role in infrastructure spending. On the issue of trade, Biden voted for NAFTA in 1993. Biden has opposed the privatization of Social Security.
Health Care: Along with Obama, Biden helped oversee the 2010 passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare. Obamacare radically reshaped the individual market for health insurance, infamously included a tax/mandate to purchase health insurance, and generally dramatically expanded the role of government in the regulation and provision of health care. There is likely no Obama/Biden agenda item that conservatives have more consistently opposed than Obamacare. Biden has never indicated any willingness to structurally reform fiscally ruinous health care-related entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. As part of his 2020 presidential nomination platform, Biden has claimed opposition to “Medicare for All.”
Immigration: Biden voted for the George W. Bush-era Secure Fence Act of 2006, but has also consistently supported amnesty policies throughout his career — including the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and the failed “Gang of Eight” immigration bill in 2013. Biden served as vice president when Obama issued two major unilateral executive amnesties, DACA in 2012 and DAPA in 2014 — each of which has been fiercely opposed by conservatives and has been challenged in high-profile lawsuits.
Foreign Policy: Biden has cultivated a largely dovish foreign policy profile, although he did vote in favor of authorizing the Iraq War in 2003. As vice president, Biden was a leading proponent for and cheerleader of President Obama’s 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran — a deal which flushed the terror-supporting mullahs’ coffers with cash and did not place any restrictions whatsoever on Iran’s non-nuclear ballistic missile program. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Biden pushed hard for a solution to the Iraqi quagmire that divided the troubled nation into discrete Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish semi-autonomous sections. Although a self-described friend of Israel, Biden has often been harshly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian-Arabs and allegedly once threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Israel. Along with Obama, Biden as vice president took steps to loosen the U.S.’s longstanding embargo on Cuba, although the U.S. received no tangible concessions from Cuba’s communist dictatorship before doing so.
Abortion: Biden described himself as “personally pro-life” while nonetheless believing that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided and that women have a constitutional right to abortion. For decades, Biden supported the Hyde Amendment — which prohibits federal funding of abortion — but flipped his position in 2019 to appease the hard-left Democratic activists who now comprise the base of the party.
Guns: Biden was a leading proponent and sponsor of the federal “assault weapons” ban, a subset of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Throughout his career, he has generally been supportive of curtailing Second Amendment rights. Biden has also supported mandating five-day waiting periods for gun purchases, as well as closing the alleged “gun show loophole.” Biden supports a ban on the undefinable sub-class of firearms referred to as so-called “assault weapons” — a line of thought that, if taken to its logical conclusion, could lead to the banning of all semi-automatic firearms in America.