NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

LIVE from Detroit: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses Netroots Nation 2014

Wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2014 in Detroit, Michi­gan. This after­noon, for the first time in the his­to­ry of the con­ven­tion (which began in 2006), the Vice Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States will be speak­ing to the thou­sands of activists who reunite every year to coor­di­nate the build­ing of a stronger pro­gres­sive move­ment in the Unit­ed States and around the world.

The speech is Biden’s third stop of the day. Pre­vi­ous­ly he attend­ed an event for the Michi­gan Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coor­di­nat­ed Cam­paign Com­mit­tee at the West­in Book Cadil­lac. He then vis­it­ed the Step IT Up Amer­i­ca pro­gram at Wayne Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege with May­or Michael Dug­gan. His speech at Net­roots Nation will be his last offi­cial event of the day before return­ing to the Dis­trict of Columbia.

We are cur­rent­ly wait­ing for Biden to arrive. He’s late, but there’s appar­ent­ly a very good rea­son for that. Most atten­dees have at least a smart­phone or tablet to keep them occu­pied, if not table companions.

UPDATE, 4:15 PM: The motor­cade has arrived and we should be get­ting start­ed in a few min­utes. What fol­lows will be a recap of the Vice Pres­i­den­t’s speech.

Biden was intro­duced by Pro­gress­Now’s Arshad Hasan, who repeat­ed­ly praised the vice pres­i­dent for his can­dor and deter­mi­na­tion, before ask­ing the con­ven­tion to give the vice pres­i­dent a roar­ing wel­come. And the crowd cer­tain­ly did.

A jovial Biden made his way to the podi­um as he received a rau­cous stand­ing ova­tion. Thank­ing Hasan for his intro­duc­tion, he joked that he could “almost hear the press sali­vat­ing.” Address­ing his remarks on Meet the Press sup­port­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty, which Hasan had referred to and which pre­empt­ed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s ABC News inter­view on the sub­ject, he said his com­ments were not planned, but he likes to be direct when he gets questions.

Biden told atten­dees that what he loves about the net­roots is our pas­sion. Dis­cussing the recent advances made by advo­cates for LGBT civ­il rights, Biden said he did­n’t free the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty, they and many decent straight peo­ple deserved the cred­it for the for­ward momen­tum on mar­riage equal­i­ty and civ­il rights.

Biden explained that he was near­ly an hour late arriv­ing for his speech because he had been deal­ing with the crash of Malaysian Air­lines Flight 17, which went down in Ukraine today. Some three hun­dred lives were lost, and the plane was appar­ent­ly delib­er­ate­ly shot down. Biden explained that he had been on the phone with the Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent regard­ing the tragedy. A pas­sen­ger man­i­fest has not con­firmed yet, but plane may have been car­ry­ing Amer­i­can citizens.

Joe Biden studies the audience at Netroots Nation during his Thursday afternoon keynote. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Joe Biden stud­ies the audi­ence at Net­roots Nation dur­ing his Thurs­day after­noon keynote. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Shift­ing gears, Biden said that one thing he has learned in his many years in pol­i­tics that show­ing up is half the bat­tle. He thanked the net­roots for show­ing up and mak­ing change, and for refram­ing the debate… for exam­ple, help­ing Amer­i­cans rec­og­nize that health­care is a basic right and not a priv­i­lege. “We share a com­mit­ment to the val­ues that made this coun­try excep­tion­al,” Biden told the audi­ence. He added that when he gets asked abroad what makes Amer­i­ca great, he responds that it is our sense of fair­ness and car­ing for others.

In a rebuke to for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, Biden pro­ceed­ed to declare that he takes a back seat to no one on nation­al defense. But he says that it is just as impor­tant to feed peo­ple in our coun­try as it is to defend America.

Biden com­pared him­self to Mikey from the Life cere­al com­mer­cials when it comes his role bro­ker­ing deals in Con­gress, which brought laugh­ter from the crowd. He stressed the need for the pro­gres­sive move­ment to define what is for and what it wants to accom­plish both in the short and long term.

“We have to state with­out apol­o­gy what we are for and why. If every­thing is equal­ly impor­tant to you, then noth­ing is impor­tant to you… We have to be crys­tal clear on what the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that this democ­ra­cy is built on and stick to those fun­da­men­tals. Which includes LGBT rights [and] equal pay.”

“The abuse of pow­er is the worst sin that can be com­mit­ted. And the worst is for a man rais­ing his hand to a woman includ­ing sex­u­al assault on col­lege campuses.”

Biden also told the con­ven­tion that it is impor­tant for Amer­i­cans to have unfet­tered access to the bal­lot box. “This is a fight that may not be on top of every­one’s agen­da, but it is a very impor­tant fight,” he said.

Touch­ing on the need for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, Biden emphat­i­cal­ly stat­ed, “Cli­mate change is real… if we don’t con­trol it we will be mort­gag­ing the future of human­i­ty.” He expressed con­fi­dence that Amer­i­ca could lead on tack­ling the cri­sis. The peo­ple with the courage to move are the ones who are fuel­ing Amer­i­ca’s dynamism, giv­ing the U.S. cred­i­bil­i­ty on the world stage.

Com­ment­ing on income inequal­i­ty, Biden reaf­firmed his belief that every Amer­i­can deserves a fair shot at a job. Biden told Net­roots Nation he believes in a nation of earned income as well as unearned income. Work­ers need to be respect­ed as much as Wall Street investors. How­ev­er, many employ­ers are not respect­ing their work­ers, who have become the most pro­duc­tive work­ers in the world. They are not shar­ing in the wealth cre­at­ed by that pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The bar­gain between work­er and employ­er is bro­ken today, Biden lament­ed. He added that fix­ing that bar­gain is the Pres­i­den­t’s top pri­or­i­ty, as well as his.

“When the mid­dle class los­es its faith in the sys­tem, we lose the glue that keeps the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sys­tems sta­ble,” Biden said. “When we act as one Amer­i­ca, we suc­ceed. The mid­dle class needs to know that when they put in they get includ­ed in the deal and not cut out. The poor need to know that when they try, there is a chance they can succeed.”

“In a coun­try as big and as diverse as Amer­i­ca there will be divi­sions. How do you define an Amer­i­can oth­er than by a set of prin­ci­ples they believe in?”

“But our pol­i­tics have become so cyn­i­cal, so cor­ro­sive, that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are sick and tired of pol­i­tics today.”

Nev­er­the­less, Biden said we can­not give up.

“We can rise to what the Amer­i­can peo­ple demand. We can debate with­out being demean­ing. We can make sure we are heard and demon­strate that we are will­ing to lis­ten. The Amer­i­can peo­ple aren’t divid­ed [and did­n’t cre­ate the divi­sions that are por­trayed in our media]; Amer­i­can pol­i­tics have divid­ed America.”

Joe Biden waves

Joe Biden waves to the crowd at Net­roots Nation after fin­ish­ing his speech. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Biden said he has always been an opti­mist and that won’t change.

“It is with­in our pow­er to inno­vate new ener­gy tech­nolo­gies. Imag­ine not call­ing abuse ‘domes­tic’. Imag­ine a coun­try that not only leads by exam­ple of pow­er, but by pow­er of our exam­ple. Your ener­gy and pas­sion will con­tin­ue to be the force that dri­ves debate. The Amer­i­can peo­ple have always been ahead (civ­il rights, for exam­ple). We need you. The coun­try needs you.”

Biden’s clos­ing thought was an appeal to the con­ven­tion to believe in Amer­i­ca and the Amer­i­can peo­ple. “Ordi­nary peo­ple, hard­work­ing peo­ple are smart,” Biden said. “Do not con­de­scend that they do not know what they need.”

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