Donald Trump has struggled to spell out even the broadest of visions for his second term, and the Republican Party decided not to write a new platform this year, instead opting to simply use the 2016 one again. But on the other side, things are a bit clearer.
Since he won the nomination, plans for Joe Biden’s presidency have been coalescing in the candidate’s speeches, on his website, in the Democratic Party Platform, and in the recommendations of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force – an effort to create a unifying plan that could heal the gulf
There are some areas where Mr Biden has yet to spell out clear details, and some pressing specific points he seems keen to avoid, packing the Supreme Court for instance. Still, there’s plenty we know about what a Biden term (or two) might look like.
Energy and climate change
Mr Biden is strongly in favour of passing a Green New Deal, which he calls “a crucial framework” for dealing with the climate emergency. He has also framed it as an enormous economic opportunity, a chance to create millions of jobs in an energy sector that faces a daunting future as demand for coal, gas and oil declines.
But while he confidently sets 2050 as the target year for a 100 per cent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions, Mr Biden has also faced attacks from both sides on certain environmental issues – in particular fracking.
He and Kamala Harris have both had to push back on false allegations that they want to abolish it, from Mr Trump and Mike Pence. Controversial and polluting, fracking is hardly beloved of many environmentally conscious Democrats, but it is also a key part of the economies of various swing states.
Mr Biden’s views on gun violence are well-known, and put him in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. The right has long tried to frame the former vice president as an opponent of the Second Amendment, a stereotype that in some places seems to have stuck: touring a factory in March, Mr Biden was confronted with a worker who said he was “actively” trying to scrap the amendment. “You’re full of s**t,” the former vice president replied.
WATCH: "You’re full of sh*t," @JoeBiden tells a man who accused him of "actively trying to end our Second Amendment right."
"I support the Second Amendment," Biden adds while vising under-construction auto plant in Detroit. @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/sueOSBaY9P
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) March 10, 2020
The Biden plan for gun control has some bold elements. Along with extending and enhancing background checks, he proposes to ban the sale and manufacture of assault weapons (which he calls “weapons of war”), even planning a buy-back programme to get them off American streets.
Crime and policing
As an architect of the 1994 crime bill now blamed for accelerating mass incarceration and the aggressive policing of Black neighbourhoods, Mr Biden was under pressure to grapple with criminal justice reform well before he won the nomination – which he did just a month before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Biden-Sanders task force’s recommendations were published not long after Mr Floyd’s death, and sure enough, they propose “banning the use of chokeholds and carotid holds and permitting deadly force only when necessary and a last resort to prevent an imminent threat to life”. With a nod to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, they also propose reforming the use of “no-knock warrants”, writing that “Americans must feel safe when they are asleep in their own homes.”
Where Mr Biden differs from the left of his party is on the question of “defunding” the police, which he has repeatedly said he opposes – instead calling for more funding to support community policing and enhanced training to help the police avoid the use of force where possible.
Mr Biden was famously caught on microphone calling the Affordable Care Act ‘a big f***ing deal” when it was signed in 2010. Now, the future of the act has lately surged to the top of the agenda thanks to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which Mr Trump himself has explicitly framed as a chance to get the law scrapped.
Today, while calling healthcare a “right”, his platform stops short of the Democratic left’s preferred proposal of “Medicare for All”, and instead focuses on safeguarding and improving the current system – “giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.”
Mr Biden’s fiscal policies revolve around repealing the Trump administration’s tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefited the very wealthy. In line with what is now a fundamental tenet of Democratic politics, he promises to make sure corporations and the very wealthy pay “their fair share”, and promises that he "won’t ask a single person making under $400,000 per year to pay a penny more in taxes”.