Editorial | The Daily Illini endorses Joe Biden for President

It has been said the 2020 election will be the most consequential in recent history — but it is assuredly not. The 2016 presidential election was the most consequential election in recent history, and every day since Jan. 20, 2017, America is reminded how it dropped the ball. 

The last four years have been a persistent inundation of consequences from the 2016 election. After seeing America’s institutions debilitate, its international reputation suffer and its people factionalize, the United States finally will have the opportunity to restore professionalism and dignity to the White House on Nov. 3. This can only be done by rejecting the incumbent’s divisive and brash style of politics and installing Joe Biden to the office of the Presidency.

In this race, there is policy and there is personality. On both accounts, former Vice President Joe Biden is the higher quality candidate.

Joe Biden, who started his career honorably serving as a public defender before entering politics, is best remembered as a bipartisan negotiator. Although Biden always contends that “politics is personal,” party affiliation has never hindered his ability to build interpersonal relationships with those across the aisle. As a president, he would be a unifier and emblematic of a return to a period when politics are not characterized by hyperpartisanship.

Biden has always been known as someone charismatic, trustworthy and empathetic. Although his platform reflects some antiquated beliefs, such as an opposition to marijuana legalization, his agenda is not completely devoid of progressive ideas. Biden’s agenda would include some progressive policy proposals, particularly those that help parents and working-class people.

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Biden has had his fair share of senior moments on the campaign trail, but President Trump has never been a symbol of eloquence and wit that voters might prefer. The current president has had an equal if not more severe proclivity for gaffes and scandals.

Unfortunately, this race is less about the merits of Joe Biden and unavoidably centered around the gross inadequacies of the Trump administration.

At this dismal point in American history, the Trump administration fails to suffice even the lowest hopes. When Fox News commentator Sean Hannity asked the president about his potential second-term agenda, Trump failed to even provide one policy objective in an answer that was widely regarded as a dodge.

Not only is it difficult to back an incumbent president with no apparent policy vision for his second term, but that reality is particularly disappointing when the president’s first-term agenda was far from fulfilled. 

Despite promises of infrastructure reform, which would have been an easy legislative win for the administration that would have commanded wide bipartisan support, the administration never seemed truly interested in achieving this. 

Health care reform is consistently one of the most important issues to the American public, and yet Trump’s first term was spent attempting to dismantle and bastardize the Affordable Care Act with no replacement.

“The wall” was never paid for by the Mexican government and barely was erected in new areas rather than replacing existing physical barriers, the debt soared rather than being “eliminated” as Trump vowed and paid maternity leave that the president supported never came to fruition. Although a common slogan for the Trump campaign is “Promises made, promises kept,” the first term ends with a slew of broken promises.

The president managed to achieve a few legislative wins, such as the First Step Act and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but this is quite an underwhelming record for an administration that once had an advantage in both chambers of Congress.

The president’s handling of crises was poor, almost uniformly. America suffered through powerful hurricanes, tenacious forest fires and most recently, the COVID-19 epidemic. The federal response each time was meager. It also usually included the White House blaming local and state governments for the response blunder or even the crisis itself, rather than address its shortcomings.

But the biggest issue with the last four years is the abysmal lack of character and moral leadership present in the White House. Some would argue, in 2016, that America is electing a president, not a saint. But as the head of government and head of state, someone responsible for representing all Americans domestically and abroad, the president fulfills the role of “chief citizen” and is meant to serve as a role model. The president has failed in this duty by wide margins.

What is even more distressing is that the American people cannot trust the information coming from the executive branch. The White House has been caught in so many lies, echoed so many disputed claims and peddled so many conspiracy theories that many find themselves trusting the word of foreign ministers before our own Secretary of State. The administration has shredded its credibility at every turn. 

Americans are faced with a dilemma: unquestionably believe the word of the president or accept that he is almost always lying. The president has been at odds with the intelligence community, the Center for Disease Control, Pulitzer Prize winning newspapers, allied governments and many of his own administration officials. It is a dreary day in American history when the public places little trust in its own president.

Perhaps the biggest betrayal is the president only seemed interested in serving those who voted for him and punishing those who did not. When disaster strikes, the president is quick to send aid to states like Alabama and Texas but quick to criticize California or Puerto Rico. No wonder the country seems to be torn between two realities of Trump’s governance — loyalists have received different treatment than the rest of America.

It’s hard to imagine many people can look at the chaotic state of the country and truly assess that things are better off than they were four years ago. 

America needs a president who will serve as a role model, govern for all Americans and tell the truth. Of the two major-party candidates, Joe Biden is the only feasible choice. Vote early and, if possible, in-person to ascertain the vote is counted. It’s time for America to rectify its mistake from four years ago and make Donald Trump a one-term president.