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The next US president: Joe Biden

Here's where the Democratic nominee stands on key issues.
Updated 07 Nov, 2020 11:08pm


With decades of political experience under his belt, Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for United States President, is running for the position for the third time.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania state, the 77-year-old began his political career in 1972, when he was first elected to the US Senate from Delaware state. The presidential candidate has considerable experience in foreign policy and was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice in his career. He has also served as the chairperson of the Committee on Judiciary.

Though long and distinguished, Biden's career is certainly not stain-free. He has faced criticism for sponsoring the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which critics say led to the mass incarceration of African Americans.

The former vice president is also no stranger to personal loss and tragedy. In 1972, he lost his wife and baby daughter in a car accident soon after he won his first seat in Senate. His sons Beau and Hunter survived and Biden swore his oath while in the hospital with his sons.

In 2015, when Biden was vice president, his son Beau died from brain cancer. He was 46 and had started off a career in politics.

Biden first ran for president in 1988 but withdrew from the race after it was revealed that he had plagiarised a speech from Neil Kinnock, then leader of the British Labour Party.

Take a look: Joe's Story

He tried his luck once again in 2008 but was unsuccessful this time too as the Democratic Party nominated Barrack Obama. Biden was later nominated for the position of vice president and served alongside Obama for the next eight years.

Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin onstage during the vice presidential debate on October 2, 2008. — Photo courtesy Reuters via National Post
Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin onstage during the vice presidential debate on October 2, 2008. — Photo courtesy Reuters via National Post

Biden, who mocks Trump's 'America First' slogan as 'America Alone', aims to restore the country's position as a global leader.

Here we take a look at Biden's stances and proposed policies on vital issues that not only concern the US but the rest of the world.

Immigration

Biden is openly critical of the policies adopted by the Trump administration on immigration and has vowed to change or reverse several policies which he says are "cruel and senseless" and have led to the separation of several families at the US borders.

In this photo taken on January 29, 2017 people gather at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts to decry US President Donald Trump's sweeping executive order, which restricted refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. — AFP/File
In this photo taken on January 29, 2017 people gather at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts to decry US President Donald Trump's sweeping executive order, which restricted refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. — AFP/File

A policy paper on immigration posted on Biden's election website states: "Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future."

Some of the areas that Biden has promised to work on include:

  • Urgent steps to reverse Trump's policies that have led to separation of families at US border in his first 100 days as president

  • Undo Trump's travel ban, also called the "Muslim Ban"

  • Legislation to provide citizenship to 11 million undocumented migrants as well as visa reforms

  • Increasing annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in his first year in office. Trump recently announced the admissions would be capped at 15,000 in 2021 — the lowest in history

  • Reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that was introduced by the Obama administration and repealed by Trump

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Pakistan-US ties

Biden has not yet stated what policy he would adopt towards South Asia. His stance on Pakistan in the past, however, may provide some clue to his approach towards the country as well as the region.

  • In 2007 he termed Pakistan "potentially the most dangerous country in the world".

  • During his campaign for vice president in 2008, Biden had reiterated the position, saying "I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, [...] it is going to come from Al Qaeda planning in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

  • US drone attacks on Pakistan saw a 631 per cent increase during the Obama administration, of which Biden was an integral part as the vice president.

More on this: US drone strikes in Pakistan see 631pc increase under Obama

Former US President Barack Obama with Joe Biden after his election-night victory speech in Chicago on November 6, 2012. — Reuters
Former US President Barack Obama with Joe Biden after his election-night victory speech in Chicago on November 6, 2012. — Reuters

His past stance aside, shifting dynamics in South Asia would also impact Biden's foreign policy, if he is elected president. Unlike Trump, Biden has said that while he would reduce the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he would not withdraw US military presence.

Last year, during a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, Biden had said: "We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know."

Analysts believe that the US may get closer to India in order to counter China's growing influence in the region, which would, in turn, impact Washington's relations with Islamabad — one of Beijing's closest allies.

India, which maintained a neutral stance until it got involved in a conflict with China at the disputed border in Ladakh earlier this year, would probably welcome closer relations with the US.

At the same time, Biden's open condemnation of Indian actions in occupied Kashmir post-August 5, 2019, the passage of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and treatment meted out to the Muslim population has probably annoyed India as much as it pleased Pakistan. A policy paper on his agenda for Muslim-American communities, published on his election website, said that Biden was "disappointed" by New Delhi's implementation of the National Register of Citizens and passage CAA.

Take a look: A Biden-Harris Administration Would Mean a Harder Eye on Kashmir

With regards to occupied Kashmir, Biden's policy paper stated: "Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy."

In August, Biden campaign’s foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken had said that the Democratic nominee will raise the Kashmir issue with India.

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Islamophobia

The former vice president has denounced Islamophobia, which he says "far too often overshadow(s)" the contributions of Muslim-Americans and has promised to "work closely" with the Muslim community and address its "legitimate concerns".

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about responses to Covid-19 at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, US on March 12, 2020. — Reuters
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about responses to Covid-19 at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, US on March 12, 2020. — Reuters

In his Agenda for Muslim-American Communities, Biden acknowledged the challenges faced by Muslims in the US and has listed the areas he would work on. These include:

  • Protecting constitutional rights of Muslim-Americans

  • Overturning Trump's Muslim Ban "on day one" as well as work on legislation that would prevent the passage of such laws in future

  • Addressing increasing hate crimes against the Muslim community by "fix(ing) long-standing issues" with how the cases are dealt with by government authorities

  • Prohibiting people convicted for committing hate crimes from buying or owning a firearm

  • Addressing policies that "single out Muslim-Americans and cast entire communities under suspicion" will also be addressed

  • Confronting Islamophobia "head on" and honour contributions by Muslim community

  • Restoring the White House Eid celebration tradition

  • Filling vacancy of Muslim-American Liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement

  • Appointing a special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as part of Biden's aim to "restore American leadership" by global engagement

  • Ensuring that there is Muslim representation in all federal agencies under his presidency

  • Dedicating resources to ensure Muslims and mosques are safe from Islamophobic attacks

  • Ensuring provision of basic rights, including that of worship to prisoners, including Muslims and helping in rehabilitation

  • Speaking out against rights violation of Muslim communities across the world including discrimination against Uyghur Muslims in China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Kashmiris in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

  • Ending the war in Yemen as well as Trump's "blank cheque for Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses"

  • Speaking out against Israeli settlements in Gaza and annexation of lands in the West Bank


It is also pertinent to remember that the Obama administration, in which Biden served for eight years, has little to show for its efforts to combat anti-Muslim sentiment.

In its eight years in government, the Obama government rained down bombs on Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — all Muslim-majority countries. In 2016 alone, US dropped at least 26,171 bombs.

Drone strikes under the Obama administration were much more frequent than they were under the Bush government, which started the so-called 'War on Terror'. Not only did it fail to end wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama's government led military intervention in Syria, Libya and Yemen, all of which have led to a destabilised Middle East and arguably led to the rise of the militant Islamic State group.

According to some reports, however, Biden had urged then President Obama not to intervene in Libya or threaten Syria with retaliation for using chemical weapons.

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Afghanistan war

Biden does not agree with Trump's plan for a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan. More than once during his campaign, the former vice president has said that the US needed to ensure that terrorist outfits including Al Qaeda and IS do not gain a foothold in Afghanistan instead of nation-building.

He has promised to:

  • Bring a majority of US troops back home

  • Maintain a military presence in Afghanistan to fight the militant Islamic State and Al Qaeda groups


“There’s no possibility to unite that country, no possibility at all of making it a whole country,” he had said about Afghanistan in a debate between Democratic presidential nominees in February.

The stance is in line with the one he adopted while he was vice-president: that the US should focus on a counter-terrorism policy and only deploy a small number of troops in Afghanistan. As vice president, he had advocated — and failed — for limiting the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump (R) Democratic Presidential candidate, former US Vice President Joe Biden and moderator, NBC News anchor, Kristen Welker (C) participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. — AFP via Daily Sabah
US President Donald Trump (R) Democratic Presidential candidate, former US Vice President Joe Biden and moderator, NBC News anchor, Kristen Welker (C) participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. — AFP via Daily Sabah

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Palestine-Israel

Biden's policy for Israel and Palestine promises something for both parties — aid for Palestinians and increased defence for Israel.

In this 2010 file photo, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen laughing with then United States Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem. — Reuters via Al Jazeera
In this 2010 file photo, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen laughing with then United States Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem. — Reuters via Al Jazeera

In a policy paper regarding Israel and the Jewish community, Biden vowed to:

  • Resume ties with the Palestinian Brotherhood and restart assistance programmes for Gaza and West Bank

  • Engage both Israel and Palestine leadership to reach a two-state solution

  • Resume military and intelligence cooperation with Israel initiated by the Obama administration and ensure it "maintains [its] qualitative military edge"

  • Urge Arab states to take bolder steps to normalise ties with Israel and "move beyond quiet talks"

  • Oppose all efforts to "delegitimise Israel on the global stage" including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which, according to Biden "singles out Israel"

  • Resume diplomatic measures to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran

  • Ensure US-Israel relations remain bipartisan

In a separate policy paper regarding his plan for Muslim-American communities, Biden said that he would "continue to oppose Israeli settlement expansion", adding that he has spoken out against Israel's annexations in the West Bank.

He also promised to reopen a US Consulate in East Jerusalem, which was shuttered by Trump's government in 2019. He has not clarified if he will reverse Trump's decision to open the US embassy in Jerusalem.

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Climate change

Unlike Trump, Biden identifies climate change as a grave threat to the US as well as the world and has vowed to stand by "science, not fiction". Among the several measures that Biden has said his administration would take to counter climate change on a global scale, he has specifically named two countries that his government would stop from harming the environment: China and Russia.

According to the climate plan posted on his election website, Biden will:

  • Introduce a policy to invest $2 trillion over the next 10 years to help the country combat climate change

  • Ensure the US is a clean energy economy and produces net-zero emissions by 2050

  • Protect communities of colour from the impact of climate change as well as exploitative businesses that compromise on environment safety

  • Take steps to ensure climate change is countered on a global level

  • Rally international support to ensure China subscribes to "high environmental standards"

  • Team up with the Arctic Council to halt Russian drilling activities in the Arctic region

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Trade and tariffs

Like Trump, Biden promises to promote local industry and manufacturing and though he has criticised the incumbent US president's policies, his own do not come across as very different. In his policy for international trade, Biden has promised to take the following measures:

  • Aggressive trade enforcement actions against any country, including China, "seeking to undercut American manufacturing"

  • Team up with allies to hold China and other countries accountable for trade abuses

  • Resist efforts to "steal American intellectual property"

  • Define consequences for Chinese government's "cyber espionage" efforts against US businesses and Chinese companies that "steal" US technology

  • A "claw back" provision demanding businesses that relocate from US to another country, to pay back public investments and tax benefits

  • Repeal tax policies that allow large companies located outside US to pay less tax

  • Support trade unions at home


The former vice president has not clearly stated if he would end tariffs imposed by the current administration on China. Analysts expect that at least some of the tariffs would stay in a Biden administration.

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China/ Russia

Biden's stance towards Russia is expected to be aggressive, unlike Trump's. As for China, analysts expect Biden's policies to be similar to Trump.

Though he has not specifically stated his policy concerning relations with US arch-rival Russia or China, the countries have been mentioned in various policy papers on Biden's election website, including those on climate change and trade.

If elected president, Biden would:

  • Put Russia and other foreign governments “on notice” that he would act aggressively to counter any interference in the US elections

  • Ensure Russia does not militarise the Arctic region

  • Extend US' Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia to establish arms control arrangements

  • Pressure China to stop subsidising coal exports

  • Work with China and other countries to ensure a demilitarised North Korea

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Covid-19 response

Biden has heavily criticised Trump's response to the novel coronavirus that has so far infected more than eight million American citizens and killed more than 225,000. US is the worst-hit country by the virus, with the highest number of cases as well as deaths.

Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is seen wearing a face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in New Castle, Delaware, US on May 25, 2020. — Reuters via Al Jazeera
Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is seen wearing a face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in New Castle, Delaware, US on May 25, 2020. — Reuters via Al Jazeera

In a new, detailed plan to cope with the health crisis posted on his election website, Biden has promised to:

  • Expand testing facilities and ensure that more people have access

  • Protect health workers by ensuring access to PPEs and mental healthcare and boosting salaries

  • Adopt a global approach for developing a vaccine

  • Reopen economy in accordance with health guidelines

  • Protect the elderly and high-risk population

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Compiled by Farwa Naqvi