Former Vice President Joe Biden blamed his own party for losing the 2016 election, telling a crowd at the University of Pennsylvania that Democrats ignored one of its core ideals during the campaign: maintaining “a burgeoning middle class.”
Mr. Biden sat down with University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann for a wide-ranging discussion at the new Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Without specifically naming Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the former vice president said his party lost to President Trump because it failed to pay attention to struggling middle-class workers during the campaign.
“I think that what happened was that this is the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for, and that is how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Mr. Biden said.
“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about that guy working on the assembly line making 60,000 bucks a year,” he said, “and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess in a restaurant and they’re making 90 grand and they’ve got two kids and they can’t make it and they’re scared. They’re frightened, because they’re not stupid.”
Mr. Biden said while globalization has been a “phenomenal success” on a macroeconomic level, it’s also “left a lot of people behind.”
He also dispelled the liberal talking point that the working-class voters who elected President Trump are racist.
“All those angry white men we talk about that are racist — guess what? Barack and I won them,” he said. “Let’s get this straight. It wasn’t racist. They voted for a black man, twice in a row, but they didn’t this time. They didn’t this time, because they look out there, and they’re scared and no one’s talking to them.”
Despite the political division in the U.S. today, the former vice president said he’s more optimistic about the country’s future than he’s ever been in his career.
“That is not hyperbole,” he said. “We are better positioned by a mile than any other nation in world to own the 21st Century, if we just get out of our way, if we just start talking about and dealing with our values and the realities of what we possess. It’s enormous, the resources we have here.”