Refusing Candidacy Preserves Biden’s Reputation


Joe Biden recently refused to run as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Courtesy of flickr

By Maria DeCasper

Joe Biden recently refused to run as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Courtesy of flickr

Joe Biden recently refused to run as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Courtesy of flickr.

Few people were surprised when Vice President Joe Biden announced that he would not be running for president in 2016. The announcement came after the first democratic debate, at which point it was clear that any new candidate simply did not have enough time to mount a campaign in time for the Democratic primaries. When the vice president failed to enter the race in time for the first debate, some voters were disappointed, and media outlets everywhere were questioning if this was the right decision for Joe Biden.

Indeed, compared to his last two bids for the Democratic nomination, Biden had the highest approval rating and, seemingly, the best chances of winning he ever had. Despite living though a horrible family tragedy, the loss of son Beau Biden to brain cancer in May, Biden made statements about the possibility of a campaign, and famously said that another bid for the White House was his son’s dying wish. This is why many Americans were confused when the vice president cited his son’s death as a contributing factor to his decision to end his presidential campaign.

However, in the weeks after the announcement, it became clear that citing his family life as the reason behind his decision was a graceful way for Joe Biden to definitively exit the race for the White House.

In the end, Biden made the most logical choice. Despite enjoying the high approval ratings (in the state of New Hampshire, Biden was leading as late as Oct. 1 with a 78 percent approval rating), the chances of the vice president securing the Democratic nomination, much less the White House, were slim.

While successful as vice president, Biden was unprepared for the stress and scrutiny that comes with running for President. Although Biden has enjoyed a long career in public office, Biden had his fair share of controversies. His 1988 campaign for office was highly successful until accusations of plagiarism in speeches, and even academic work, came to light.

Biden attempted to blame some of the instances of plagiarism on his aides; however, his campaign still suffered irreparable damage and he withdrew before the primaries.

During his tenure as a senator, Biden amassed some controversy over gender rights. While serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden became embroiled in scandal during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing. Biden greatly favored Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court position. When the nominee was accused of sexual harassment by Dr. Anita Hill, Thomas’ former employee, Biden dismissed the accusations. He asked Hill confusing and convoluted questions, which even reporters could not understand, and famously refused to call on Dr. Hill’s key witnesses. Biden’s conduct enraged many Americans and made headline news in 1991. His track record on gender rights was further marred by his vote on a constitutional amendment that would repeal Roe v. Wade.

Joe Biden’s history was not particularly relevant when he was running for the position of vice president alongside a young and healthy President Obama. Since Thomas’ chances of becoming president while in office were slim, the campaign focused on presenting Biden as a moral and moderate advisor, who nevertheless appealed to the conservative Democrats whose votes were needed in order to secure Obama’s victory.

However, Biden would face a much higher level of scrutiny if he were to enter the 2016 race for the White House. The decision-making power that comes with the Oval Office necessitates a high level of scrutiny to an official’s career, which could have had a devastating effect on Biden’s legacy.
By not running for president, Biden managed to preserve his reputation while maintaining a great amount of power. His opinion on Democratic candidates is sure to have an effect on the election.

As it is, Biden’s possible endorsement of (D-VT) Senator Bernie Sanders has already increased the amount of media attention for Sanders, which is surely going to affect the senator’s chances at securing the Democratic nomination.

Maria DeCasper, FCRH ’17, is a philosophy major from Miami, Florida.