Biden, the architect of mass incarceration, says he will lead conversation on country’s ‘pain’

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, June 1, 2020

Presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden proclaimed himself the one to lead the conversation on race relations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests it sparked.

Sen. Joe Biden, right, with Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1995. / Harry Hamburg / NY Daily News Archive

“We are a nation in pain right now, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us,” Biden tweeted on May 31.

“As President, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night’s protests in Wilmington.”

Many analysts scoffed at Biden’s insistence that he can lead a conversation on race in America.

Biden was the chief architect of laws that led to mass incarceration that devastated black communities nationwide. He also was a primary leader in the war on drugs and was a high-profile opponent of busing.

As David Stein noted in a September 2019 report for The Intercept: “A closer look at his role reveals that it was Biden who was among the principal and earliest movers of the policy agenda that would become the war on drugs and mass incarceration, and he did so in the face of initial reluctance from none other than President Ronald Reagan.”

It was Reagan who vetoed legislation drafted by then-Delaware Sen. Biden with Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina to create a federal “drug czar.”

Yes, Biden was allies with Sen. Strom Thurmond, who once ran for president as a Dixiecrat on a segregationist platform.

Stein noted:

At the time, many Republicans were hesitant about increasing federal spending, and in fact looking for ways to slash the budget. Domestically, Reagan wanted to focus on cutting taxes and reducing social welfare spending, and had little interest in an expansive federal spending program geared toward building new prisons and hiring new police. Biden, on the other hand, was a key policy leader among both parties on the issue of expanding funding to states and municipalities for policing and prisons.

In September 1982, Biden gave a nationally broadcast Democratic response to Reagan’s weekly radio address. He accused Reagan of “unnecessary budget cuts” to crime funding. “Violent crime is as real a threat to our national security as any foreign threat,” Biden said.

The Biden-Thurmond bill increased penalties for drugs, expanded civil asset forfeiture, created a sentencing commission, and eradicated parole at the federal level.

The Biden-Thurmond bill also sought to limit access to bail.

The result of Biden’s efforts?

Nearly half of all adults in the United States has seen an immediate family member go to jail or prison for at least one night, according to a study from Cornell University.

During a 1977 congressional hearing related to anti-busing legislation, Biden emphasized wanting to “insure we do have orderly integration of society,” adding he was “not just talking about education but all of society.”

He then said: “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point. We have got to make some move on this.”

This is the politician who says he will lead the conversation on race relations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

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