In an election-year push to motivate minority voters, Vice President Joseph R. Biden told the National Urban League Thursday that the black community “can’t be satisfied with where we are now.”
“On the civil rights front, we see renewed attacks on voting rights across the nation,” Mr. Biden said at the group’s annual meeting in Cincinnati. “On the economic front as well, there’s been some tough times.”
He said, “If we’re honest with ourselves, we can’t be satisfied with where we are now, on either civil rights or economic opportunities for African-Americans.”
After recounting gains by blacks in the civil rights era, Mr. Biden said, “Something happened on the way to the 2008 election.”
“The franchise is under siege,” he said. “Both civil rights and economic rights, in the aftermath of the great recession that the president and I inherited, has devastated parts of the community.”
Mr. Biden didn’t mention that the black unemployment rate of 10.7 percent is more than double the white jobless rate of 5.3 percent. But he said he is “optimistic” that the U.S. economy is positioned to lead the world.
“That’s not because Barack Obama and Joe Biden are president and vice president — it’s just the simple reality,” he said.
Republicans countered Thursday that the 5-year-old economic recovery is the weakest in a half-century.
“A record number of people are unemployed or have left the workforce,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “More have left the workforce than have found new jobs. Incomes for American families have declined under this president, while the cost of everything from gas to groceries has gone up.”
As the vice president did in a speech to an NAACP audience Wednesday, Mr. Biden attacked Republicans’ efforts across the country to approve voter ID laws, calling them an attempt to suppress minority voting rights.
“This year alone, there were 83 initiatives in 29 states to limit access to the ballot box in the name of preventing corruption, where no corruption was found; in the name of preventing widespread fraud, where none was occurring,” the vice president said.
He added, “I don’t think we’ve made it clear enough to the American people what these attempts are all about. Name it for what it is — it’s an attempt to repress minority voting, masquerading as an attempt to end corruption.”
Mr. Biden said Washington needs to spend more on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and on job-retraining programs to fill what he said are hundreds of thousands of available jobs.
“This is a new era,” he said. “We’re back; we’re coming back.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus assured participants at the conference Thursday that the GOP is making a strong effort to build ties with minority voters. He said Republicans have added staff in various states, including swing-state Ohio, to help reach out to black voters.