Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday night at a University-hosted lecture that one of the biggest dangers facing the American political system is a lack of compassion and communication between politicians.
Hundreds gathered in the LBJ Auditorium to hear the former congressman and vice president speak for the Tom Johnson Lectureship.
During the lecture, Biden said a major issue facing Congress today is that politicians attack each other personally rather than examining the logic behind their colleague’s judgments. He said doing so makes it “virtually impossible” to reach a consensus on major issues.
“What’s changed is the political system has broken down,” Biden said. “We’ve got to change it for our own safety’s sake.”
Biden said this method of discussing issues may have played a role in deciding the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Biden cited a Harvard study that found that only 4 percent of the words spoken during debates leading up to last year’s presidential election were about an issue. He said the fired-up language used by President Donald Trump during his campaign distracted voters from the issues that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was never able to address.
“It took the eye off the ball,” Biden said.
Biden emphasized the importance of logic in policy debates such as the right to bear arms. In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which 59 were killed and over 500 were injured, Biden said the time is now for a clear-headed conversation about gun control.
“It’s not unrealistic to say there should be a limit on what you can own,” Biden said. “All I’m asking for is rationality — some honest-to-God debate.”
UT System Chancellor William McRaven preceded Biden on stage and spoke on his experiences working with Biden and former President Barack Obama during his time as the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
McRaven said companionship and cooperation between fellow politicians was not just a message but also a practice for Biden.
“I would almost always see the vice president with President Obama, and they were a magnificent team,” McRaven said. “You saw not only a partnership … but a friendship.”
Political communication sophomore Ari Hayaud-Din said she and her friend, actuarial science sophomore Asim Hirji, drove hours to get tickets for Biden’s speech. She said they almost weren’t let into the auditorium, which was filled to capacity, but she’s glad they were able to squeeze in.
“I knew (Biden would) be a good inspiration in a really hectic time in politics right now,” Hayaud said.
Biden referred to his humble beginnings in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as a key guide for his actions as a public servant. He said his label as “Middle-Class Joe” came from the application of his family’s values of courage and kindness to his work as a politician.
Biden said despite major issues currently facing American politics, he believes American voters, when given a fair chance, will not let the country down.
“Look at the world,” Biden said. “Everything’s changing. And it always takes government time to catch up.”