After 36 years in the Senate and eight years as Vice President, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.(Joe Biden) was elected as the 46th President of the United States. At the age of 78, Biden became the oldest president in history to take the oath of office on January 20, 2021. He faced a fractured country beset by the worst health crisis in a century, the coronavirus pandemic, a stuttering economy, civil justice demonstrations, and internal challenges to American democracy.
In 1988, 2008, and 2020, Biden ran for president three times. During his long career in public service, he experienced two major personal tragedies. His first wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, known as Amy, were killed in a car accident shortly after he was elected to the Senate in 1972; his sons Beau and Hunter were injured. Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, while he was vice president and considering a presidential run in 2016.
Biden was born on November 20, 1942, into a working-class Irish Catholic family in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Joey, as he was called, was the firstborn of Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden and Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. He had a serious stutter that he overcame with a lot of practice and sheer willpower, though it plagued him from time to time throughout his life. While working as a lifeguard at a public swimming pool near a housing project during his undergraduate years at the University of Delaware, Biden was subjected to the inequities of racial inequality. He began his legal career after graduating from Syracuse University Law School in 1968, working for a corporate law firm representing large corporations, but soon discovered that the practice was not for him, and he became a public defender whose clients were almost entirely African Americans from Wilmington’s East Side.
He secured an unlikely win in his bid for a US Senate seat from Delaware in 1972, at the age of 29, when he defeated 63-year-old, two-term Senator J. Caleb Boggs, a Republican. His wife and daughter were killed in a car accident shortly after he was elected. Biden initially refused to take up his duties in Washington, but at the urging of prominent Senate colleagues such as Edward Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, he decided to try it for six months.
Biden met Jill Jacobs, a University of Delaware student almost nine years his junior, in 1975, and the two married in 1977. Ashley, their daughter, was born in 1981.
Over the course of his many years in the Senate, Biden grew to love and admire the institution’s values and hierarchy, serving on both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. He presided over the confirmation hearings for five judges, the most controversial of which were the hearings on Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas’ nominations.
In 1987, when Biden presided over the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, a US Appeals Court Judge, and former US solicitor general, he performed a lengthy, painstaking investigation into the nominee’s record, which included a proclaimed opponent of civil rights and originalist views that presupposed his opposition to Roe v. Wade. Bork’s nomination was defeated by a majority of 58 to 42 in the Senate.
Biden had his eyes set on higher office during his Senate tenure. He received a prestigious second award, the vice presidency, after two unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008. Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate in August 2008, motivated by Biden’s foreign policy experience, his ability to negotiate with Congress, his courage in the face of adversity, and his loyalty to his family. Obama’s chief of staff was Joe Biden. Biden was the last man in the room as the president’s advisors discussed important topics, whispering in Obama’s ear.
He served in the administration in key international and domestic positions, establishing himself as one of the most powerful vice presidents in American history. He and Obama formed an unheard-of alliance. No president and vice president had ever collaborated so closely or developed such a close relationship. The president shocked his vice president by granting him the Medal of Freedom just days before the Obama-Biden presidency ended. At the ceremony, Obama praised Biden’s friendship by reciting William Butler Yeats’ lines: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends / and tell my glory was I had such friends.”
Biden has had his sights set on the highest prize in American politics since high school. He was emboldened to take on Donald Trump in 2020 after his first two presidential bids fizzled out early, declaring: “We are in the fight for the soul of this country.” He referenced President Trump’s response to the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, in which Trump said that “very fine people on both sides” were present. As a pillar of his campaign, Biden focused on the Trump administration’s failed handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, like his previous ones, seemed doomed from the start. It didn’t gain momentum until Biden received a last-minute boost from South Carolina Representative James E. Clyburn. Biden’s win in the South Carolina primary was aided by his endorsement, which represented a significant change for the former vice president. Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate just before accepting the Democratic nomination at the party convention in August 2020, making her the first woman, first Black, and first South Asian American to serve as vice president.
As a result of the pandemic, many Americans voted early and by mail, leading President Trump to claim that the election was rigged. After all of the ballots were counted and Biden was declared the winner, Trump continued to criticize the election’s legitimacy. His squad, on the other hand, offered almost no proof of wrongdoing and was consistently defeated in court. Biden’s victory was confirmed by the Electoral College on December 14 with a secure majority of 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 votes. Overall, Biden received 81 million votes, compared to Trump’s 74 million. Despite his landslide defeat in the popular vote and the Electoral College, he managed to win the presidency. Trump insisted on wrongly claiming victory in the election and never admitted defeat.
On January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters and white nationalists gathered to protest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, the implications of Trump’s false statements became apparent to the country. A crowd forced their way into the US Capitol, where members of Congress were meeting to certify election results, outnumbering Capitol police. Police were unable to contain the intruders who smashed glass, damaged property, and trespassed through the building as members of Congress were hurried out of harm’s way. During the attack, five people were killed, including a Capitol police officer. The US House of Representatives impeached President Trump for the second time a week later. He is the first president in US history to be impeached twice