Will Progressives Stop Biden, the ‘Credit Card Candidate’?

April 28, 2019

Joe Biden announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination with waves of patriotic "Stop Trump to save America" propaganda. However, representing the headquarters of most credit card companies, Biden defended their interests more than those of ordinary citizens. Norman Solomon and Jacqueline Luqman examine his campaign strategy

Joe Biden announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination with waves of patriotic "Stop Trump to save America" propaganda. However, representing the headquarters of most credit card companies, Biden defended their interests more than those of ordinary citizens. Norman Solomon and Jacqueline Luqman examine his campaign strategy


Can Progressives Stop Biden, the Credit Card Candidate?

Story Transcript

JACQUELINE LUQMAN Senator Joseph Biden has officially announced his campaign.

JOE BIDEN [BIDEN 2020 CAMPAIGN AD] We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. We’ve heard it so often, it’s almost a cliché but it’s who we are. We haven’t always lived up to these ideals. Jefferson himself didn’t, but we have never before walked away from them. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all that he embraces, as an abhorrent moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen. The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy— everything that has made America, America— is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States. Folks, America is an idea. An idea that is stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth. It guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity. And gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it. That’s what we believe. And above all else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. We have to remember who we are. This is America.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN I am Jacqueline Luqman, and this is The Real News Network. This is the second segment in our weekly discussion on trending topics. In the last segment, we discussed the CNN town hall and voting rights for people in prison. In this segment, obviously, we’ll talk about the long-awaited announcement from Senator Joe Biden that he is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Here again to talk about this with me is Norman Solomon. Norman is the Coordinator for RootsAction.org. Thank you for joining me again, Norman.

NORMAN SOLOMON Oh a pleasure, Jacqueline.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN Alright. Let’s get right to that campaign advertisement. There’s a lot packed in, a lot of propaganda, packed into that campaign advertisement. I think Biden said something about if Trump is given eight years, he’s going to fundamentally change the course of America and what America is. But there is a problem that Biden has to face with his own track record, isn’t there Norman?

NORMAN SOLOMON There’s a multiplicity of problems and I think that this announcement really encapsulates quite a few of them. He’s a few seconds into the announcement when he chooses out of all the things he could quote from US history, that all men are created equal. So he’s already checked out about what feminism in the most basic sense really means. And then, we’ve got the image of Martin Luther King on the screen of his advertisement. Well about a dozen years after Dr. King had that photo taken of him, Joe Biden was on the Senate floor, pandering to racism, appealing to racism as he argued that the United States should not have busing for school integration. And in that process, he rang so many bells in his speech. Remember this is the mid-1970s where fair housing is still an issue. Certainly, school integration and busing are very volatile issues in Boston and elsewhere. And he, as a senator from Delaware, just absolutely tore into the idea that the government should do anything to end segregation in terms of schools. And that is not an anomaly when you look at issues of race, class, economic injustice, and basic women’s rights and what happened with the Anita Hill hearing in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nominations in 1991. That was an instance again where power has been a very dangerous thing. As a matter of fact, having a committee gavel in his hand has been a very dangerous thing not only on the Anita Hill hearings, but in 2002 when he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He gave a very strong green light to the invasion of Iraq. He’s a militarist. He’s a corporatist. He is absolutely detached from what basic progressive values mean. As a matter of fact, he’s very much shown that he’s opposed to them.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah. Let’s go back to the Anita Hill hearings for a second because I think aside from his very long very, disturbing track record of supporting mass incarceration, and just disturbing track record on racial justice, the Anita Hill hearing is probably the single most problematic part of his track record. And I think we have a clip of how he has a problem responding to that particular issue in his record from when he was on The View this morning.

JOY BEHAR [THE VIEW] Well here’s your opportunity right now to just say you apologize, you’re sorry. I think we can clean this up right now.

JOE BIDEN Well by the way, I did. I understand. Look, I’m not going to judge whether or not it was appropriate, whether she thought it was sufficient. But I said privately, what I’ve said publicly. I am sorry she was treated the way she was treated. I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done. I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN How is Biden going to sidestep these issues? How is he going to deal with these issues if he won’t even address his record head on?

NORMAN SOLOMON Well the Anita Hill issue continues to step on his launch of his campaign and I think that he’ll never really allude the meaning that when he had the power, when he was Chair of the Judiciary Committee, he actually folded on behalf of those who were promoting Clarence Thomas and trashing Anita Hill. And I think that in contrast to the Anita Hill issue, which has gotten tremendous press in the last couple of days, there are other aspects of his record that are getting much less attention. For instance, he really was the senator from the credit card companies and from the big banks, and he really served their interests with a vengeance. Virtually all the students in this country and former students who are overloaded with onerous debt, can “thank” Joe Biden because he pushed through a bankruptcy bill that made it much more difficult to use the bankruptcy laws to the advantage of people who were up against the wall, financially. He made credit card companies much stronger in ripping people off to the tune of literally billions of dollars in this country. He’s been very willing to front for companies like Comcast, which in that case Comcast is by polling the most hated company in America. And yet, Biden on his first day of this campaign chose to be side-by-side with the vice president and chief lobbyist in effect for Comcast. And so, it’s a very anti-union company. And so, the contradictions are huge. His rhetoric has always been or usually been very palatable for a liberal-inclined people. It’s when you look at his record that you see how he has been such a servant of oligarchy, of de facto racism, of militarism— as in the case of the invasion of Iraq where he refused to allow any dissenting voices for people to testify in the pivotal hearings he chaired of the Foreign Relations Committee in the lead up to that horrible war and the invasion that got it started. As I look more and more into Biden’s record, I never thought it was great, but I just didn’t realize what a tremendous fraud he is. And I think it really is going to be essential that progressives and others, go beyond the media gloss because the Washington press corps adores this guy. They pump him up almost without exception and it’s very notable— Jacqueline, I really think we should just flag this point— polling is showing that for one quarter of the voters who say they support Bernie Sanders in this primary, their second choice is Joe Biden.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN That’s amazing.

NORMAN SOLOMON And that says to me that the education needs to happen so that people understand really who Joe Biden is and who he’s fronting for.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN And I’m glad you raised that point that voters need to be educated on who Joe Biden really is. You wrote an article called “Joe Biden: Puffery versus Reality” and it’s a pretty comprehensive examination of his record. We know that Twitter has been good at doing what Twitter does. It’s been bringing out all the receipts. Shaun King has tweeted several issues and literally highlighted three decades of bad policies from Biden in one tweet. But there is a series of tweets from him and other people, highlighting his really bad policies on criminal justice and racial issues, certainly the Anita Hill issue. But here’s the big issue that I think we are missing— because you brought up the issue of Biden being the credit card candidate— his first fundraiser was sponsored by Comcast and Blue Cross Blue Shield. So it’s interesting that people who say they will vote for Sanders, their second choice is Biden. If you’re voting for Sanders for Medicare for All and Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, Blue Cross Blue Shield is not going to support Medicare for All by backing Biden. So the question I need to ask you is, even though all of this is true about Biden and his terrible record that we’ve examined and we’re educating people on. At the end of the day, this race just might come down to who the elite can bankroll to win against Trump. How do you feel about that because small-donor campaign-funding and independent media has made it harder for corporate interests to outright buy an election, but Biden is already being supported by corporate giants? So how do progressives win against that?

NORMAN SOLOMON The only way we can win is, as Bernie Sanders has said, an unprecedented grassroots campaign. The conventional wisdom has been shattered that you need the big checks and the big oligarchs to come in and make a presidential campaign viable. Biden is way behind in fundraising and that’s why he has felt it necessary from the outset to do something that has terrible optics for any progressive paying attention— to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Comcast and the insurance company giants that have been ripping us off with cable bills every month, opposing net neutrality, opposing Medicare for all, gouging us when we come into the hospital or the doctor’s office. And so, it is a historic crossroads as to whether the power of big money corporate interests and the de facto economic suppression of the vast majority of the population, whether that is going to triumph over, pardon the cliché, the power the people because that is the only hope for the Sanders campaign and that is the only hope to block Joe Biden. I have to say at this point that I think he is the worst Democratic candidate for president of any who has a ghost of a chance of winning. He is absolutely a throwback to the worst aspects of the Democratic Party during the last half- century.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN So really quickly, just to just to wrap this up, voting for Biden in the interest of the short-term political goal of beating Trump, good idea for the people? Bad idea for the people? Do we hold our nose if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination and go ahead and pull the lever for Biden just to get rid of Trump? Or, is there just as much danger in having a Biden for president? What’s your answer for that?

NORMAN SOLOMON Well first, I think we need to deconstruct and demolish the mass media myth that Biden is the “most electable against Trump and the strongest potential candidate.” I think the opposite is the case. The Data for Progress Organization has done a detailed number-crunching analysis showing incredible and extreme vulnerabilities that Biden has. The fact that he has manhandled, so to speak, so many women even in public and even young girls, is part of the problem with the entire record of his racially inflammatory, and frankly appealing to racist approaches, his complicity with the oligarchy and corporate power, and all the rest of it. That record, that’s enough baggage to sink a steamship, as the saying goes. And so, if you look at it, it is the mass media myth that if you get a corporate centrist, that somehow you’re going to be able to defeat Trump that way. And I think we’ve seen, as in 2016, that when you’ve closed the door to the outrage of progressive populism going through that door, the only door you leave open for outrage from the base of the country is right-wing, xenophobic, racist pseudo-populism of the sort that Trump is so good at. And so at this stage, the question is whether the voters of this country and particularly those who participate in the primaries, are going to simply reinforce taking the nod from mass media. This idea that you beat the right-wing by moving rightward. What happens afterwards? I’m actually optimistic that Bernie will be nominated. If he isn’t, we’ll have to cross that bridge.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN Well unfortunately we are out of time and this race has just gotten really, really interesting and not for really good reasons either. But we’ll continue to have these conversations. Thank you, Norman, for joining me again in this segment.

NORMAN SOLOMON Thank you.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN And thank you for watching me. I’m Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network in Baltimore.