With all the remaining candidates having suspended their campaigns, it appears all but certain that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee and will challenge United States President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election.
This matchup would pit a man who has spent the majority of his life in politics up against an incumbent president who had no previous political experience prior to winning the presidency in 2016.
As the general election begins in earnest, both men will likely attempt to paint the other as holding views that are out of step with the American people. Many political analysts believe Biden to be representative of a brand of centrist politics in America and Trump to be representative of far-right populism.
But regardless of political labels, there are many policy positions that set the candidates apart.
Keeping campaign promises
Even before Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the president-elect was discussing his 2020 campaign. In an interview with the Washington Post just days before he was sworn in, Trump said his famous “Make America Great Again” slogan would be updated to “Keep America Great,” suggesting he would deliver on his ambitious 2016 campaign promises.
Trump has made a point in rallies of saying he has kept his campaign promises, but one of his biggest 2016 campaign promises has yet to come to fruition and will be on the agenda once again in 2020.
One of the biggest promises Trump made during his 2016 campaign was to build a wall along the US-Mexico border that Mexico would pay for. After years of delays, the White House now claims that 450 miles of wall will be built by the end of 2020. However, as of February, only 122 miles had been constructed for a border that stretches nearly 2,000 miles.
Much of the money used to construct the wall was diverted from military projects or funded by taxpayers. Thus far, Mexico has not directly paid for any of the construction.
Still, as the incumbent president, Trump will be able to point to various accomplishments that are popular among his base as reasons he should be reelected. Those include putting two conservative judges on the Supreme Court and dozens of conservative judges in lower courts.
Trump’s administration has also overseen the deregulation of multiple American industries, with the purpose of making them more profitable.
Running on Obama’s legacy
Serving under President Barack Obama, Biden has been called one of the most influential vice presidents in the nation’s history. Biden was instrumental in crafting the administration’s banking policies following the 2008 housing crash, as well as working to implement the auto industry bailout.
As one of the most prominent members of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, Biden has been resistant to Medicare-for-All, the healthcare proposal championed by leftwing Senator Bernie Sanders. Instead, Biden has said he intends to build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare (Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal the ACA.)
In what is seen as an attempt to court Sanders’ supporters, Biden has promised to lower the age for receiving Medicare from 65 to 60.
Where Trump and Biden stand on the issues
Campaign promises do not always pan out once the candidate is in office. For instance, Obama campaigned on a promise to allow Americans to “buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the US.” Ultimately, that promise was not kept.
Nonetheless, where campaigns say they stand on the issues gives insight into how a candidate intends to govern if elected. Here are Biden’s stances on four important issues, as contrasted with Trump’s current policies.
- Foreign Policy
The backbone of Trump’s foreign policy has been his “America First” ethos. As outlined in a 2016 campaign speech, Trump claimed his administration would end “the theft of American jobs” and force American allies to “contribute toward their financial, political and human costs,” including paying for America’s military protection.
Trump went on to say he would end a nuclear peace deal with Iran that the Obama administration had helped negotiate, a campaign promise he kept in May 2018 when he withdrew the US from the agreement. Biden has committed to re-entering the US into the agreement.
Trump also vowed to be tougher with countries like China, which he accused of stealing government secrets and initiating cyberattacks on the US.
The US and China have been in a trade war since July 2018 after the US placed tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the US and China retaliated with their own tariffs.
Biden has said that his foreign policy would be built on renewing American leadership in the world by rebuilding trust with other countries. According to Biden, his administration would seek to work together with other democracies to “confront the rise of populists, nationalists and demagogues.”
Biden also says he will strengthen the US’s relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Trump has criticized many of NATO’s member states for not contributing the amount they’d initially pledged when joining the organization and has reportedly considered pulling the US out of NATO.
Both Trump and Biden have promised to end the nation’s “forever wars” in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Trump has sought to reduce the number of American troops in the region, though nearly 9,000 US troops still remain in Afghanistan.
That’s about the same number as were in Afghanistan at the end of the Obama administration, though troop levels in the country in the years after Obama first took office had risen to around 100,000.
On his website, Biden vows to “take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values,” with a focus on modernizing the nation’s immigration system and addressing “the root causes of irregular migration.”
The campaign says Biden will reverse the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Biden says he will also end other Trump immigration policies, including restrictions on asylum seekers that require they petition for asylum before reaching the border.
Biden also promises to reinstate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That program, which protected children who were brought to the country illegally, was ended by the Trump administration in Trump’s first year as president.
The Trump administration says its strict immigration laws aim to protect Americans from “uncontrolled migration, dangerous criminals, and lethal drugs.”
Beyond securing the border with Mexico, Trump’s administration has attempted to reduce legal immigration based on religious beliefs, refugee status and financial means.
- Gun Control
Biden says his administration would “ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” while also instituting a national buyback program for those items. The candidate also vows to close the “gun show and online sales loophole” that allows individuals to buy guns without first undergoing a background check.
Biden’s campaign also says it will enforce other restrictions and tighten gun law loopholes to reduce the number of firearms sold in America.
Back in 2013, Trump tweeted that he was a “Big Second Amendment believer” but still advocated for “background checks to weed out the sicko’s [sic].” As president, his messaging on the issue has been at times contradictory.
A little over a month into his presidency, Trump repealed an Obama-era gun regulation intended to make it harder for people with a mental illness to get guns. After the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a universal background check law in February 2019, Trump vowed to veto the law if it reached his desk.
But it never got that far, as the Republican-led Senate refused to take up the bill.
Despite this, Trump has publicly advocated for greater gun control in the wake of several deadly mass shootings in the US during his presidency. Following dual shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in early August 2019, Trump tweeted in favor of “strong background checks.
The Trump administration did enact a ban on bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic guns to fire like automatics, enabling the shooter to fire multiple rounds without having to repeatedly pull the trigger. The Supreme Court opted to not hear a challenge to that ban, so it remains in effect.
- Climate Change
The Biden campaign has vowed to ensure that the US “achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.”
Biden has also pledged to recommit the country to the Paris Agreement, a pact signed by every other nation in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change globally. The US originally joined the pact under President Obama’s administration.
Trump has frequently challenged the accepted science on climate change, going so far as to say that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese” in a 2012 tweet.
Trump formally withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement in November 2019 and has also repealed many of the Obama-era regulations that had been aimed at reducing pollution within the US.
The Trump administration has also removed references to climate change that previously appeared on official government websites. Biden’s campaign says his administration will “restore a commitment to science and truth in government, including bringing back the words ‘climate change’.”