If you are still trying to decide which box to check on Election Day, here’s a quick read with the two presidential candidates’ positions on the major issues most important to college-aged students. Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump, is running for reelection against the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump: has been accused of downplaying COVID-19 in an attempt to avoid panic from the American people. After himself and other senior White House staff members tested positive for the virus, Trump posted a video on Twitter where he said, “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it,” before adding, “Vaccines are coming momentarily.” Trump is often seen not wearing a mask at rallies and public outings.
Trump has refused to issue a nationwide mask mandate or a national stay-at-home order. While the administration initially held daily COVID-19 task force press briefings, the administration went almost two months without a public briefing prior to a June 25 briefing led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Biden: laid out a seven-step plan on his website that includes nationwide mask mandates, distribution of a vaccine when one comes available, providing the correct personal protective equipment to businesses and cities and rebuilding defenses used to predict and fight pandemic threats.
Title IX/Sexual Assault
Trump: Back in March, the Trump administration announced new Title IX regulations in K-12 schools, raising the threshold of proof from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” after meetings with assault survivors and “falsely accused” students. This change creates a higher bar to prove sexual assault and harassment.
Biden: In Biden’s plan to end violence against women, Biden said he was against the Trump administration’s new Title IX guidelines. Biden’s plan mentions strengthening Title IX and Clery Act enforcement, which mandates campus police to report crime in a timely manner to students. He also wants college administrators and staff to be trained in how to better support sexual assault and other gender-based violence survivors.
Biden has been accused of a 1993 sexual assault by Tara Reade, who was a staffer for Biden at the time.
Trump: has often called climate change a hoax and is trying to keep the nonrenewable energy industries as profitable as possible. In the first presidential debate, he stated the fires on the West Coast were due to poor forest management. He has attempted to relax greenhouse emissions benchmarks during his time in office that were put in place to slow the warming of the planet.
Trump also withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement created during the Obama/Biden administration. The agreement, described by the Obama administration as “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history,” saw over 190 countries agree to voluntarily reduce emissions in order to keep the Earth’s average temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius.
Biden: acknowledges the danger of climate change and outlines a clean energy revolution on his website to move toward a 100% clean-energy economy by 2050. This plan also includes investing more than $1.7 trillion of federal money in the next 10 years in renewable energy and “environmental justice.”
Trump: continues to work on overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after repealing the individual mandate, which required every person in America to have health insurance or pay a penalty. In September, Trump signed an executive order to implement his America First Health Care Plan, specifically aimed at giving people lower costs and more affordable options for those with preexisting conditions. In 2019, Trump said he was pro-life with exceptions.
Biden: passed the ACA during his vice presidency. If elected, Biden plans to protect and improve the act by “giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.” Biden wants to pass legislation that will reduce prescription drug prices, federally fund Planned Parenthood and protect women’s right to abortions.
Trump: In the first debate, when asked to condemn white supremacists for violence during protests, he stated protestors were to blame. Trump ended racial sensitivity training in federal workplaces, saying it is “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” In the wake of Charlottesville protests against white supremacy in 2017, in which Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist, Trump stated there was blame on both sides.
Trump said the Black Lives Matter movement is hurting the Black community, stating the organization’s ideology and tactics are “destroying Black lives.”
Biden: lays out his Build Back Better agenda, involving billions of dollars being invested into infrastructure, education, housing, small businesses and more. Biden’s Plan for Black America prioritizes creating greater economic mobility in the Black community, directing investments towards ending racial health disparities and making college more affordable for Black students. Biden’s plan calls for making public college tuition-free for families that make below $125,000.
Biden also wants to reform the criminal justice system. His plan, in part, calls for reducing the amount of individuals that are incarcerated, pivoting the criminal justice system towards rehabilitation and ending the federal government’s use of private prisons.
As a senator, Biden spearheaded the passage of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which, in part, expanded mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Biden was instrumental in passing the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, the former of which made possession of crack cocaine as punitive as the possession of 100 times that amount in powder cocaine, which disproportionately affected Black communities.
The 1988 Act increased sentences for drug possession and created the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Biden later said that the differences in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine were a mistake, saying, “We were told by the experts that crack you never go back, it was somehow fundamentally different. It's not different. But it's trapped an entire generation.”