WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden sought again to woo working white Americans, fine-tuning his words as he wages an all but official campaign for re-election and hoping to win over a demographic that snubbed him in 2020.
“No billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a firefighter,” Biden said in a speech to firefighters on Monday (Mar 6).
Since the start of his term in the White House, Biden, now 80, has told the same stories about growing up in a blue collar, middle class family in the factory town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
But since his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb 7 – seen as the informal start of his quest for another term – Biden has really hammered away at this image of himself as a man of the people, a regular guy who can sympathise with families struggling to make ends meet.
In his speeches these days – like Monday before the first union to endorse him in 2020, the International Association of Fire Fighters – the flow of his message has been practically predictable.
First comes an obligatory reference to his father, who Biden depicts as an example of proud, hardworking folk and would often say to him, “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity”.
“IT’S GOING TO BE OK”
“It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK,’ and mean it,” Biden said in his Feb 7 address. He has repeated these words often since then.
Then there is Biden’s frequent allusion to his no-frills childhood home – three rooms for his parents, four children and a grandfather – which he bills as certifying his middle class credentials.
Biden also likes to talk about the need for everybody to pay their fair share of taxes, but does so with a nod to the glory of free enterprise in the country where it is sacrosanct.
“I’m a capitalist. You want to go and make a lot of money? Go and do it but at least pay something,” Biden told the firefighters on Monday.
“Do you know what their average tax rate is? t-h-r-e-e per cent. Poor people,” Biden said, joking about billionaires. Biden will unveil the annual federal budget blueprint on Thursday and has again pledged to raise taxes on the rich.
When he talks like this Biden, who has said he “intends” to seek a second term in office but has not officially launched a campaign, is fine-tuning his words to appeal to a very specific demographic: working class white people without a college degree.
In 2020, Biden won the election in large part due to support from Black people and university graduates. Now, he knows he has his work cut out. A recent Washington Post/ABC poll found that only 31 per cent of voters without a college diploma are satisfied with his economic policy, while among people who do have a degree the proportion is 50 per cent.