Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden came to Durham Sunday, where he painted a dark portrait of America: a nation in danger of losing its soul under President Donald Trump.
Biden spoke about fighting hate in a 23-minute talk Sunday at Hillside High School, a public school in Durham. He accused Trump of “fanning the flames” of white supremacism, sharply criticizing Trump for his comments that there were “fine people, on both sides” of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It isn’t just policies or agendas that are at stake. It’s the soul of this country, the character of our people. The entire idea of America is on the line with this president,” Biden said to roaring applause from a crowd of 850.
Biden has led RealClearPolitics’ polling average since entering the race, but Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has gained on the former vice president over time. Biden now polls at 27 percent, Warren at 22 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders close behind at 17 percent.
Throughout the race, Biden, 76, has weathered a myriad of gaffes and controversies, including recent allegations—without evidence—from Trump about Biden’s son and his serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while Biden was Vice President.
Warren is leading in two early primary states—Iowa and New Hampshire—but Biden is beating Warren by far in South Carolina polling. North Carolina’s Democratic primary is on March 3, 2020, or “Super Tuesday,” alongside more than a dozen primaries nationwide.
A swing state, North Carolina was a big factor in Trump’s election in 2016. Biden is polling at 34 percent statewide in RealClearPolitics’ polling average to Warren's 17 percent and Sanders' 15 percent.
Biden: Durham a 'symbol of justice and opportunity'
Biden, who has often touted his record on civil rights, dove into Durham’s history.
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“Durham in particular has been a shining example in the South,” Biden said. “Throughout its history, Durham has stood as a symbol for justice and opportunity.”
He specifically noted Durham’s Black Wall Street as an “oasis” of black entrepreneurship during the Jim Crow era, with Durham having the most black millionaires in the country at the beginning of the 20th century.
“It gave people around the country and the world hope that maybe it could happen in our states. It was one of the first examples of a flourishing middle class black community,” Biden said. “But there’s so much more we have to do to deliver that promise to all Americans.”
As president, Biden said he would “repair the American moral fabric” that he feels Trump is “shredding.” He called to end the legacy of systematic racism and return to American values of honesty and decency.
Biden calls for healthcare reform, more taxes on wealthy
Although much of his speech was devoid of policy and details, Biden harped on helping the middle class and raising taxes on the wealthy.
“I’m not opposed to people making money,” Biden said. “But as I tell every wealthy person in my state and anywhere else I go: y’all don’t need a tax cut. You’re doing just fine.”
He called for reducing the costs of and expanding of the Affordable Care Act, providing a public option that would automatically enroll people who cannot afford health insurance. He also called to cut drug prices “significantly.”
Biden argued his plan is better than other Democratic candidates’ “Medicare for All” plans, since it could be accomplished “immediately.”
Biden’s reaction to killing of ISIS leader
Biden lauded America’s special forces for their bravery in a mission that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this weekend. But he made it clear: it’s not mission accomplished, criticizing Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Syria.
"It's good news for the United States and people around the world,” Biden said. “But we have to keep the pressure on them. We can't walk away from our friends."
Two-thirds of GOP and 354 of 414 overall lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives signed a resolution Oct. 16 condemning Trump’s moves in Syria allowing Turkey to attack Kurds there—American allies and "crucial...in the fight against the Islamic State."
Duke student speaks before Biden
Biden has struggled to win over young voters, garnering just 6% of voters between 18 and 34 in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Warren and Sanders? Both 30% or higher.
Trinity junior Adrianna Williams took the stage before Biden, urging young people—and everyone—to get behind Biden. She said she studied all the candidates and only one cut it for her: Biden.
“Young people like me care about… student debt and climate change. Women’s rights and civil rights. We care about what tomorrow holds and who leads us,” Williams said. “I did my homework in this race… and only one passed the test for me. Joe Biden… I’m ready to do all I can to help get him elected.”
Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.