A 73-year-old man came to Madison on Nov. 4 to convince a roomful of very young people, many of them like me who will be voting in their very first presidential election, about the importance of the choice we will be making in Tuesday’s election for America’s future. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stopped at the Orpheum Theatre to speak to about 1,300 people about what is America is all about, how it was built by the middle class, and about how destructive a Donald Trump presidency could potentially be.
Speaking of Trump, Biden said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the damage being done is already manifest. This man is totally and thoroughly – as a consequence of what he doesn’t know, what he thinks he knows, and the way he has demonstrated his character – unprepared and unfit to be the commander in chief of the United States of America. It’s not even close.”
Biden said that Trump and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, currently in a heated race with former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, are from the same policy perspective. “They seem to be carbon copies of each other, not in character, but in terms of their positions,” Biden said. “I guess they’re expecting this nation to be sieged by collective amnesia. These are the same trickle-down policies that generated the most severe recession in American history. Everything that has happened has eviscerated the middle class, those struggling, the working poor.”
For millennials like me and those in the crowd, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been in office for a large part of our lives. Many of those at the rally felt like they created hope for our country and potential growth after the recession.
“I know why we are the nation that we are,” Biden told the crowd, “and it’s because of the middle class who have not only generated economic growth for the wealthy and given the poor a way up, but it’s been the social fabric that has held this nation together in times of crisis unlike any other democracy in the world. There used to be a bargain in America that if you contributed to the success of the enterprise you belong to, you got to share in the profits and the benefits. That bargain doesn’t exist anymore.”
Opening up for Biden were U.S. Congressman Mark Pocan, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Senate candidate Russ Feingold.
Pocan said that he is showing his commitment by continuing to wear red, white, and blue socks until the end of the campaign. Pocan mentioned Trump’s temperament and the lack of concern for his character. “Past presidents of the United States haven’t gotten away with insulting other candidates like Donald Trump has,” he said. Pocan hit on topics like quality education in grades K-12 and climate change for renewable energy before talking about the respect for everyone to exercise their right as citizens to get out and vote.
Baldwin said that she wanted to continue to fight for equality for all, “as we have made gains, we are not there yet.” Feingold followed shortly after and touched on issues concerning women, student loan debt, and equal pay. He advocated for women to have more time with children after birth. He encouraged the need for a crisis of student loan debt to be renegotiated and closed his talk reiterating his stance for equal pay and equal work for women.
But what everybody was really waiting for was Vice President Joe Biden, who finally made his arrival to an eager audience. Biden quickly tackled the issue of Donald Trump’s campaign, mentioning that Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and that it’s a facade created by the Chinese. He said that people like Trump and Johnson are out of touch. “They just don’t understand what good, ordinary, hard-working Americans do,” he said.
Biden spoke on taxes and finances, he adds and makes fun of Trump’s famous quote: “I didn’t pay any taxes; that makes me smart.” Like Johnson, Trump doesn’t believe in minimum wage and claims that it’s far too high. Biden interacts with the crowd and asks if they could see their future or current POTUS doing this, and a loud “nooooo” fills the theater.
“The Republicans always talk about being the party of productivity and growth,” he told the crowd, “but they haven’t come up with a pro-growth idea in a millennia.”
Biden mentioned that the rate at which the middle-class wealth is rapidly depleting is quite alarming and worried about the reality that a vast amount of money is going to large billion dollar corporations. Biden told the crowd that America has the best educated public institutions in the world and this is why his support plan for debt-free college education.
“This is really a choice between the future and past,” Biden stated. “I love when they talk about ‘the good old days.’ Try being a woman in the good old days. Try being an African American in the good old days.”
Biden told the crowd that “You guys have a civil obligation to lead your generation.”
“I’ve never been more optimistic about the prospects of the United States – not because of Joe Biden or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Russ Feingold – but because we are so much better positioned than any other nation in the world to own the 21st century,” he said.
As Biden got set to depart the stage, he urged the crowd to get out and vote and encouraged voters to stay informed of the presidential candidates. He left the crowd on a good note asking them to hold themselves accountable and vote and assured that if they completed their civil duty, the result would be good and lasting.
“America has always been about possibilities. It’s always been about what we can do,” Biden said. “America never bends. American never bows. America never breaks. America always overcomes. And, we will own the finish line in the 21st century.”