So it is official. Joe Biden will be Barack Obama’s running mate for the presidential election.
As far as electability goes, Biden is a solid choice. He is highly popular among older voters and has vast foreign policy experience. One of the reasons Obama has lost support in recent weeks is because of doubts raised about his readiness and experience, especially in matters of foreign policy and national security. Biden, a six-time serving senator, will help to assuage some of those concerns. Also, he will secure Pennsylvania and greatly help Obama in the crucial swing states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio, where the demographic is generally older and more working-class — the kind that respects Biden. The fact that he is plain-talker whose sentence construction is not remotely professorial cannot hurt. With the Dem convention coming up as well, don’t be surprised if in the next couple of weeks, Obama sees a 10 point jump in the opinion polls.
As this article put it:
On the Democratic side, it was a collective “phew.” As the days got nearer for the pick, it was hard to find a Democrat — even savvy Clintonites — who weren’t hoping it would be Biden. Only the most strident Hillary supporters appear to be upset this morning. On the GOP side, the sound you heard was disappointed silence. Of everyone on the short list, the candidate many Republicans least wanted to see Obama pick was Biden.
But how is Biden from a libertarian perspective?
The short answer — a mixed bag. He is better than the moral republicans, the warmongering Cheney types and the socialist fringe of the Democrats but not too much better.
First the positives. He has generally been favorable to civil liberties and an opponent of illegal wiretaping (hell, he voted aganist FISA!). He is pro-choice and supports gay rights. Though he voted for the Iraq war, he has been a strong critic of it since. He supports free trade and voted for NAFTA.
Unfortunately, Biden’s negatives from a libertarian perspective are more numerous than his positives.
He is pro-affirmative action and favors broadening anti-discrimination laws. He favors toughening the law on hate crimes. He voted for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which greatly increased the number of federal capital crimes. He favors extreme gun control, even by Democratic standards, and has received an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association. He has repeatedly voted for legislation to give more power to labor unions.
However Biden’s greatest flaw from a libertarian standpoint is his role in the war on drugs. He is a quintessential drug warrior. As chairman of the International Narcotics Control Caucus, he was directly responsible for creating the position of the “Drug Czar”, who oversees and coordinates national drug control policy. In 2003, he introduced the draconian RAVE act. In 2004 he worked to pass a bill outlawing performance-enhancing steriods. He has stated that he would absolutely not consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18.
It is likely that Joe Biden will be America’s next vice-president. Despite his anti-libertarian record, the fact is that he is not going to be any worse for freedom than the guy who occupied that chair before him. Nor were there other realistic VP contenders who would have been significantly better than Biden from a libertarian viewpoint. Isn’t that sad?