PHOTOS & QUOTES: Joe Biden rallies Dems in Detroit, “the figurative & literal engine of the middle class in America”


“[T]he grit and the determination and the confidence, the certainty, the absolute commitment that this country has…is more exemplified by Detroit, Michigan than any other state in the Union.”

All photos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog. Not for reuse without permission.

Last night’s Jefferson Jackson dinner was a rallying point for Michigan Democrats and every speaker from former Congressman Mark Schauer to Vice President Joe Biden called out Republicans for the harm they are doing to our country, our state, and the middle class and called on Democrats to rise to the challenge of seizing back the reins of power in Michigan.

Prior to the dinner itself, the Michigan Democratic Party Youth Caucus held a reception that was THE place to be. Here’s a partial list of those who attended:

  • Senator Carl Levin
  • Congressman John Conyers
  • Congressman Dan Kildee
  • DNC member Debbie Dingell
  • State Rep. Vicki Barnett
  • State Rep. David Knezek
  • State Rep. Adam Zemke
  • State Rep. Sam Singh
  • Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence
  • East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett
  • Jackson City Councilman Derek Dobies
  • Wayne State Univ VP of Economic Development Ned Staebler
  • Ann Arbor Dems Chair Mike Henry

Debbie Dingell and Mark Schauer

Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Dan Kildee

Senator Carl Levin and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence

The featured speaker was former MI-07 Congressman Mark Schauer who encouraged the young Democrats of the Youth Caucus to work hard to make sure that Democrats keep winning in Michigan and that they themselves play a role in the future of our state. Schauer said that he’s convinced that Democrats will be successful and that young Democrats are an important part of that. “You are the ones,” he said, “You young people, are the ones that are going to make that happen.”

Mark Schauer speaks to the Michigan Democratic Party Youth Caucus

The Jeff-Jack dinner itself was kicked off by new Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson who talked more about winning in 2014 and the importance of the “politics of addition” in our success, a theme he spoke about frequently during his run for the Chair seat earlier this year.

Johnson introduced the first speaker, Debbie Dingell, who, earlier in the day had announced she would not be running for Senate to fill Senator Levin’s seat in 2014.

In a subtle nod to her announcement, Dingell said, “I’m not here tonight to talk about my future or hopes, I’m here to talk about our shared future and hopes.”

She said that, as Democrats, “We have a vision for our country and state where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone gets their fair share and everyone follows the same rules of the road.”

Dingell said that our focus should not be only on 2014 but on an eight year campaign where “When we win it, we keep it, and we control the redistricting in 2020.” She also encouraged the assembled Democrats to stay focused on our true enemies and not fighting with each other.

Dingell’s speech was fiery and eloquent and even included a reference to Alexis de Tocqueville. It was so fiery, in fact, that before his invocation, Minister Boyd White joked that, “[Lon Johnson] said the invocation would be given by me but it sounds to me like it’s already been given!”, referring to Ms. Dingell as “The evangelist Debbie Dingell”.

Next up was Congressman Gary Peters, the current leading contender to replace Senator Levin (though nobody, including him, has announced their candidacy so far. A strong defender and ally of Detroit, Peters said, “You cannot have a strong Detroit area or a strong state of Michigan without a strong city of Detroit.” Democrats, he said, are committed to restoring prosperity in Detroit.

Peters also talked about the importance of organized labor, saying, “Workers have a fundamental right to organize and collectively bargain.” Part of that, he said, pay equity for women. “In the workplace,” he said, “We believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work and we won’t rest until they do.”

Peters thanked Vice President Biden for his help in saving he auto industry in Michigan. “Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama doubled down on Detroit,” Peters said to the crowd. Then, turning to the Vice President seated next to the podium, he said, “Mr. Vice President, we will never forget.”

The Congressman finished by telling a story of having a short conversation with Vice President Biden at an event last year where he had a brief moment to quickly explain an issue Pontiac was dealing with. The next day, Vice President Biden called him and said, “Gary, I’m here with my team and I think we have a solution for Flint.”

The next speaker was Senator Debbie Stabenow who was introduced by Congressman Peters.

“Good evening,” Senator Stabenow said to the crowd. “He kinda looks like a Senator don’t you think?” This received a hearty round of applause.

Stabenow expressed her frustration at the inability to get a bill passed by the U.S. Senate that would expand background checks for gun purchases. “90% of the Dems voted ‘yes’,” she said, “90% of the republicans voted ‘no’ and 90% of the American people want us to get this done.”

She also talked about how vital it is that Michigan is returned to Democratic control. “We need to send the right people to Lansing,” she said, “And that means taking back the state Capitol. We’ve got to be focused, we’ve got to be strategic and we’ve got to be united. And, sitting here tonight, we are united.”

She then introduced Senator Carl Levin who will be retiring in a 2014. “I can’t ask for a better partner in the senate,” Stabenow said, “And you can’t ask for a better senator than Carl Levin.”

With this the crowd got up and gave Levin a raucous standing ovation.

Senator Levin made it very clear that he has no intention of fading our in the Senate. “I’m a long way from leaving the U.S. Senate,” he said. “People have been coming up to over the past few weeks telling me I’ve had a great run. It has been a good run and it’s going to be an even greater next 20 months.”

Levin spent most of his time introducing Vice President Biden who he said is the most genuine politician you could ever hope to meet. “Maybe it’s because you can’t BS an old BS-er,” Levin said, “But Joe has a way of cutting through all the verbiage and getting to the heart of the matter…In a business that leads so many politicians to fake it, he just can’t. He’s just too genuine.”

Senator Levin told the crowd that Vice President Biden has always been a strong proponent for Michigan. “In the White House Joe Biden has been the go-to guy for Michigan … An ally.”

Following this, Vice President Biden gave a 52-minute speech that pure populist Joe. I’ve transcribed some of his speech below because his message is one we need to pay close attention, particularly here in Michigan. Following his speech, both State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel and Senator Rebekah Warren spoke to the crowd. Rep. Greimel talked about the difficulties Democrats are facing in the House and the importance of remaining fired up and ready to work for victory in 2014.

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel

Senator Warren reminded the crowd that the area she represents around Washtenaw County is not only one of most prosperous regions in the state, it is also the most Democratic.

Senator Rebekah Warren

Here are photos and quotes from Vice President Biden’s speech:

Folks, before I begin, it would be inappropriate for me to begin without acknowledging what you all know and what any American feels tonight and has felt particularly during this past incredibly difficult week. There was a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Or those folks in Boston. Those innocent, innocent children who were mangled in a senseless act of terror along with the adults who lost their lives and limbs.

It was ironic that to me that, as Carl and Debbie know, I’ve come to know the families in Newtown well in-person, and I’ve spent now hours, I mean hours, in their homes, in their community and in my home with them, trying to grapple with the loss of those beautiful babies and those six teachers and administrators who literally died tried to protect them.

So much carnage. So much pain. So much … so much asking of ourselves, “What’s happened? What can we do for loved ones?” And every time I find myself getting down, I’m reminded of my mother, when I lost part of a family, said something I thought was incredibly cruel at the time and there’s not a cruel bone in her body. She said, “Joey, with everything terrible, something good will happen if you look hard enough.”

We didn’t have to look very far to see the resilience and the selflessness of those families in Newtown who literally came to Washington and relived their pain again and again and again in making their case. Every one of you in this hall tonight and at this table have suffered some loss. Some of you, grievous losses. And some of you know that, all of you know that it takes real courage to speak to that loss to try to see to some of us that don’t have it. Every time you speak to it, it brings home immediately, vividly the moment you learned of your loss.

I watched those parents, marveling, and realized how much more courage they had than I did during the same time. I met troopers who went to that school. I watched the first responders on television in Texas. I sat for hours in the Situation Room with the President coordinating and listening to the response of our first responders from the federal level to local as they absolutely were determined to apprehend those men who committed that heinous act in Boston.

And, out of all of that, I’m reminded that my mother is probably right. What it showed with each of these tragedies, what it showed was the incredible resilience, heroism, commitment and love of the people who responded to these tragedies. It’s pretty remarkable. It’s pretty remarkable the commitment that continues in these communities to try to make it right for those people. It shows that every time there’s a crisis anywhere in this country, we have first responders but we also have neighbors, friends, ordinary Americans. Ordinary Americans. You probably thought, as I did, watching the replay of the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, how some of those people, after running 26 miles increased their pace, sprinting across the finish line and kept going. They kept moving. And I wondered, what in the heck are they doing? Really. Were they running away from harm? They were running THROUGH it! They were running to a hospital. They were running to help their fellow runners and citizens watching. It was an instinct. Something stamped in our DNA. It’s one of the incredible things about this country. We owe them all such a debt of gratitude.

Being here in Michigan tonight for me — as they used to say in the Senate, excuse a point of personal privilege — seems so appropriate to me. I grew up the son of an automobile man. No, no, this is absolutely straightforward. As Carl points out, very few people doubt what I say. They always know I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean!

But, I want to tell you something about a kid growing up in Scranton and then in Claymont, Delaware … the little steel town of Claymont, how we always looked to Detroit. Detroit was sort of a citadel. No, for real. Detroit was the place, Detroit was the fable. Labor in Detroit was the reason why I knew I was able to live in a three-bedroom house in a middle class neighborhood. I want you to know something about yourself from the outside lookin’ in. {…}

For so long, for so much of the last century, Detroit had been the figurative and literal engine of the middle class in America. We have the middle class because of organized labor. That’s why it exists.

So… being here at the end of such a tough week for so many people in America seems almost appropriate because you represent the grit and the determination and the confidence, the certainty, the absolute commitment that this country has. It’s more exemplified by Detroit, Michigan than any other state in the Union.

I can say without fear of contradiction, there’s no one with whom I’ve worked that I’ve admired more, there’s no one with whom I’ve worked who possesses any more integrity than Carl Levin … He had the courage to stand when an awful lot of other people I know crouched. {…}

We could have used a little more of what Carl’s made of, if just four more Republicans would have had the courage to stand up to the NRA.

As Carl and Debbie will tell you, I still have relationships with some [members of Congress], Democrats and Republicans. I was incredibly proud to serve with them as long as I did. I think it’s a great institution. So I called everyone in both parties who I knew or believed supported what we were doing but I was worried they might be worried they couldn’t do it. So I called over 15 of those people, Democrats and Republicans. Not one of them, not ONE of them offered a substantive reason why they would vote against that background check. Not one. Not one. But, all but five of them voted against it. And they five who voted for it believed they may be writing themselves into the second edition of “The Profiles in Courage”!

You know, folks, this is not your father’s Republican Party. This is not even Gerald Ford’s Republican Party. For real. Folks, let’s face it, this Republican Party has been taken over by ideologues and the rest of the Party that knows better is yielding to them and the interest groups that support them. In my entire career, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Ideologues and extreme interest groups and right wing talking heads have become the Republican Party. And those elected few in the Party who know better have been intimidated into compliance.

They offer a lot of excuses. They say, “Joe! The gerrymandered districts! Single-party districts! I’ll be primaried!” They say, “Joe, the cost of modern campaigns are so significant I can’t risk alienating the groups on my team’s side and I sure can’t afford not to have their help.” But you would have thought the last election — and I’ve been remiss in not saying “thank you” for the last election — that they would not only realize that their significant major ideas and platform are out of step with the vast majority of the American people, they would have realized that if they showed a little courage and spoke up, they would not be punished, they’d be rewarded. The American people are looking for gumption. They’re looking for someone who represents something other than the conglomerate of interest groups. The vast majority of American people — liberals and conservatives — know that their interests are not represented by any single group.

You would have thought they would have changed. But they haven’t. Look, look at the Republican budget introduced by Congressman Paul Ryan this year. It’s just as devastating to the middle class as the budget we debated in our vice presidential debate (which was fun!)

But look what it does. It’s the same budget! We had a referendum on that budget … but once again they call for vouchering Medicare. Once again they cuts hundreds of thousands of kids from Headstart. Once again, millions, millions of people get kicked off of Medicaid. Once again it cuts research & development money from science, technology and medicine right when we’re at the cusp of so many significant breakthroughs. At a time when we’re finally regaining our footing in manufacturing, they continue to call for a territorial tax incentivizing manufacturing companies to go abroad so they’ll pay NO American taxes!

I remember meeting with two leading columnists before the election having breakfast in my home and they said, “Joe, how does this break? When does the fever break? How does this logjam break?”

And I said, “Oh, it will break because the intensity of the almost vitriol of my good friend Barack Obama when they are not able to deny him a second term, the fever will break and they’ll finally say, ‘Okay, we gotta start cooperating, we can make some serious compromises…'” I really believed it and I’m a pretty good politician!

But I was dead wrong. Dead wrong.

After a presidential election that was, in part, a referendum on tax fairness, they maintain and call for the same tax policy of cutting taxes for the wealthy, giving additional tax breaks for people making over $250,000, raising taxes on the middle class. That’s what they call for in their budget. And then along comes a new leader for the Republican Party, a Senator named Ted Cruz. I’m confident he’s an honorable man. But I’m also confident that this new leader does nothing more than reprise old, outworn, failed ideas. This is a guy, once again, calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. {…}

And he’s followed (or led, I’m not sure) by Rand Paul of Kentucky who has no problem with the NRA, nor do I, walking the halls of Congress making their case — it’s a free country — but when the families of Newtown showed up to make their case on gun safety and asked to meet with Senators just like NRA representatives and others do, he said we were using them as props.

When we say, as Democrats, that you have a right — a right — to health care, Paul Ryan says, quote, we “believe in slavery”.

Barack and I mean exactly what we say: that rebuilding the middle class is the defining issue of our time. Rebuilding the middle class. It’s a make or break moment and we intend to seize this moment. That’s why we ran. That’s why we ran again.

America, right now, is better positioned than any nation in the world, to be the leading economy of the 21st Century. I’m so tired of hearing about the inevitability of China. Carl and Debbie and I want China to expand, we want China to grow… we welcome the competition.

It has never — NEVER — been a good bet to bet against America! I want China to grow. I want China to be successful. But let’s put this in perspective. The per capita GDP of American citizens is TEN TIMES what it is in China. Our GDP is three times plus larger. America America has THE most productive workers in the world! America. That’s not Joe Biden talking about American chauvinism. It’s the Boston consulting group pointing out that American workers are three times as productive as workers in China. That’s why, in our first term, not just because I’m the son of an automobile man, not just because — although it is important — that the automobile is an iconic symbol of what made America great, no just because of that and in spite of the voices of caution and opposition, the President and I, Debbie, Carl, you’re whole delegation, we had NOT doubt that if we put our faith and commitment behind auto workers, they would rebuild this industry! That wasn’t based on hope, that was based on the history of this industry…

You know what my father would have been proudest of? … My dad, I swear to God, he would have been most proud of one thing today: America once again builds the best automobiles in the world, the highest quality automobiles in the world.

It makes sense for us to clean up the Great Lakes. It just makes sense. It makes economic sense. It makes environmental sense.

We will fight, as my mother would say, “tooth and nail”, the continued attempt to suppress the minority vote in this country which is the single most un-American thing any party has done. It’s un-American. You want to make sure folks vote? Try to tell them they can’t vote! … I met a lady 102 years old who stood in line for eight hours to vote. 102-years old. She said, “Honey, they’re not stopping me now.”

Think of what it’s become if you think the only way you can win is to stop certain people from voting or making it harder.

Folks, we have one critical task. All of what I’ve just said leads up to make one, simple, straightforward point: we will continue to be able to stop bad things but not do all the incredibly good things we can help do if we do not change 17 votes in the United States Congress… 17 votes, as the Dean [of the House John Dingell] will tell you, will allow the Democrats to once again control the United States Congress.

And you say, “Okay, Joe, even if you control the Congress, what would have happened in the Senate?” Let me tell you the reason why so many Senators who know better will tell me why they’re gonna vote against their interest, what they think is the right interest, and support their party’s ideological approach. They say, “Carl, Joe, don’t ask me to do this because if I do, it will never pass the House.” Those of you that know politics a little bit know a gigantic difference it will make if we have Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting there.

We Democrats stand with and for the American people and they understand that we know that the future of this country is going to continue to be built on the back of the middle class and we understand that it was organized labor that built that middle class. Therefore, labor must have a seat at the table. Not this “right to work for less” but the right to have a say in determining their own destiny. The interests of every single American. White collar. Blue collar. Non union. Union. Everyone. {…}

We see an America where my four granddaughters have every single opportunity my grandson has. We see an America where women actually make equal pay for the work they do. Where who you love should determine who you marry and nothing else. We see an America where no millionaire pays a lower tax than a middle class American. Where access to the ballot is protected and extended, not limited. Where access to college is based on only one criteria: qualification, regardless of the neighborhood in which you grew up. Where we lead the world again in the highest percentage of college graduates, where science and innovation are valued and encouraged and listened to. We see an America that once again leads the world in manufacturing, where Social Security is protected, Medicare is expanded, Medicaid fulfills its original mission.

Folks, look, the middle class is not a number… where I come from the middle class is a value system. Seriously. The middle class is a set of values. It’s a way of life. It’s about being able to own your own home, not just rent. It’s about being able to send your kid to a decent public school… What drove me the craziest last campaign … one thing that really offended me was when … they started talking about their dreams. As if, in the neighborhood where I grew up, we didn’t have dreams! As if my mother didn’t think I could be anything in the world I wanted to be — president, chairman of the corporation, a great athlete — nobody, nobody in the neighborhood I grew up in didn’t have dreams. It had nothing to do with their economic standing.

But they talk about it — like the 47-percent and all this malarkey… By the way, some people have asked about the definition of “malarkey” after I used it during the campaign — seriously it is now in the Oxford English dictionary. So I can contribute one thing to my Irish heritage: “malarkey” is now in the Webster’s dictionary!

We heard our dad say scores of times when someone loses their job, he’d say, “Joey, a job is about so much more than a paycheck. A job’s about your dignity. Your job’s about your place in the community. Folk’s it’s time to change this Congress so that we can get about the business of restoring the dignity and respect to so many decent hard-working, decent American people.

Senator Carl Levin says goodbye to Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Biden salutes the Michigan Dems