As Vice President Joe Biden was delivering a speech to the Netroots Nation convention in Detroit on Thursday, he was interrupted by a group chanting, “Stop deporting our families, stop deporting our families.”
Biden stopped his speech and responded, “I respect your view and I share your view … let me take these issues one at a time.”
Then giving up on the other issues for a time, Biden said, “We should clap for them because if you are a member of a family … Can you imagine the pain and anxiety coming home every day wondering whether or not your mother or father is still there?”
Biden went on to talk of his past in the civil rights movement, and how he never thought he would “be standing here in 2014, with legislation introduced in state bodies to curtail” voting rights, etc., “I thought we were beyond that point.”
Biden was introduced by Netroots Nation board member and executive director of ProgressNow Arshad Hasan as being known for candor – “candor is a core value of ours.”
“Biden says what he feels, and means what he says,” Hassan said, describing how Biden changed the discussion around marriage equality and brought President Obama around to publicly supporting it.
Biden began the speech by saying how he was “flattered that he ascribes so much to my just saying what was true [about marriage equality] and what the American people had already decided. My comments were not planned, but when I am asked a direct question I give a direct answer. I couldn’t remain silent about the civil rights issue of our day. The President fully agreed with me, but there were tactical differences within the White House as to how and when.”
“The thing I love about you all is your passion. But the credit really goes to the community.”
Biden described the courage it took for the gay community to speak out and demand equality, saying it actually freed America:
“As more and more people had the courage, and it took courage, average Americans began to understand who you were.
Gay Community Freed Straight Americans
This didn’t free them [the gay community], they [the gay community] freed every straight man and woman in the country. It used to be that vast majority felt intimidated if they spoke up. But today so many decent straight people now have been given their voice by the gay community. It has made America better across the board.”
Biden then apologized for being late to begin his speech, that there had been the tragedy of the airliner in Ukraine, and he had been on the phone with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko for half an hour.
Standing Up For Progressive Values
Biden then thanked Netroots Nation attendees for standing up for progressive values. “You helped us debunk the central premise of our opponents that progressive government is the cause of problems rather than the source of solutions.”
Biden described being branded as a “socialist” because he argued that health care is a right. Now we all have a right to health care, he said. “You made that happen,” he said.
He talked about the fight to get the American Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) passed. “Because of your help, we established that progressive government has a role in the economic well-being of the American people. Thank you.”
Biden spoke of the “passion” of Netroots people. “Passion driven by concern for others. That’s what distinguishes you. It’s about others, not about you. You are influential because you care about somebody else beyond yourselves.”
Presidential Campaign Speech?
In what sounded very much like a presidential campaign speech, Biden went on to talk about the rights of women, climate change, the need to raise the minimum wage, the effect on the country when the middle class suffers shrinking wages and “loses its faith in the equity of the system,” and upward mobility. He said the American people are “sick and tired” of the way our politics makes it virtually impossible to find consensus.