Image Courtesy of CNN
By Jeremy Perillo
Almost a month into his presidency, President Joe Biden attended a CNN Presidential Town Hall on February 16, 2021, that sought to answer questions on some of the countries pressing issues, as well as Biden’s attempts at addressing them. The event, hosted by Anderson Cooper, was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a state that he won by over 20,000 votes.
The questions asked by members of the Wisconsin community ranged from the coronavirus vaccine to white supremacy in the United States. As Biden begins to settle into his presidency, the conversation will begin to gradually shift from Trump’s response to what Biden is doing to move the country in the right direction. That was apparent in the town hall as the participants sought clarity and more direct information from Biden.
It was also certainly made clear in his own comments, and as the country moves on from Trump’s second impeachment.
“For four years, all that’s been in the news is Trump,” Biden said. “The next four years, I want to make sure all the news is the American people. I’m tired of talking about Trump.”
While some of his responses were not surprising given his long-standing positions on various issues, there were some points made that were noteworthy.
First, Biden assuredly gave reason for progressives watching at home, and in Congress, to get a little heartburn. Biden shot down, plain and simple, that he did not believe in defunding the police and was opposed to the $50,000 student loan cancellation that has been proposed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Dannie Evans, a pastor and member of the Wisconsin Racial Disparity Task Force who voted for Trump, was reassured by Biden that he believed no one should be imprisoned for using an illegal drug.
“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?” Evans said.
“By, number one, not defunding the police,” Biden responded.
This has been a position Biden has held since George Floyd’s murder during the summer of 2020, and subsequent calls by many Americans to defund the police. He thinks money should be put towards better, more comprehensive training, and sees defunding police departments as an avenue of preventing that important training from manifesting. He also said that people should not go to jail for drug offenses.
Later, Biden shot down a woman’s question of what he will do to make sure $50,000 in student loans per borrower is enacted. She felt that $10,000 did not go far enough to quell the issue. Biden cited his concerns for forgiving loans for individuals who go to big-ticket schools like Harvard and Yale and touted his plan for free community college.
Biden also sought to address some concerns Americans have about the virus. Biden sought to tackle the million dollar question of when the pandemic will be over and when we will be able to get to normal.
“By next Christmas I think we will be in a very different circumstance, god willing, then we are today,” Biden said. “A year from now, I think there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, have to wear a mask, but we don’t know.”
Similarly, Biden was asked, when will every American who wants a vaccine be able to get one.
“By the end of July of this year,” Biden said. “We came into office, there was only 50 million doses available. By the end of July, I will have more than 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American.”
Biden’s messaging was relatively clear, with some drawn out and lengthy responses, which is not surprising given his past career as a Senator. It is clear that he used this opportunity to iron out details of his plans to the American public as questions arose from vaccine distribution to students getting into the classroom.
Some of the participants in the town hall, even though they do not necessarily support the President and did not vote for him in the election, reflected his transparency and openness to his positions. Dannie Evans, reflecting on Biden’s answer to the policing question, said that she appreciated Biden making his stance on defunding the police abundantly clear.
“He answered my question. He was firm when he said don’t defund the police. And that’s what I really was hoping that he would say,” Evans said.