In a pose of innocence, Biden’s speech was indeed steeped in political cunning. The agenda he advocated was to expand both the free preschool and community college, subsidize the transition to a low carbon economy, and fund a massive avenue for building new public works by the very wealthy, represented years The pent-up demand was taxed by progressives. But much of the money would be spent in ways that aim to break up the Trump coalition, which has been heavily driven by middle- and middle-class whites who have college degrees and despise many parts of the progressive agenda.
Regarding his infrastructure proposal, Biden argued: “Almost 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American employment plan do not require a college degree. 75 percent do not require an associate degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blueprint for building America. “
The bet is that material gains – that is, recreation that creates plenty of working class jobs and allows families to more easily raise their children – can surpass the cultural ills that sent many of these people into the conservative movement over the past two generations to have. Starting with George Wallace’s hardhat supporters and later on to a flood of “Reagan Democrats”.
Indeed, there was a nod – was it unconscious or did Biden and his speechwriters think about it explicitly? – on one of Reagan’s great arguments made in 1981, when a 38-year-old Biden had been in the Senate for eight years. In his first inaugural address, Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
When Biden spoke to Congress on Wednesday, where social distancing made the audience on the floor of the house a tiny fraction of their usual size for a presidential address, he explicitly opposed the conservative view that the government was an outside or hostile force , unlike average Americans. “Our constitution begins with the words“ we the people. ”It is time we remembered that“ we the people ”is the government,” pleaded Biden. “You and me. No strength in a distant capital. Not a powerful force that we have no control over. It’s us. It is “we the people”. “
The passage was a remarkable reminder of the arc of Biden’s career. For most of his half century in government, Biden operated in a climate where Democrats of his generally centrist type had to pursue defense policies. They knew that the trade union movement that had been the bedrock of the old democratic coalition was steadily weakening. They knew that the decades of erosion of respect in state and non-state institutions had helped fuel a contempt-driven conservative movement. To support the Democrats, many people needed constant confirmation that the candidates were not brazen or irresponsibly liberal.
The speech was another indication that at the end of Biden’s half-century in Washington, the ideological pendulum might finally have swung again.
For his part, Biden believes that when the debate moves from the realm of symbolism and political abstraction to the realm of concrete realities in people’s lives, people are ready to support an aggressively activist government. He celebrated the success of far exceeding his goal of 100 million vaccine shots in the first 100 days and described vaccine distribution as “one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen” during his tenure.
On building a green economy, Biden said: “We haven’t used the most important word for too long to address the climate crisis. Jobs. Jobs. When I think of climate change, I think of jobs. “
Subtle stuff. Without the benefit of political journalists to assist with translation, people might have overlooked Biden’s argument that the climate debate needs to be removed from arcane scientific discussions and allegations that climate activists do not care about people in core manufacturing states and are instead portrayed as such need to be economy boosters.
If the pendulum has really made a historic swing – from a Reagan vision of America that just has to unleash its creative powers from the government to a Biden vision of America that can only compete in the world if it does The talents of the common people are used in creative action by the government – this is certainly due to a convergence of factors. In the long run, it has become a far more diverse nation than it was when Biden entered public service. Immediately, the coronavirus pandemic set off an emergency that typically sees the government growing. Conservatives have lost much of their moral authority to raise objections by approving Trump, who represented neither personal nor tax responsibility.
The audacity of Biden’s proposals will spark a new generation of arguments about the role of government. Even so, the speech was a vivid sign of the times when Biden spoke of an expansion of the government in the New Deal style, as if it wasn’t a big deal, just a sensible and extremely affordable answer to the day-to-day worries of this generation of Americans.