In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joe Biden provided his own insight into the recent presidential election, in which Donald Trump won what many considered to be a surprise victory over the political favorite and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
While much of the Democratic party has taken to blaming Clinton’s loss on a myriad of things other than the candidate or her campaign, Biden offered a more realistic take on how the Democrats managed to lose their way.
“My dad used to have an expression. He said, ‘I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect them to understand it,” Biden said. “I believe that we were not letting an awful lot of people—high school-educated, mostly Caucasian, but also people of color—know that we understood their problems.”
Although many prominent democrats have suggested that Trump’s support came from racist whites, hoping to use their vote as a means to attack minorities, Biden recognized the types of people in the pro-Trump crowds.
“They’re all the people I grew up with. They’re their kids. And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist. But we didn’t talk to them.”
Biden believes that “a bit of elitism” has crept into the Democratic party, causing a rift in the perceptions of voters in the United States. Where he thinks progressive politics benefit the working class, Biden suggests that many now see progressive values and blue collar values as incongruous.
“What are the arguments we’re hearing? ‘Well, we’ve got to be more progressive.’ I’m not saying we should be less progressive,” he said, adding that he would “stack my progressive credentials against anyone” in the party. “We should be proud of where the hell we are, and not yield an inch. But,” he added, “in the meantime, you can’t eat equality. You know?”
Biden’s reasonable approach to the election didn’t start post mortem. In a speech he made at a campaign event for Clinton’s vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, he explained the need to try to understand conservative views, instead of disregarding them as many in his party had opted to do.
“God willing we’re going to win this, but there’s a lot of people who are going to vote for Donald Trump,” Biden told the crowd. “We’ve got to figure out why. What is eating at them? Some of it will be unacceptable. But some of it will be about hard truths about our country and about our economy. A lot of people do feel left out.”
When asked about that speech, Biden echoed his previous sentiments that Democrats had begun ignoring the people that once made up the backbone of his party.
“I was trying to be as tactful as I could in making it clear that I thought we constantly made a mistake of not speaking to the fears, aspirations, concerns of middle class people,” he said. “You didn’t hear a word about that husband and wife working, making $100,000 bucks a year, two kids, struggling and scared to death. They used to be our constituency.”
Biden, however, didn’t mince words when describing why he felt Trump managed to win over so many Americans despite his divisive rhetoric and the frequent scandals that plagued his campaign.
“I don’t think he understands working-class or middle-class people,” Biden said. “He at least acknowledged the pain. But he played to the prejudice. He played to the fear. He played to the desperation. There was nothing positive that I ascertained when he spoke to these folks that was uplifting.”
Biden has served for two terms as the vice president under Barack Obama, who campaigned on a platform that many felt was inclusive of a larger demographic of Americans, allowing him to win re-election despite losing some popularity with Americans during his first term. Throughout his political career, Biden has always seen himself as a fighter for the working class, a group he feels has become largely ignored by the campaigns of Clinton and other prominent Democrats. However, he distances himself from the likes of Bernie Sanders, who many on the left see as a champion for blue-collar workers.
“I like Bernie,” Biden said, adding he agrees with the senator on a number of issues. “But I don’t think 500 billionaires caused all our problems.”
Although many Republicans may not agree with Biden’s assertions that Trump capitalized on Americans’ fears in order to gain political traction, it can’t be ignored that Biden’s has been one of the lone Democratic voices of dissent in a post-election news cycle focused heavily on external factors—such as Russian involvement—for Clinton’s loss, rather than looking internally at the values and methodologies employed by the party. The fact that Biden can say, without hesitation, that he doesn’t believe most Trump supporters to be racists or misogynists also sets him apart from many in his party.
This type of reasonable discourse seemed almost entirely absent from both Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns, neither of which suggested that the opposing view could be raising legitimate concerns about the state of our nation. Although both Republicans and Democrats blamed the opposing party for real and conceived national woes, Biden seems to believe Republicans and Democrats are working for the same ends via different avenues.
Biden has not discounted the possibility of running against Donald Trump in the 2020 election, but has made no public statements thus far indicating that he intends to. By the time of the election, Biden would be 77 years old, three years senior to Trump, who is currently the oldest president ever elected by the United States.
If Biden does choose to run and manages to maintain his stance that the Democratic party should focus more on working class Americans, Trump may find himself in need of an image makeover, as his campaign focused heavily on the same group of Americans, but without the added apparent willingness to hear out his opposition. Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns were both so muddy, one is left to wonder how Trump would handle a civil discourse with a candidate who wanted to improve cooperation between parties, rather than a candidate whose platform seemed to be “vote against Trump” rather than “vote for me.”
Biden, like President Obama, will remain in the Washington D.C. area after Trump takes office, an unusual move for a departing veep, but he claims it will give his wife the opportunity to continue teaching at the community college she works at in Virginia. True as that may be, staying close to Capitol Hill would allow him to continue to fan the political flames of Democrats who believe he may be the leader their party so desperately needs.
Only time will tell if we see a Biden versus Trump election in four years, but in the minds of some, he may be the only current contender for the helm of the DNC’s sinking ship.
Image courtesy of Reuters