- The Magazine
To say Donald Trump is unqualified and undeserving of the honor of serving as president of the United States is the understatement of the century. He was unfit, intellectually and temperamentally, in 2016, and has spent the past three years and 10 months proving his critics right.
Every few election cycles, there comes a time when voters must forcibly retire those in office who have not served them well. Such “all hands on deck” elections are rare, but when they come around, the stakes are often dire. In this case, we have a president who has already exhibited autocratic tendencies more worthy of a tyrant: the inability to accept criticism; a hostility to enumerated rights in the Constitution, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; frequent lying; and manipulation of the divisions among the American people to scapegoat for his shortcomings.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, is a fundamentally decent person with empathy in spades. Informed by his own life experiences, including losing his first wife and young daughter in a car accident that left his two sons hospitalized in critical condition, Biden has always demonstrated an ability to console grieving family members suffering from a similar loss, lending a sympathetic ear and a shoulder on which to cry. A devout Roman Catholic, Biden lives by the tenets of his faith when it comes to welcoming the stranger or caring for the vulnerable among society.
While Biden’s political beliefs may seem outdated to some, he is not an ideologue or a fierce partisan. Having spent the bulk of his career in the U.S. Senate, Biden has built his reputation on working with Republicans and Democrats alike to craft and pass sweeping pieces of legislation. He does not view Republicans as evil or deserving of contempt — in fact, one of his longest cross-aisle friendships was with the late Arizona Republican Senator, John McCain.
A sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act, which led to a decrease in intimate partner violence following its passage in 1994, Biden has long advocated on behalf of marginalized groups, including women. A longtime chair of the Judiciary Committee, he ushered through the Supreme Court nominations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, and blocked the nomination of Jeff Sessions to become a federal judge and the nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As vice president, he played an instrumental role in the automobile industry bailout, and used his relationships with Capitol Hill Republicans to negotiate several pieces of legislation, including the 2010 Tax Relief Act, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which dealt with a debt ceiling crisis, and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which resolved the “fiscal cliff.” He also helped pass the Affordable Care Act by wrangling wavering Democratic senators to back the landmark health care law.
With respect to his record on LGBTQ rights, Biden has not always been on the correct side, particularly during the early years of his political career. But times have changed, and so have Biden’s attitudes over the ensuing five decades since he first served on the New Castle County Council. LGBTQ Republicans, including Trump apologist Richard Grenell, have tried to capitalize on decades-old comments by Biden painting gays as security risks, which are part of a blatant campaign strategy to convince younger members of the LGBTQ community to abstain from voting or vote third-party, based on the assumption that Biden continues to hold problematic views. He no longer holds these views, and our community cannot afford to hold grudges or scrutinize past statements or actions without understanding their historical context.
Biden has gone out of his way to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, urging for the ultimately successful repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” opposing the ban on transgender military personnel, and speaking out against anti-LGBTQ actions taken by foreign governments, whether it’s the abduction, torture, and imprisonment of gay men in Chechnya, a law in Brunei mandating the death penalty for LGBTQ people, or Poland’s establishment of “LGBT-free” zones. He was the first person in the Obama White House to clearly and explicitly state his support for marriage equality for same-sex couples, and is credited with pushing former President Barack Obama to embrace same-sex nuptials. He has stated his unequivocal support for the Equality Act, legislation that would enshrine nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people into civil rights law. These actions and statements are evidence pointing to a genuine change of heart, something that will inform his views of LGBTQ-related issues once elected.
Biden’s selection of California Senator Kamala Harris as his vice president is to his credit. Harris is capable, intellectually curious, engaged, and quick-witted, and, during her time as U.S. senator, has amassed a solid record of support for various groups, including the LGBTQ community. She can provide good counsel to Biden, and will ensure that marginalized groups have an advocate when decisions are being made on their behalf. She could also easily and smoothly assume the role of president should she ever be called upon to do so.
For progressives, Biden may be the hardest Democrat to enthusiastically support given his more conservative and pro-corporate leanings when it comes to economic issues and the influence of money in politics. But even critiquing the candidates from the left, Biden has shown he can be moved, now incorporating ideas into his platform that were progressive pipe dreams more than a decade ago, such as a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, ending oil subsidies, and gradually weaning the country off fossil fuels. With Trump, progressives are never going to be taken seriously — only demonized by someone eager to find a new bogeyman at which his most fervent supporters can vent their spleen.
Biden’s admirable traits stand in stark contrast to the incumbent’s shortcomings. Ever the showman, Trump is obsessed with projecting an image of strength, the alpha-male who never apologizes for his mistakes, who takes what he wants and prioritizes actions that will accrue to his benefit. He is addicted to praise, content to wallow in the adoration of the true-believers who attend his campaign rallies or carry his water on social media platforms. Indeed, the shoot-from-the-hip style of tweeting that has characterized the Trump presidency — at one time relatable because of its “everyman” appeal — has morphed into a presidency that is “too online,” with Trump often repeating hashtags, talking points, and conspiracy theories from right-wing Twitter that mystify the bulk of Americans who aren’t slavish devotees to his cult of personality.
Worse still, Trump never learns from his errors, shirks responsibility, and dismisses advice from experts, as evidenced by his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and anyone else who might be more qualified to assess the nation’s response to a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 225,000 Americans. Trump, always intent on casting himself as the smartest person in the room to preserve a reputation he’s cultivated for decades as the business mogul who kowtows to no one, is more content to dodge or skew facts when it doesn’t suit the image he’s trying to project. He alone is responsible for the politicization of mask-wearing during a pandemic, motivated by fears that an economic downturn or drop in the stock market would harm his re-election chances.
The Trump inner circle is a collection of sycophantic advisors, confidantes, family members, and political allies who refuse to challenge the president’s preconceived notions. The cabinet includes the hilariously unqualified Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who, as exposed by U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, knows little about housing policy; Betsy DeVos, a caricature of a Republican Party apparatchik who earned her position due to her fundraising prowess; Wilbur Ross, an out-of-touch millionaire heading up commerce; and William Barr, a Trump apologist who has been accused of weaponizing the Department of Justice on behalf of the president. In Trumpworld, everything is transactional: praise the president, especially on major media channels, and you’ll find a position. Cross him, or merely fail to bow to him sufficiently, and you’ll find yourself being ushered out the door like former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
On issues affecting the LGBTQ community, the Trump administration has set itself up as an enemy, not an ally. Often, we’ll be subjected to some high-quality gaslighting, told that Trump’s agnosticism on same-sex marriage prior to becoming president and his elevation of a select few gay men in positions of power makes him the “most pro-gay president ever.” But that claim falls apart the second you stop talking about cisgender gay men with relative amounts of money, power, and access.
Besides reinstituting a ban on transgender service members — announced via tweet, without consulting military leaders beforehand — the Trump administration has sought to repeal health care protections for transgender individuals; has granted waivers to adoption agencies allowing them to discriminate against same-sex couples; refused to recognize anti-transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, both in the workplace and the schoolroom; and named vocal opponents of LGBTQ rights to key positions in government. This starts at the very top, with his selection of former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, known for his opposition to LGBTQ rights, and continues with his choice of Supreme Court nominees, most notably Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who have shown no indication they are likely to embrace interpretations of law that would expand LGBTQ rights and even may be willing to set them back.
Even on economics, an area in which Trump had significant populist appeal four years ago, due to his skepticism of free trade and opposition to outsourcing, he has broken promises. Now, when he sounds more like the traditional, standard-issue Republican obsessed with tax cuts, railing against socialism, and calling for the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, he’s no longer appealing to those working-class Democrats and independents whose votes propelled him to the White House.
Conservatives and progressives alike may have legitimate issues where they disagree with Biden. But if his advisors stop trying to micromanage him, or force him to triangulate based on a political calculus, Biden will meet and exceed people’s expectations. If he’s allowed to be “Joe from Scranton” or “Amtrak Joe,” the guy who understands and prioritizes the concerns of the people he met on his daily Amtrak treks from Wilmington to Washington, the country will be fine.
If elected, a Biden-Harris administration will have an opportunity to take decisive, sweeping action. They — and their Democratic allies in Congress — should not squander it. People are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our country will need another round of stimulus, and large-scale spending to shore up small businesses who have taken a hit during the shutdowns related to the virus. Infrastructure spending has been a broken promise for the past 10 years. People out of work need a jobs bill. Bills calling for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, comprehensive immigration reform, prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people, and criminal justice reforms demand immediate action, and will only be passed if Democrats control both branches of Congress and the White House.
Biden and Harris should also not delude themselves: a defeated Republican Party will, in the short term, become more angry, insular, and intransigent, and can only be relied upon to block any big-ticket items advanced by the administration. Republicans who once sat idly by while Trump blew up the deficit with tax cuts will suddenly become fiscal hawks screeching about how money to help ordinary Americans is wasteful. That means Biden will have to pressure, and even fight with, allies and longtime friends in Congress to reform Senate rules to make it easier to pass legislation quickly and efficiently.
For LGBTQ voters, the choice should be obvious. Whatever policy disagreements some of us may individually have with Biden, LGBTQ people will not have to worry about a Biden-Harris administration betraying them or negotiating away their rights. The former vice president has been a loyal and consistent ally for the better part of the past two decades, and deserves to be rewarded for his loyalty with our votes.
The time for apathy and disengagement has passed. So has the time for vote-shaming, language-policing, re-litigating the primary process, or refusing to acknowledge or learn from constructive criticism. We need to elect Joe Biden president, and on Jan. 20, 2021, immediately begin holding him accountable for his campaign promises.
Politics is not supposed to be about the egos of petulant presidents with hair-trigger tempers sending out late-night tweets, and it’s certainly not about the personal gripes of political advisers or campaign staffers peacocking around K Street and the Hill. It is about real people, with real problems, who are looking to their own government to make their lives easier, a tough task in a world that can beat down people’s spirits and tear at their souls. In his heart, at his core, Joe Biden understands this.
Our nation awaits a leader who is not too small or too narcissistic to step into the office and make this country better for the people who don’t have access to lobbyists or political connections. There is much work to be done, and we are confident that Joe Biden is up to the task.
Please make sure you vote on or before Tuesday, November 3. For more information, visit www.vote.gov.
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