Joe Biden’s Big Vision for America: He Wants to Restore Faith in GovernmentRoundup
tags: politics, 1970s, Watergate, Joe Biden, 2020 Election
Gabriel Glickman is an adjunct professor of history and is currently writing a world history book provisionally titled, “The Rise and Fall of World History: Avoiding Historical Amnesia in 21st Century Classrooms.”
Joe Biden wants voters to trust him as a leader who will help restore America’s moral compass. As Sen. Cory Booker, a former rival who has now endorsed Biden, termed it at a rally on Monday, Biden is “the best one to restore the soul of America. He is the best one to bring dignity back to that office.” This platform stands out today, in stark contrast to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s carefully laid plans and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s plethora of policy statements, for not really articulating much of a substantive agenda. But Biden isn’t running on policy; he’s trying to gain the public’s trust and restore Americans’ faith in the political system — an aspect of his agenda from the very beginning of his Senate career.
Biden entered Washington in 1973, as Watergate unfolded, precipitating debates over campaign financing and other ethical issues. The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal had created a credibility gap and left Americans lacking faith in their government. Biden saw himself as the antidote to such distrust. He wasn’t naive. He freely acknowledged the capacity of political leaders to abuse their power. “Whether you like it or not, young lady,” he said to a young journalist interviewing him in 1974, “us cruddy politicians can take away that First Amendment of yours if we want to.”
But Biden had pursued a political career because the corruption of Richard Nixon and other unscrupulous politicians necessitated good, honest people to enter government. Only that would prevent a country led by “men worse than themselves,” as Biden put it. As the Watergate investigation intensified from 1973 to 1974, and scholars began to write about an “imperial presidency” under Richard Nixon, Biden painted himself as an alternative to unscrupulous politicians — they were the type to trample over cherished rights, not him.
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