Biden should be judged on policy, not stutter


Graphic Illustration by Ria Phelan

Ria Phelan

Many concerns over the presidential candidates have come up throughout their campaigns and into the current election. One of them is about Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who is constantly questioned on his ability to lead the country because of a speech impediment that he has had since he was a child. 

The debates illustrated some clear weaknesses of both candidates, and neither candidate had the opportunity to fully explain their campaign goals. Many were concerned that Biden appeared too weak, since President Donald Trump was able to interrupt and command attention multiple times. As a result of his stutter, there were a few moments when Biden froze or responded with short, choppy answers that made him appear flustered.

For the most part, Biden’s performance during the debate was hardly affected by the small lapses due to his stutter. Although his stutter is not very noticeable, it still has an effect on voters. One of the first things people notice about a candidate is how they present themselves. If they see a strong, confident speech from that candidate, they are more likely to trust that the candidate’s ability to lead because they give off an aura of authority.

 Biden frequently faced bullies in his youth when he was still learning to control his speech impediment as his stutter was often seen as a sign of unintelligence. In school, many of his peers and teachers would taunt him for the way he spoke, but with the support of his mother and professional help, he was able to overcome such an obstacle. Eventually, Biden was able to conquer his stutter by the end of grade school and was even able to become Senior Class President. On the campaign trail he is faced with a similar taunt—this time though, the whole nation is watching, as he attempts to become the next President of the United States.  

One of the biggest limitations of Biden’s stutter is the need for constant control over his voice. A stutter like his often becomes more evident when he talks excitedly or passionately about his plans, and in trying to control his tone, Biden occasionally comes off as indifferent about the importance of his potential responsibilities. 

Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have clarified that his occasional errors while speaking are due to a life-long condition, not old-age or mental inability. Biden has developed the ability to manage the stutter and therefore, only stumbling over his words or appearing flustered rather than the disorder being extremely obvious. However, his control over his disorder is still a setback because to those that don’t know his struggle, it can appear as though he is unsure or less confident than his competitor. Despite continuing to fight a speech disorder, Biden has made successful strides in his campaign, and proved that his stutter will not be detrimental to a potential presidency.

President Trump, on the other hand, refuses to recognize Biden’s stutter as an uncontrollable impediment and instead chooses to use it to his advantage. Attacking Biden for his stutter and implying that he isn’t mentally fit for presidency hurts Biden’s campaign. Trump’s immature actions taunting Biden shows his insensitive and unacceptable nature. These taunts and actions he took made him seem very disrespectful and insensitive towards a disorder that is not Biden’s fault and not something he can ever have full domain over. 

President Trump should not be taking Biden’s disorder as a chance to discredit him in this election. Trump decided to constantly interrupt Biden during the first debate in hopes he’d slip up and appear weak in comparison. In the aftermath of the debate, many pundits thought Biden was the inferior candidate. In the next debate, the moderators decided to mute each candidate’s microphone during the uninterrupted opening statements at the beginning of each segment. This restriction stopped Trump from interrupting Biden and allowed for a more civil debate that focused on policy instead of personal attacks.

Biden recognized ahead of time that his stutter may have a detrimental effect on his campaign, and as a result, he took many precautions to minimize its prevalence.  He has refrained from taking long interviews, in which his stutter would likely be more noticeable. Biden has also intentionally chosen to maintain a calmer voice pattern in order to maintain as much control as possible over his words. However, despite taking these measures, many voters still doubt his capabilities.

 “Biden’s stutter will definitely affect some voter’s judgement but it really shouldn’t,” Dai said. “Voters should keep in mind all aspects of a candidate.”

Ultimately, there is much more to being the President of the United States than giving a flawless speech. While it’s easy to base capability off of the appearance of each candidate, voters must look past a stutter and focus on each candidate’s policies in order to determine who is best fit for presidency.