Biden used his first town hall in office to remind us that he is a moderate.
Throughout President Biden’s near 50 years in government, he has stayed true to his position as a moderate Democrat. One that is willing to “work across the aisle” in order to get things done. Some might have hoped (or, feared) that he’d end up leaning more to the left in his policymaking once he took office. During his first town hall as president, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Biden set the record straight on where he stands on some policies that might be deemed “progressive”.
Police reform – Months of protests and worldwide support for the Black Lives Matter movement created new slogans that many hoped would turn into actual policy. “Defund The Police” was written on signs and shouted from crowds throughout the country this past summer. This phrase gained national attention and was used in a hit ad against Biden during the 2020 election. Defunding the police was never about abolishing or leaving police budgets penniless. It was also an idea that Biden never subscribed to, though many progressives hoped he might, if not something like it.
During Tuesday’s town hall, Biden was asked by an audience member, “How can we be sure that we don’t over legislate police officers so that they can do their job to protect the law-abiding citizens who live in these high crime neighborhoods and yet train officers to police with compassion?”
Biden responded, “by number one, not defunding the police.”
“We have to put more money in police work so we have legitimate community policing and we’re in a situation where we change the legislation,” he continued.
Biden has never wavered on his position in regards to the “Defund the Police” movement, but many Progressives have not given up the fight.
Freshman Representative Cori Bush, MO, responded to Biden’s comments:
Our policing system is built to enable white supremacy. It is not just a few bad apples, it’s a rotten tree.
We need to transform public safety — and that starts with defunding the police and reinvesting in our communities. https://t.co/e6XYQNLUa0
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) February 17, 2021
Student loan forgiveness – Biden campaigned on the promise of forgiving 10k in student loan debt, a less than ambitious goal compared to what House and Senate Democrats have been pushing for. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has stated that Biden should pass an executive order to forgive $50,000 worth of federal student debt.
During Tuesday’s town hall, Biden made clear that he is not willing to do what so many are pushing for.
An audience member asked him, “The American dream is to succeed, but how can we fulfill that dream when debt is many people’s only option for a degree?” she continued. “We need student loan forgiveness beyond the potential $10,000 your administration has proposed. We need at least a $50,000 minimum. What will you do to make that happen?”
Biden responded: “I will not make that happen.”
This created backlash from members of his party. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, MA, said in a statement on December 17th, “The student debt crisis is a racial and economic justice issue and we must finally begin to address it as such,” she continued. “Broad-based student debt cancellation is precisely the kind of bold, high-impact policy that the broad and diverse coalition that elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris expect them to deliver.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY, a known fighter for progressive policies, tweeted this Wednesday after Biden’s comments:
Average student loan debt in the US is ~$30k (LOTS have more)
Many won’t fully feel $10k in forgiveness until after a Biden presidency is over, when they’ve spent 10 years paying off the other $20k+
Dems should be championing policy that people can feel ASAP. We need to go big.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 17, 2021
Biden has never strayed from being the moderate Democrat he aims to be. His strong stance on these statements that progressives would deem unfavorable never changed – many just hoped it would.