Former Vice President Joe Biden finds himself in a wave of backlash after giving a racially charged answer in an interview on Friday morning. The Biden campaign initially responded by framing the comments as a "joke," but the former vice president eventually apologized, leaving the intention unclear.
While Biden tells African American voters that they must vote for him based on the color of their skin, President Trump continues to improve the lives of the black community.
President Trump's pro-growth economic policies, based largely on individual freedom, have undoubtedly helped the black community in more ways than one. Since his assumption of office, black unemployment rates have remained at record lows. Indeed, youth unemployment for African Americans reached a record-breaking low during the Trump Administration, the percentage of African Americans employed increased by more than 1.2 million under President Trump and the poverty rate for African Americans continues to hit record lows under President Trump.
One of the Trump Administration's biggest legislative accomplishments is the landmark First Step Act. The largest, most bipartisan overhaul of the criminal justice system in decades, the First Step Act was a monumental legislative feat, especially for a Republican president, and helped the black community disproportionately after decades of injustice within the system. The legislation created programs to incentivize reentry into society, which gives Americans a second chance by cutting back on recidivism and fighting unfair sentencing, while also keeping American communities safe. Nearly 90 percent of sentences reduced via the First Step Act were those of African Americans. After the passage of the First Step Act, President Trump continues to promote second-chance hiring, including a "Ready to Work" initiative to liaise between employers and former inmates. Even more, the administration launched the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry to create further opportunities for former prisoners seeking a second chance.
Aside from prosperous economic policies and criminal justice reform, the Trump Administration also prioritized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). President Trump created a task force within his administration to work toward growth in the long-term for HBCUs and signed legislation endowing $250 million in federal funding to HBCUs annually.
These legislative moves, and system overhauls, are rightfully touted by the Trump Administration.
"President Trump's accomplishments for the American people have been historic, and that's nowhere more apparent than in what he has done to empower the African American community. He secured higher funding and made funding permanent for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and signed the First Step Act into law – under which, 90 percent of those who have received reduced sentences have been African Americans. The President also created the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, forming 9,000 Opportunity Zones to spur economic growth around the country with over 30 percent of those zones in African American communities," Ja'Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Office of American Innovation, told Townhall. "At the agency level, President Trump's administration has taken over 200 actions to benefit black Americans. And just yesterday he met with black leaders in Detroit, to make sure he's addressing the needs of the African American community during the coronavirus outbreak."
Former Vice President Biden's record with the African American is staunchly different from that of President Trump's. During his 32-year tenure in the Senate, Biden co-sponsored the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which originally established mandatory minimum sentences exclusively for drug offenses, which disproportionately affect minorities. Two years later, then-Senator Biden co-sponsored the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which created a distinction between crack and powder cocaine; the legislation mandated harsher sentences for possession of crack than possession of powder cocaine, which also tilted the sentencing scales against minority communities.
Perhaps the most consequential legislative example, which Biden has been forced to confront, is the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which he helped to write and pass. The bill, which has since drawn an abundance of controversy from the Left and the Right, created mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses and disproportionately sent minority offenders to prison. Indeed, critics on the Left and Right deem the bill as responsible for mass incarceration, which inevitably led to a flawed justice system. Of course, Biden was not alone in his support of the 1994 bill; Democratic campaigns were fueled by the provisions in the bill during former President Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House and some Republicans also supported the bill.
To the former vice president's credit, ideology can evolve, especially with a tenure in politics as long as Biden's. The issue with the former vice president is his refusal to acknowledge the flaws in and consequences of the infamous crime bill, as well as other legislation he supported; both Republicans and Democrats now admit that the legislation created issues within the justice system. Biden enjoys electoral favorability within the black community, especially given his tenure in former President Obama's administration, but cannot, in good faith, frame himself as a consistent champion for the black community. His former competitors on the Democratic debate stage, especially Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), confronted Biden on his record consistently. In response, rather than confronting his legislative past, Biden cites his work in the Obama Administration as proof of him championing the African American community.
Nonetheless, a large part of Biden's campaign is centered around criminal justice reform. While Biden runs from his record on criminal justice, President Trump has delivered results and even deviated from traditional Republican stances on criminal justice.
"Black Americans have never had a better or bigger champion than President Trump and the facts prove it. Under his leadership, black unemployment hit an all-time low thanks to his policies, he has dedicated more money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities than any previous president, and he has advanced criminal justice reform more than any of his predecessors, giving thousands of incarcerated people a second chance," said Sarah Matthews, Deputy Press Secretary for President Trump's reelection campaign. "Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a history of being racially insensitive toward black Americans and authored the 1994 Crime Bill which disproportionately imprisoned black Americans. Biden made the mistake today of saying what he really thinks and it showed his arrogance and sense of entitlement. No wonder his handlers rarely let him speak without a script."
Even aside from his insensitive comments about the black vote, Biden should be forced to confront his record on criminal justice. Put side-by-side with President Trump's record of delivering economically prosperous policy and historic criminal justice reform, the two candidates could not be more diametrically opposed on the issue.