For years he championed this cause, creating a public figure as a pugilist for the American working class. But in recent months, the message has taken on increased importance. His presidency is based on the passage of a massive social spending and climate bill in Congress in the weeks or months to come. And to do so, he sold it as a generational chance to create economic equity.
Scranton was an obvious backdrop, tailor-made to provoke a feeling of working class America. Biden had also designed his 2020 presidential campaign around these ideas, a Robinhood-themed program minus the actual robbery. It was Scranton versus Park Avenue – the place of his birth billed as the very symbol of the plight of the average family over the extravagance of the wealthy.
But scripts like this are not always without complications. And what Biden found is that populism can sell electorally, but it doesn’t always translate into legislative language.
Back in Washington on Wednesday, reports revealed that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) balks at the president’s proposal to pay for his program by raising tax rates on the rich and on corporations. Democrats insisted they had other income ideas. But, for now, put one for Park Avenue.
Biden showed no signs of concern as he spoke. His party is still in the process of making a deal on a multibillion-dollar national spending plan Build Better that could end up funding everything from parental leave to child and senior care.
But the path to this point has taken an obvious toll. Sinema’s opposition to corporate and top income tax increases threatens one of the party’s most compelling messages – that the rich must finally pay their fair share. And, on Capitol Hill, Democrats began to admit that all the mess in the negotiations damaged their reputation with the public. When reporters asked Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) About a recent poll showing few Americans knew what was in the Build Back Better plan, the majority whip blamed his own party.
“I don’t doubt it at all, and I think [it’s] our fault. We’ve oversold and underperformed it for too long, ”Durbin told reporters on Wednesday. “Now we have the opportunity to hopefully shut it down the right way. “
On Wednesday, Biden tried to regain some of that momentum. He has operated extensively in private in recent weeks, having given just five economically-themed speeches since Labor Day. But back in Scranton, he told stories of his youth, of how his loved ones gathered around tables after meals, providing worldly advice to maintain his courage, loyalty and dignity – all ultimately incorporated into his. constitution. He told stories of his father losing his job and his health insurance, then the death of his first wife and daughter, and how he worked as a single father for years.
“I believe the house is where your character is engraved,” he said.
Shane Cawley, a fourth-generation ironworker and union member who introduced Biden to the crowd, gave Biden’s domestic spending plan a boost, pointing out that extra help with child care and elderly care is vital to his family in Pennsylvania.
“We work hard for every dollar we make and some days it feels like the odds are stacked against us,” Cawley said, before introducing Biden.
Biden’s last trip to Scranton was on Election Day, when he stopped at his childhood home and signed a wall there. “From this house to the White House with the grace of God,” he wrote.
Biden has indeed reached the presidency, as he was reminded during Wednesday’s speech. A few weeks earlier, new signage had been installed along Interstate 81 designating the Central Scranton Expressway as President Biden Expressway. Another city road was renamed Biden Street just before his visit.
Scranton transformed Biden. The question now is how far beyond road signs he can transform Scranton.
“I think Scranton’s visit brings the conversation back to where Biden and the average American see it – are we going to fix the things we need to fix in this county?” said Greg Schultz, former campaign manager for Biden. “Much of the recent debate has been about the legislative process and political maneuvering – these are important things, but at the end of the day people want their government to understand their problems and try to improve them a bit. Biden’s return home helps him bring him and the problems back to his base. “