Politics

Let’s Get to Know Our New Democratic Front-Runner, in His Own Words

Take it away, Joe.

Joe Biden stands in front of a microphone with mouth agape.
Joe Biden speaks at a Super Tuesday campaign event in Los Angeles.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

After what can only be described as a remarkable night for the 77-year-old Joe Biden, the once 29-candidate-strong Democratic field is now effectively a two-man race between the former vice president and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though Sanders had managed to come out slightly ahead in the early primary states, and while some of Tuesday night’s votes are still being counted, at the time of publication, Biden’s lead sits soundly at over 80 delegates. This appears to be the current front-runner.

Though Biden’s been in politics for 60-some-odd years now, even the best politicians’ views evolve with the wisdom of age. And now that Biden is unquestionably leading the pack, let’s take a look at some of those evolved policy positions that have gotten Democrats so very fired up. Here is Biden on the issues, in his own words.

On the actions he’d take to ensure future presidents can’t undo progress on climate change:

Look, it’s a little bit like a whole lot of things that people didn’t know before this guy became president, until he started to take it away.

And they started to take it away, and he said, “Whoa, wait a minute, man, look what that’s done.” He’s changed the CAFE standards. We’re not going to meet those standards. Well, that means boom. He’s done this. It means bang. Everybody knows now, knows what he has done, and it’s raised the ante significantly.

No one can any longer—I remember when I introduced that bill back in 1986. They said, “What the hell are you talking about, Biden? What’s the crisis?” Well, it wasn’t—we didn’t have Superstorm Sandy at the time. We didn’t have all these things that are occurring that people now know and were predicted they would occur. We weren’t losing species that, in fact, we find are not going to be able to—where they’ll never return.

I mean, there’s a whole range of things. Look what’s happening right now in the Amazon. The Amazon is a natural carbon sink. It absorbs more CO2 in the air, from the air than if we took every single automobile off the road in the United States of America. What’s going on? Nothing. Nothing.

We’re talking about $2 million. We should be organizing the world, demanding the change. That’s—there are the things I have done internationally. We need a diplomat in chief, as well, to be able to put this together. That’s in my wheelhouse. I’ve done that my whole career.

On whether Biden agrees with Trump’s diplomatic program of reaching out to North Korea:

He did the exact opposite. He gave Kim everything that he wanted, legitimacy. He gave Kim—he ended our relationship, as a practical matter with South Korea and Japan as a united front and let China off the hook. He put us in a position where we say, by the way, I love the man. I know what he’s doing. He hasn’t done a thing. He hasn’t done a thing, Kim Jong-un. And what have we done? We’ve suspended exercises.

Look, I come out of the arms control era. Guess what, there’s two ways you do this, you work or you defend and you say, “Hey, man, don’t screw with us. You move, this is what’s going to happen. This is going to happen.”

But, in the meantime, what you do is you deal with your allies and also those who don’t—aren’t with you.

On how he would tackle racial disparities in health, including the higher rates of HIV among black people:

Think about Los Angeles here. If you had a business lunch eight, 10 years ago, and there were six or seven people at the lunch, and a gay waiter came up and said something that identified himself being gay, in fact, if one of the people made fun of that waiter, the vast majority of people wouldn’t have said anything at the table. Today you’d all look at him and say, if you’re straight as can be, look at him and say, “What the hell is the matter with you?” And he’d never be invited back.

The point is, they’re not afraid now to stand up and say—because guess what? We learn. Our brothers, our sisters, our—the girl we went out with in high school, the guy you know—no, I’m serious. Think about it. The idea it’s normal. It’s normalized. It’s not anything strange. It’s not strange. That’s the generic point.

And the more people know that, the more they understand it—remember, Anderson, back 15, 20 years ago, we talked about this in—in San Francisco was all about, well, you know, gay—gay bath houses. And everybody—it’s all about around-the-clock sex. It’s all—come on, man. Gay couples are more likely to stay together longer than heterosexual couples.

On his political heroes:

I think of where we are at the moment. You know, none of you men are old—women are old enough, but a couple of you guys are old enough to remember. I graduated in 1968. Everybody before me was, drop out, go to Haight-Ashbury, don’t trust anybody over 30, everybody not getting involved. I’m serious, I know no woman will shake their head and acknowledge it, but you guys know what I’m talking about. Right? But then what happened? Dr. Ki—I only have two political heroes. One hero was my dad, but my two political heroes were Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. My senior semester they were both shot and killed. Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee. What would have happened in America?

Things changed. You had over 40 kids shot at Kent State on a beautiful lawn by the National Guard.

On the responsibility Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in this country:

Well, they have to deal with the … Look, there is institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining, banks, making sure that we are in a position where—

Look, we talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title 1 schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the equal of … a raise of getting out of the $60,000 level.

No. 2, make sure that we bring in to the help with the stud—the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need… We have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are required—I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them.

Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have three, four, and five-year-olds go to school. School! Not day care, school. We bring social workers into homes of parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t know what— They don’t know what quite what to do. Play the radio. Make sure the television—excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night. The phone—make sure the kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school—er, a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

Primary season will continue for another three months, during which the front-runner will have many more opportunities to share his positions with a national audience.