POLITICS

Joe Biden's First 24 Hours Foreshadow Some Tough Battles In 2020 Race

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” the former vice president said. But some wonder if he's the best champion.

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his bid for the White House on Thursday after months of speculation. The longtime politician is already an immediate front-runner among the crowded Democratic field, where some 20 members of the party have announced bids to unseat President Donald Trump next year.

Unlike other Democrats grappling with their recent political flubs, Biden has decades of political history to sift through. The lawmaker has spent the past month attempting to address the discomfort of several women who said he inappropriately touched them in the past. But he joins the race after a storied career in Washington, campaigning on unity and the fight for American values.

Here are some of the issues that arose the first day of Biden’s campaign and how the now-candidate has said he hopes to tackle them.

Law professor Anita Hill said Thursday she would only be satisfied with Biden "when I know there is real change and real acco
Law professor Anita Hill said Thursday she would only be satisfied with Biden "when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose." 

Anita Hill

Hill, the law professor who testified against the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, spoke with The New York Times on Wednesday about the former vice president. Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 when Hill leveled allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas and has faced criticism over his handling of the hearings.

Biden’s campaign said he spoke with Hill after arranging a telephone call a few weeks ago in which he sought to express his “regret for what she endured” at the hands of the committee.

But Hill told the Times she was unsatisfied with the attempted outreach, saying she was troubled by the reports from several women about Biden’s alleged inappropriate touching.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Hill told the Times. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose. ... He needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women.”

Biden has moved to recover from the allegations, saying he understood that “social norms are changing” in a statement several weeks ago.

“Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it,” the candidate said. “I get it. I hear what they’re saying.”

But it’s unclear how the ongoing fallout from the allegations and Hill’s experience will affect the former vice president on the campaign trail. 

Biden's campaign said the candidate would not take money from registered lobbyists of corporate PACs. But a fundraising event
Biden's campaign said the candidate would not take money from registered lobbyists of corporate PACs. But a fundraising event Thursday has drawn scrutiny.

Campaign Fundraising

Biden drew some criticism Thursday over a planned fundraising event at the home of Comcast executive David Cohen. The guest list at the kickoff was expected to included lobbyists, business executives and prominent political donors, according to The Intercept.

Several of Biden’s fiercest competitors, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have eschewed the influence of lobbyists, and an increasing number of politicians have touted a large number of small-dollar donations as proof of their legitimacy to challenge Trump.

Biden’s campaign has pledged that it will not accept contributions from lobbyists or corporate PACs, aligning itself with nearly every other Democrat running for the nomination. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the only candidate in the top tier of the field accepting such donations.

Questions remain about how Biden, a career politician, will work with prominent donors such as Cohen in the future.

His Relationship With An Increasingly Young And Left-Wing Base

Some progressive organizations have expressed worry that Biden, a relative moderate compared with some other Democratic candidates, is out of touch with the party’s base. Though he hasn’t yet laid out any firm policy positions, some prominent lawmakers have already endorsed his bid.

Biden also drew some criticism for his announcement video on Thursday, which heavily drew on images of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that left one woman dead. Some local activists said they feared the vice president’s campaign was using the event as a political prop, while others praised the move as an effort to distance Biden from Trump’s own bungled handling of the deadly rally.

Biden’s bid is fresh, but the candidate has already moved to paint himself as the current president’s political opposite, saying he hoped to bring ethics back to the White House should he win the party nomination.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said in his campaign video. “[Trump] will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

CORRECTION: This article previously misstated which day the Times spoke with Hill as Thursday; it spoke to her on Wednesday.

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