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Joe Biden’s Moment

Vice President Biden’s platform offers progressive solutions to every major problem facing the country, and he has the experience to put those principles into practice
Gene J. Puskar/AP

W e’ve lived for the past four years under a man categorically unfit to be president. Fortunately for America, Joe Biden is Donald Trump’s opposite in nearly every category: The Democratic presidential nominee evinces competence, compassion, steadiness, integrity, and restraint. Perhaps most important in this moment, Biden holds a profound respect for the institutions of American democracy, as well as a deep knowledge about how our government — and our system of checks and balances — is meant to work; he aspires to lead the nation as its president, not its dictator. The 2020 election, then, offers the nation a chance to reboot and rebuild from the racist, authoritarian, know-nothing wreckage wrought by the 45th president. And there are few Americans better suited to the challenge than Joe Biden.

It is no exaggeration to say that the American experiment hangs in the balance in the November election. Four years of Trump have left 215,000 of us and counting dead from a serious but preventable public-health crisis, tens of millions out of work or underemployed, a cataclysmic climate crisis ignored, our democratic institutions in disrepair, and the public’s faith in its elected representatives at an all-time low.

Is America capable of stepping back from this precipice? Of turning away from the politics of resentment to rebuild our country based on a shared idea of American progress? That remains to be seen, but electing Biden is the first step. Despite the multiple crises at hand, Biden envisions a revival anchored in unity. “We have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division,” Biden said in an October address near the battlefield at Gettysburg.

The Democrat has delivered more than just happy talk. Biden has been leading by example in his campaign. He showed confidence and bridge-building by tapping his harshest critic from the primary debates, California Sen. Kamala Harris, as his running mate. And Biden has won a diverse backing that would have been inconceivable outside of this 2020 moment. Think of it as a coalition of the decent, ranging from Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the left, to “Never Trumpers” John Kasich, Cindy McCain, and Bill Kristol on the right. Biden has promised to be a president for all Americans, standing in contrast to Trump, who has only governed for his partisans and once mused aloud that the nation’s pandemic death toll didn’t look so bad “if you take the blue states out.”

Biden’s broad acceptability is his strength. But inside his big tent, Biden’s platform offers progressive solutions to every major problem facing the country. And the former vice president has the experience to put that platform into practice:

A Bold Plan for Climate Change

The danger of climate change is not a future concern. It is our deadly present. As the wildfires ravaging the West and the record number of named storms in the Atlantic this summer have made clear, we are already living with the dangerous results of accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Trump and his party live in denial, rejecting basic climate science and pushing ahead with policies that permit the unfettered drilling of fossil fuels.

Biden, by contrast, believes in science, and names the “existential threat” we are facing in global warming. He has embraced the spirit of the Green New Deal, outlining a path to limit the catastrophic heating of the planet by achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This would be realized through a $2 trillion investment in America — including clean-energy plants, solarized and weatherized homes, and carbon-free transportation networks — that would create millions of sustainable jobs. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax,’ ” Biden has said. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs.’ ”

Climate change is a global crisis. And Biden also has the foreign-policy chops, honed over decades of service, to not only reverse Trump’s course for America as a rogue nation on climate, but to also reassert U.S. leadership, moving the world toward equitable climate solutions.

A Path to Racial Justice

Biden recognizes America’s systemic racism, and is unabashed in denouncing the poisonous purveyors of white supremacy, including the current president — who praised the torch-carrying neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville as “very fine people” and who did not denounce violent groups like the Proud Boys when prompted in a debate, instructing them instead to “stand by.”

As a four-decade veteran of Washington, Biden has amends to make. The 1994 crime bill that he helped usher through the Senate expanded America’s prison-industrial complex. But Biden, despite his age, has retained agility in his thinking. The world has changed, and Biden is responsive to it. His selection of Harris made history, creating the chance that a black woman will be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and Biden has promised that Harris will be his partner in governing America. This decision kept faith with the key Democratic constituency that sealed Biden’s nomination. It also built on Biden’s promise to be a “transition president” who will pass the baton to what he calls “the most open, the least prejudiced” generation now coming of age in America. A key part of Trump’s political project has been to make white supremacy just another ideology in the American political spectrum. Biden promises an America where hate has no quarter. “I made a mistake about something,” Biden said recently. “I thought you could defeat hate. . . . It only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks to come on out from under the rocks.”

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Protecting LGBTQ Rights

Biden vows to reverse course on the Trump administration’s openly discriminatory actions and policies toward the LGBTQ community. Biden would enforce the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, ending Trump’s sweeping efforts to the contrary. Biden would allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the armed forces again. He would revoke Trump’s federal permissions to discriminate against LGBTQ people in health care, and he would end the Trump administration’s threats to allow federally funded homeless shelters to turn away trans people and to let federally funded adoption agencies simply reject same-sex couples. Biden, who helped push the Obama administration forward on same-sex marriage, has also vowed to secure passage of the Equality Act, enshrining all these protections into law, thus guarding them from the whims of another administration.

A More Just Immigration Policy

Trump’s rancid anti-immigrant politics have blocked immigration from a wide swath of the Muslim world while forcing U.S. taxpayers to pay billions for “the wall.” The administration’s inhumane actions to separate migrant parents from their children at the border — including mothers from infants — has left a stain on our national character. “It makes a lie of who we are in front of the whole world,” Biden has said, offering policies to revive the ideal of America as a nation of immigrants. Biden promises to protect Dreamers, to process refugees as they arrive at the border (instead of stalling them in dangerous limbo in Mexican border towns), to end for-profit detention centers, and to stop terrorizing law-abiding residents with ICE raids. While insisting he’ll still “control our border,” Biden vows to pursue comprehensive reform that creates a “road map to citizenship” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who call America home. “When immigrants succeed,” Biden has said, “we all succeed.”

A Fairer Tax Code

Biden seeks to raise trillions of dollars by taxing the nation’s highest incomes, cutting the estate-tax exemption in half, and undoing the most egregious giveaways of Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cut. It’s important to be clear-eyed about what Biden offers on this plank. He’s not Sanders — and has bragged in the general election: “I beat the socialist. . . . Do I look like a socialist?” Biden’s line is that he’s not out to “punish” anyone. Fair enough. But in these punishing times — where hundreds of thousands of small businesses are shuttering through no fault of their own — it’s not punitive to demand that billionaires like Jeff Bezos, who’ve gotten massively richer since the coronavirus hit, pay a larger share to build an economy that works for American workers. Sanders, for example, has introduced a bill to levy a 60 percent tax on wealth gained by billionaires during the pandemic. Biden would be wise not to dismiss such policies out of hand.

Expanding Health Care

Biden — who famously touted the passage of Obamacare as a “big fucking deal” — has vowed to protect the Affordable Care Act from Republican assault, and to expand the program with a public option in the health care exchanges that his campaign insists is “like Medicare” in that it would negotiate with hospitals and doctors to contain costs. The Biden health plan would also make Obamacare’s insurance subsidies more generous and extend them to higher-earning middle-class workers, ensuring that no family pays more than 8.5 percent of their income on health coverage. The situation is critical. More than 5 million Americans have lost workplace insurance coverage in the pandemic — adding to more than 1.25 million who have fallen off the Obamacare rolls under Trump. Independent analysis of Biden’s plan suggests he could expand health coverage to 20 million Americans. If the Trump administration wins a lawsuit seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is expected to decide in 2021, as many as 23 million Americans could lose their health insurance.

Defending Reproductive Rights

Over his long career, Biden, a Catholic, has equivocated on abortion, saying at times that Roe v. Wade went “too far” and voicing support for the Hyde Amendment, a measure banning federal funding for most abortions. But he has since made significant efforts to put any doubts to rest on his stance, publicly pledging, for example, to codify the protections of Roe into law if it is overturned by a conservative Supreme Court. Biden has further pledged to appoint judges who would support reproductive rights, to restore the birth-control coverage originally included in the Affordable Care Act, to restore funding for Planned Parenthood, and to repeal the gag rules the Trump administration has put in place prohibiting doctors from speaking with their patients about abortion. He’s also pledged he will work to reduce the high U.S. maternal-mortality rate, an epidemic that disproportionately impacts black women.

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DREAM TEAM: Biden: “We have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.” Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Navigating the Pandemic

America could hit 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic before the end of the year. Trump’s bungled response to the central crisis of his presidency also deepened the accompanying economic disaster that has seen tens of millions thrown out of work.

Biden has proven experience in addressing the intertwined health and economic crises posed by Covid-19. One of his top lieutenants, Ron Klain, was the “Ebola czar” and led the response that safeguarded America from that potentially devastating disease. In contrast to Trump, Biden has a plan for taming the spread of the virus, which would impose a national face-mask mandate and fund the mass deployment of personal protective equipment, testing, and contact tracing, so that schools and businesses might safely reopen.

The challenge of leading an economic recovery is also in Biden’s wheelhouse. As vice president under Obama, he led the implementation of the 2009 Recovery Act, steadily rebuilding the U.S. economy from what was then the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression — and doing so without the scandals and self-dealing that have defined the Trump presidency.

Rebuilding Democracy

Biden will be confronted with the challenge of rebuilding a government corrupted by Trump and his henchmen. The current administration, led by a president impeached for inviting foreign interference in our elections, has politicized pillars of our government that previously operated above the fray. Attorney General Bill Barr has acted as the president’s personal lawyer, telling U.S. attorneys that they work not for the people but for the president. Even the Postal Service has become complicit in Trump’s anti-democratic schemes, with Postmaster Louis DeJoy ripping out mail-sorting machines in blue districts to disrupt the election. “At the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions,” a judge ruled in September, “is voter disenfranchisement.”

The daily functioning of our government could, under a Biden administration, be revived following a single Trump term. But if Trump gets another four years, the America as we know it will grow dark and unrecognizable. Corruption at our essential public agencies could take root, and our democracy might never truly recover.

Restoring Our National Character

As much as any specific policy, this election is a referendum on character — the character of the president and the character of the nation. America doesn’t need a saint in the Oval Office. But the country has been reeling with a broken man at the Resolute Desk. Trump is a narcissist and an egotist, a shameless liar and an open bigot, a man who simply cannot understand the notion of sacrifice for the greater good, even as he demands unthinking fealty from those in his service.

Biden’s lived experience and expansive empathy make him not just a good, but an outstanding candidate. His keen understanding of loss connects him emotionally to the honest struggles of Americans whom he seeks to serve. And it gives Biden the moral authority to ask the rest of us to sacrifice as well. Biden calls us to the responsibilities of citizenship — to think of ourselves as threads in the fabric of our society, of owing allegiance to one another, individually and as a whole, and of seeing ourselves connected to the values at the core of the American experiment. Trump has broken that creed, insisting such patriotism is for “suckers.” The 45th president preaches a doctrine of extreme individualism, of keeping what’s mine and to hell with my neighbor, even indulging in trollish satisfaction at the suffering of fellow Americans not part of his personality cult.

Every election presents a stark choice. The contrast between the 2020 candidates — and the coalitions behind them — could not be clearer. This is a fight between light and darkness. Rolling Stone is proud to stand in the light and endorse Joe Biden for president. Vote like your country — and perhaps even your life — depends on it.