Politics

Biden: Democrats Must Show More ‘Respect’ to Working-Class Whites

VP rejects notion that racism helped elect Donald Trump

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrive for a campaign rally in Scranton, Pa., on Aug. 15. On Thursday, he said his party has not shown enough “respect” for or listened to white working-class voters. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the Democratic Party is not “showing enough respect” to white working-class men while rejecting the notion that racism prompted that bloc of voters to help elect Donald Trump.

Biden continued a week’s worth of appearances during which he’s alternately sounded like a 2020 White House hopeful and signaled he has no intention of running.

[Biden is ‘Mr. President’ for an Afternoon in the Senate]

The vice president said his party lost the White House, failed to capture the Senate and picked up fewer House seats than expected because it has lost its connection with a segment of Americans who are “scared to death” about a “loss of wealth” that occurred with the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

But Biden, originally from working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, and deployed to the Rust Belt often by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said that during his political career, he never saw conflict in “being progressive” and appealing to working-class voters.

“Let’s go back and speak to the people,” Biden said.

His remarks at the NYU School of Law’s Washington campus sounded at times like a blueprint for how he might appeal to a segment of the electorate that helped elect him and President Barack Obama twice but then turned out for Trump.

He recalled a speech he once gave in a working-class area. When he brought up equal pay for women, Biden said the men joined in loud applause, knowing that their wives and daughters work hard, but get paid less.

[Joe Biden Tells Delawareans to Give Trump a Chance]

Some have suggested that white male working-class voters cast their ballots for Trump as a protest against Obama, the first African-American president. But Biden noted that many had voted for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.

“So much for it all being about racism,” he said to a silent room.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.