Biden Needs to be Pushed Further Left

Charlie Pflug, Staff Writer

          Many people across the United States, and even the world, are celebrating the victory of the Biden/Harris administration as they secure the next four years in the White House. Especially with the many reactive policies the Trump administration rolled out in regard to climate change, policing, immigration, etc., the new administration is a breath of fresh air for many. However, when looking at the progressive agenda to combat the problems of our era, it may be a surprise to many that this new administration may be counterproductive to progressives’ goals. 

          One topic that has been seen throughout mainstream news and progressive activism across the world is police reform. In early June, the death of George Floyd turned the heads of many Americans to a potential Biden administration to tackle problems in our criminal justice system. However, in the realm of criminal justice and policing, many people are unaware that both Biden and Harris do not have clean records. In 1994, Bill Clinton, with the assistance of Joe Biden and various other political figures, created the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (commonly known as the 1994 Crime Bill or the Biden Crime Law). While its intentions were to dramatically reduce crime across the United States, it ended up being a key contributor to mass incarceration in the 90s and to the present day. The bill was also found to disproportionately affect black and brown Americans, as the distribution of 5 grams of crack cocaine (the cheaper form of cocaine, used disproportionately by poorer people and black and brown Americans) carried a minimum 5 year federal prison sentence, yet if the crime involved powder cocaine (the more expensive form, used disproportionately by richer people and whites) a 5 year prison sentence required 500 grams, about 100 times as much (1). This law has no doubt contributed to vast inequality in U.S. prisons, as we are finding that ~4.7% of African Americans are behind bars compared to the ~0.7% of whites. This inequality is further shown from African Americans and Hispanics accounting for 30% of our population, yet around 60% of the prison population (2).

          Not all the blame can be put on Biden, however, as his running mate Kamala Harris has a history in criminal justice that has also drawn skepticism from many progressives and reformers. As district attorney for San Francisco and attorney general for California, Harris oversaw over 1,900 marijuana convictions (3), increased felony convictions by 15% (4), fought to keep non-violent prisoners in private prisons for as long as possible (5), and broke California’s record for black and brown incarcerations (6). In fact, in 2011 the Supreme Court ordered the state of California to release 33,000 inmates (only those who had non-violent convictions) to combat starvation, death, and inhumane conditions in prisons. Instead of advocating for the release, Harris’s office argued that it would dramatically reduce their prison labor pool, meaning that she valued the revenue from prison labor over the lives and well being of prisoners (7).

          Joe and Kamala’s backgrounds in the justice system aren’t the only things threatening the progressive agenda, as Biden’s new appointments are a smack in the face to reformers, climate change advocates, anti-war advocates, and others. As Biden and Harris form their new administration, they are being applauded for assembling a culturally and racially diverse array of appointees, something that a previous administration has never done. While it is a good thing that the Biden administration is assembling a team filled with fewer white, wealthy men, we cannot forget that all of his appointments, while diverse, won’t pave a better road to a new, progressive America. 

          A primary example is General Lloyd Austin III, Biden’s appointment to lead the Pentagon as the first black Secretary of Defense, a title that has blurred Austin’s past in overseas American imperialism. For over two years, Austin was the Commanding General of the U.S.’s occupation of Iraq and would later become head of training for the Iraqi Security Forces, a military group which later had found to be committing various war crimes in Mosul. In 2013, Austin was the head of all U.S. forces within the Middle East as appointed commander of CENTCOM. During this period, United States forces infamously bombed Afghanistan’s Kunduz Hospital (which killed 42 civilians and doctors) (8), and launched hundreds of drone strikes which led to countless civilian deaths. According to NBC News, instead of holding the military and President Obama accountable for its actions against the hospital, Lloyd deemed the situation as “human error.” Furthermore, in terms of climate change, the Pentagon has recently declared climate change a national security issue, with Austin stating: “There is little about what the Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change. It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.” This recent statement seemingly takes a blind eye to the fact that the Pentagon and U.S. military hold a significant contribution to climate change, as they single handedly pollute more than 100 countries combined (9). It is no surprise that under new leadership, we will continue to see the hypocrisy regarding the continuation of wars and military action that factor into our changing climate, while simultaneously promoting climate change efforts.

       Another questionable appointment is Biden’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, who has been hailed for being the first openly gay man to lead a Cabinet department, disregarding the fact that Buttigieg has little to no experience in the realm of public transportation. Throughout his political career, Buttigieg has harmed minority communities and has repeatedly taken a blind eye to racial injustices in his city as former mayor of South Bend. This is exemplified in an article by The Young Turks, where they investigate into the fact that Buttigieg, along with the South Bend Police Department, failed to help the family of Jiha’d Jones, a black teenager who was found hanging from an electrical tower. Instead of investigating the cause of death, the coroners office immediately ruled it a suicide, disregarding the fact that Jones showed no previous signs of suicide or depression, and that numerous of his belongings had discovered to be stolen out of his backpack below the body. Buttigieg has also only accelerated racism in the South Bend Police department, as he demoted the city’s first black police officer who possessed incriminating evidence of racism within the department (10). Especially with America’s crippling transportation infrastructure (which is exemplified in the subway and transportation systems of major cities like N.Y.C.), it is necessary we have a qualified person in office to make public transportation serve the public, not the interests of a veteran and inexperienced mayor who endorsed Biden along the campaign trail. 

          It doesn’t end there, however. Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick for head of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), supported the regime change war in Libya and suggested taking Libya’s oil as payment in return for the United States’s “support” in overthrowing Gaddafi, disregarding the fact that the U.S. crippled Libya’s infrastructure in doing so (11). She has also publicly advocated for cuts to Social Security, a government program that millions rely on to feed themselves and keep them from homelessness. Furthermore, as CEO of progressive publication ThinkPress, Tanden expressed her opposition for worker unions, as she immediately shut down the publication in response to her employees forming a union, stating it “wasn’t profitable” (12). According to Current Affairs, Tanden also coincidentally donated $200,000 to a right wing organization while simultaneously concealing the identity of her largest donors. 

          Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, is a war hawk and supported military interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. She has extremely limited experience in domestic policy, and has spent her career supporting countless wars led by the United States. According to the Guardian, after serving in the Bush administration, Rice backed the administration’s misleading claims regarding Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. In a broadcast with the National Public Radio in December of 2002, Rice states: “It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side.” Aside from her career in backing numerous overseas wars, she has also invested millions into the fossil fuel industry as well as multiple energy companies, which has made her millions of dollars in return (13).

          One of Biden’s transition advisers, Cecilia Muñoz, served in the Obama administration as a top immigration adviser and was the face of the administration’s countless deportations, child separations, and inhumane border facility conditions (14). Muñoz has repeatedly advocated for policies that led to the deportations of millions of men, women, and children. While serving alongside Obama, Muñoz oversaw over two million deportations; a number higher than the previous Trump administration (15). In fact, in a 2011 interview with PBS Frontline, Muñoz stated, “As long as Congress gives us the money to deport 400,000 people a year, that’s what the administration will do.” Especially after the mass criticism the Trump administration received in response to their border policy, it is quite hypocritical of the Biden administration to appoint someone who helped Barack Obama earn his nickname of “deporter-in-chief.”

          Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for Director of National Intelligence, is on the board of directors for Center for a New American Security, which is funded by numerous fossil fuel corporations and big banks. As Deputy Director of the CIA for the Obama administration, Haines oversaw over 500 drone strikes which were responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people and 324 civilians (16). Furthermore, Haines was a candid supporter of Gina Haspel, a former Trump-appointed CIA director who served within the agency for over two years. Aside from her direct involvement in the CIA’s torture program, she was found to be a significant factor in covering up evidence of torture within the agency, and received scrutiny from numerous politicians upon her appointment, most notably the late John McCain (17). In a statement from the Institute for Public Accuracy, Haines is described as a “…humane, intelligent and compassionate alternative to the typical white male elite that runs the CIA and other such agencies. But her record is clear. She is an apologist for torture operations. She helped create kill lists for the CIA and U.S. Special Forces. She is not an alternative to the barbarism of the Trump administration, but a dire predictor of Biden’s obeisance as president to an out-of-control national security establishment.”

          What we are seeing is clear. There is nothing progressive about donor/corporation-funded, multi-millionaire capitalist CEOs, war mongers, fossil fuel investors, prison advocates, immigrant deporters, and self-serving politicians. Especially with the countless racial injustices in our criminal justice system, mass incarceration, pollution, widespread poverty and hunger, and a heating climate that is responsible for the extinction of various species and the indirect killing/displacement of millions of people, we can no longer afford a moderate administration. The people are becoming more progressive, and so should our politicians. We can no longer allow neoliberal identity politics to let us turn a blind eye to the problems of America and the world. If you stand for radical wealth redistribution, healthcare being a human right, the fight against climate change or Black Lives Matter, it is important to realize that this new administration will further obstruct the leftist and progressive agenda. Joe Biden needs to be pushed further left, and it starts with you.


End Notes:

  1. Paul S. Adler: “The 99% Economy – How Democratic Socialism can Overcome the Crises of Capitalism”
  2. The Washington Post: “How an early Biden crime bill created the sentencing disparity for crack and cocaine trafficking”
  3. Forbes: “Why a VP Kamala Harris Could Be a Disaster for Marijuana Policy”
  4. The Intercept: “In Her First Race, Kamala Harris Campaigned as Tough on Crime—and Unseated the Country’s Most Progressive Prosecutor”
  5. The American Prospect: “How Kamala Harris Fought to Keep Non-Violent Prisoners Locked Up”
  6. Afropunk: “Kamala Harris Has Been Tough on Black People, Not Crime”
  7. Daily Beast: “Kamala Harris’ A.G. Office Tried to Keep Inmates Locked Up for a Cheap Labor”
  8. Médecins Sans Frontières: “Kunduz Hospital Attack in Depth”
  9. Quartz: “The US military is a bigger polluter than more than 100 countries combined”
  10. The Young Turks: “Mother of Black Teen Who Was Hanged Says Buttigieg Wouldn’t Help”
  11. Reason: “Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Office: Now Is Not the Time To ‘Worry About Raising Deficits and Debt’”
  12. Refinery29: “Why is Everyone So Upset About Neera Tanden?”
  13. Politico: “Progressives Alarmed by Rice’s Vast Financial Investments”
  14. ABC News: “Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President”
  15. The Washington Post: “White House immigration adviser Cecilia Muñoz is taking the heat for Obama”
  16. Council on Foreign Relations: “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data”
  17. The New York Times: “Gina Haspel, Trump’s Choice for C.I.A., Played Role in Torture Program”