Joe Biden: The New Jim Crow

Books and Gavel
Law theme. Wooden gavel and books. 3d illustration

Joe Biden may be the worst Democrat to run for political office in the past half-century. Uncle Joe likes to preen about his working-class roots and personal frugality (a hardscrabble Scranton upbringing, a Senator who took Amtrak back-and-forth to Delaware), but, since the very beginning of his time in the U.S. Senate, has been a tool and a representative of the moneyed, establishment interests in this country.

That’s why Barack Obama picked him his as vice president: not because Joe Biden was some principled Democratic politician, but because Obama believed Joe would reassure whites that Obama was a good guy.

Here’s how Biden described Obama in 2007: “I mean, you’ve got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a story-book, man.”

When Biden hasn’t been looking out for financial and credit card companies – see, for instance Bankruptcy Reform Act, 2005 – he’s been a white racialist and tough-on-crime Democrat.

Biden opposed busing in the 1970s to desegregate public schools. He pushed for tough-on-crime bills of the 1980s and 1990s that have led to mass incarceration. He favored slashing Social Security. He undermined Anita Hill when she testified against Clarence Thomas. He has favored every major war since the 1970s.

1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act

The 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, sponsored by segregationist senator Strom Thurmond and co-sponsored by Joe Biden, among others, was the first major update of federal criminal law and procedure since 1900. It included, among other things, the Armed Career Criminal Act, which punishes convicted felons who possess firearms and have certain predicate convictions with at least 15 years and up to life in prison.

The 1984 Act also introduced the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which, along with the mandatory minimums in the 1984 act, have converted federal criminal law into a plea practice, rather than a trial practice.

1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act

The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, passed in the wake of the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, was also co-sponsored by Joe Biden.

The law imposed a minimum sentence of 5 years for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine while it imposed the same for possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. This 100:1 disparity was reduced to 18:1 a quarter century later, when crack was increased to 28 grams (1 ounce) by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act

The 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, once again sponsored by Joe Biden, made technical corrections to the 1986 Act, and imposed even tougher mandatory minimums, including a 5-year-mandatory minimum for crack cocaine possession.

1994 Violent Crime Control Act

The 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, again sponsored by Biden, simply continued the trend of tough-on-crime legislation, including a provision that eliminated federal and state inmates access to Pell grants for higher education instruction, and inclusion of various criminal penalties under the rubric of the Violence Against Women Act, and the creation of a federal sex offender registry and indefinite confinement for certain convicted sex offenders.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.