When Joe Biden comes up against President Donald Trump tonight at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the first debate before November 3, the former senator will be shouldering the hopes of millions who have remained stunned by the events of 2016.
The night of November 8, 2016, left the most bitter taste in the mouths of all in the coalition that wished to postpone the victory of Trump, Republicans as well as those who generally hold a vision of conservative values for America. But Hillary Clinton, per the enigma of the electoral college, could not forestall what many in the “heartland of America” wanted.
This time, the hope is in Biden, a man who does not sufficiently epitomize the momentum of the present but nevertheless loved by many simply because he has carried himself as a lovable man more than his opponent who will be standing behind the podium some two meters away from him tonight.
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Within the Democratic Party, all of the contestations of ideology that rocked the primaries, thanks to Bernie Sanders, will have to cease, lest a divided house is defeated once again. Reception to Biden’s performance tonight will be a measure of how much wide the Democratic umbrella has gotten.
But how much do debate performances and polls count as harbingers for electoral results? Argumentatively, those are supposed to matter to the final revelations although strategists are more likely to play these factors off as electioneering advertisement.
Still, for certain constituencies, what presidential hopefuls have to say does matter. Meanwhile, no moment has been more critically in need of able leadership than now when America is forced to reckon with matters connected to racial justice.
Both Trump and Biden have had their shares of faux pas on issues of race, but one of them more than the other. Black America will therefore be tuning into the debate tonight in Ohio hoping to hear the thoughts of these men, however polished and strategic, looking for that faith-inspiring scintilla of substance.
Face2face Africa put together three issues that should be touched on by both Trump and Biden.
Criminal Justice Reform and Race Relations
It is significantly telling how America’s fraught relationship with its Black population can easily be demonstrated with the endless reel of episodes of unfair and tragic treatments meted out to Black people, usually males, by the police and the judiciary. The fact that criminality or the perception of such, colors this relationship is a foundational problem that requires careful and honest attention.
To his credit, Trump has paid more than lip service to reform although he does not seem committed to what is pressing – an acknowledgment that Black people, when in interaction with law enforcement, do not end up in a prison or a coffin, constantly by chance. To take that step means Trump would have recognized the needfulness of the Obama-era policy reforms in police departments and stuck by them.
On his part, Biden will be making a case against his history of the relentless and unapologetic defense of stern punishments for those Mrs. Clinton once called “superpredators”. He has made it clear that if given the mantle of the presidency, he would approach things differently than his time as a senator and that would count as progress for some.
Generally, the scale of judgment on justice reforms for many African-Americans would be which of the two men can unambiguously identify the problem as systemically and intentionally targeted at Black people. But that may be a bar too high; even Barack Obama could not.
Wealth and Income Inequality
Sanders’ pitch to African-Americans was faulted for what analysts called race-reductionism, the transgression of overlooking the fundamental tensions of race so that these tensions are lost in some grand scheme that purports to be a complete narrative. The senator from Vermont spoke of issues dogging Black people primarily as a lack of economic opportunities.
The purpose of Sanders to tonight’s debate is that as problematic as his general approach was, he, more than anyone, set the bar the most radical wealth and income redistribution. Any pretension that the lot of African-Americans will not be bettered by a critique of white capital and a praxis motivated by egalitarianism and fairness, does more harm than good.
Indeed, it was Joe Biden who told wealthy donors than “nothing will fundamentally change” if he is president. It has been President Trump who continues to advocate for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans even after overseeing legislation that would save that class nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.
Somehow, the belief that every African-American child, woman and man can be given a deserving life of dignity without pinching white capital permeates the philosophies of Democrats and Republicans.
The options on the ballot do not allow for pushing the status quo belief, unfortunately.
According to the Brookings Institution, “homes in Black neighborhoods are priced around 23 percent less than those in white neighborhoods. That is a difference of nearly $50,000 per home which totals to about $156 billion in lost assets.”
Simply put, Black people cannot afford decent homes, and by extension, the safe and secured environments necessary for community growth. This has been attributed to redlining and housing discrimination that is surprisingly legal.
Trump recently gutted another Obama-era housing policy, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, in an overt appeal to suburban white homeowners, telling them they will not be “financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.”
The favorite lamentation of white America about the ghettoization of Black communities seems hypocritical when the likes of Trump get away with what he did in July. The opposition to Trump cannot be lukewarm and Biden must know this.