Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gov. Gov, you've been a great friend and a great partner on COVID, the economy, and so much more.
And like most everybody in this room who is involved in public life, I remember them that was there first. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made a big difference in my being able to stand here as President of the United States. Many of you in this audience did as well.
I know you've been here a long time, so I'm not going to make a long, formal speech to you. But look, you know, I want to thank Jaime Harrison for his leadership. And you know, if things were working okay until we got to South Carolina in the primary, then we won every single county. So thank you, Jaime. Thank you.
I want to thank all of you for the support and generosity. I can go around the room and at least 15 of you were deeply involved with my campaign—and even before the campaign, in my career. So thank you for all you've done.
Look, you know, I'm proud of the progress we've made. There's a lot more to do, but I'm proud of the progress we've made.
We've talked about how—you know, people say, "Well, you know, Biden won." Well, it was a fairly low bar to get over because of the nature of how much the last guy changed American politics. He changed it in a way that made it more petty.
When I ran—you may remember—no reason why you should, but I remember I said, "I'm running to restore the soul of America; to rebuild the backbone of the country, the middle class of America; and to try to unite the country because democracies can't function very well unless we can arrive at consensus."
I also said at the time, and I've been saying since then, that we're really in a battle worldwide between democracies and oligarchies. The fact of the matter is, I've spent a lot of time with Xi Jinping—they tell me more than any other world leader has. When he was Vice President and I was Vice President, I traveled 17,000 miles with him. Spent a lot of time since he's been—since I got elected President talking to him. And he's a very bright guy, but very—he doesn't have a democratic—with a small "d"—bone in his body.
But he knows exactly what he wants. He knows exactly what he's trying to do. And he's very straightforward. He makes the point that, at this inflection point in history, world history—and it comes about every four or five generations—this fundamental change that takes place not because of any one particular leader, but because the nature of the change occurring in the world, whether it's technology or anything else.
And he thinks that democracies require consensus, they can't operate quickly enough in this changing world.
Your children are going to see more change in the next 10 years than we've seen in the last 50 years—the last 100 years, possibly—in the world and in the United States. And so there's a lot at stake—a whole lot at stake.
And I believe—and I come at this with an enormous sense of optimism. I don't think there's any nation in the world that's better prepared to deal with the changing world than the United States of America.
We're the only nation in the world that has come out of every crisis stronger than we went into it. Not a joke. Think about it. Every crisis we've ever encountered—war, famine, whatever it was—we've come out stronger than when we went in. And that's been my objective, because I believe the American public and the world is ready.
When I was first elected, I attended my first meeting of the G-7—the democracies in Europe and a few in Asia—in England. And I sat down and I said, "America is back." And they looked at me—two of them, I will not, because it was—they were private meetings—not say who said it—but two of the world leaders looked at me and said, "But for how long?" "But for how long?"
One of the things I think we sort of underestimate is that imagine what we'd be thinking if tomorrow we went back and the news on television showed a group of hundreds of people—not at war—breaking down the doors of the British Parliament, killing two or three of the people who work there—guards there—and doing what was done on the 6th of January. Imagine what we'd think.
We are the democracy of the world. And it really is true. It's not—that it's not chauvinism about America. It's just a fact.
One of the things I realized that—Senator Braun and I worked a long time together. One of the things I realized, Carol, was that I knew that we were the essential nation as—as the former Secretary of State, who we just buried, would say—but I didn't fully appreciate it until I became President. It's not about Joe Biden; it's about the office of the Presidency.
The rest of the world looks to us. They expect us to lead. I'm not joking. We are the essential nation. We are the essential nation. And that gives us so many incredible opportunities if we're not afraid to take them and move them, and take on this new sort of petty, mean-spirited notion that has guided the other team.
There's still a lot of good Republicans in the Senate. But it's amazing to me how they're cowered by Trump and how he has such concern.
I've had—I, obviously, will never name them, but I have—six of them have told me—Senators I used to serve with; we served with; some of them you served with, Carol—said that: "You know, I agree with you on such and such a thing. But if I vote for it, they'll primary and I'll lose my seat." Doesn't go to political courage, but it goes to the recognition that there still are a lot of Republicans who want to get things done.
But we have to take on the—MAGA Republicans—"Make America Great Again" Republicans. I think they're the most extreme party. And that's what the Republican Party is now. Not everybody Republican believes that. But the fact of the matter is, they run the show, the MAGA Republicans.
The idea that they do the things that they're doing now, and the things that they're saying—I think if we had sat down here 5 years ago, 7 years ago, 8 years ago, and said this was going to happen, you'd all look at me—and I would have thought myself—nuts saying some of the things that they're saying. But it really is beyond the pale.
You know, one of the things that I think we have to do is not just talk about what we've done—and we don't do that enough, and that's my fault.
You know, I remember, with Barack, when we passed the Affordable Care Act. I said, "Barack, you ought to take a victory lap." And I remember what he said to me. He said: "We don't have time, Joe. There's too much to do." Everything but locusts has landed on his desk. Locusts landed on my desk. [Laughter]
But really, think about what we've done so far. You know, if you just do it in terms of just practical—practical—application of what has usually been the measures by which people measure whether or not an administration is functioning, we're in a situation where we've gone from 2 million people with vaccinations when we took over office to 220 million fully vaccinated. We've gone from jobs—a jobs report to 428,000 jobs last month, 8.3 million jobs my first 15 months in office—more than any President has in American history. Well, it's not about me.
Thank you, but it really isn't about me. What it's about is that—you know, the Republicans say that, well, the things we did with the Recovery—with the legislation we passed is causing inflation.
Well guess what? The first year in office, we've reduced the deficit by $350 billion. In fact—$350 billion—reduced the deficit. And this year, we're on track, in the next 2 months, to reduce the deficit by 1 trillion, 500 billion dollars. Never happened before in American history.
But look, the biggest investments that have ever been made—and the Governor talks about it and does it really well on what he's—and how he uses the funding—is in infrastructure. One-billion-two-hundred-million [one-trillion-two-hundred-billion]* dollars in infrastructure.
We used to have the number-one infrastructure in the world—the world. That's what drove our growth. That's what drove our prosperity. That's what moved us. We're now number 14 in the world—the United States of America. China is now number two.
And look, the idea that we've sat around and haven't moved until now—but now, we—there's, you know, 6,000—60,000 miles of road in your State that we're going to be able to take care of. No, I mean it. I know you know it. You know it better than anybody. But there's a whole range of——
[At this point, a cell phone rang.]
I know that's Trump calling. He always does this when I talk. [Laughter]
But, all kidding aside, what we're doing here is that we've made the biggest investments in infrastructure; historic investments in solar, wind, and battery technology, notwithstanding the fact that we still need one vote to get the $508 billion that is still left in my legislation that we thought we were going to get passed. We were one vote short, but we're going to get it done. We're going to get it done.
But here's the deal: The historic investments are one thing, but you know, one of the things I've tried to do when I got elected—and because I talked with many of you about this in detail beforehand—I said I'd have administration that looked like America—an administration that looked like America. We have the most diverse administration in American history by a longshot—by a longshot. Over half our major appointees—both Senate confirmed as well as appointed—are women.
We're in a situation where we have a significant number of all minorities that are—look, I mean, we've appointed more—more Circuit Court of Appeals judges who are Black women than every other President in American history.
And we have a—we have an Associate Justice about to go on the Court, God willing, who is brilliant. But I tell you, she's going to be the first—I made a commitment there'd be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. And it matters.
And I think because—because of how outrageous some of the things that former President Trump has done and said, I think we found ourselves at a position where it was almost like: "How could that happen? How can that be?" And I think, in a sense—until we got elected and we changed Presidents, I think people started to lose faith in the capacity of the American Government to deliver—to deliver, to make life better for people.
We have so many opportunities available to us. So many opportunities.
We have to remember that we're talking about a relatively small number of people who are the MAGA Republicans. We may be talking about as much as one-third of the electorate. That's more than I'd ever thought would occur.
But we've got to take the fight to them. We've got to make our case and make it very strongly, in my opinion. And you know, we have a strong record to run on. The economy is—our economy is one of those that we believe is from the bottom up and the middle out. Because when the middle class does well, everybody does just fine. The wealthy do very well. The poor have a road up. And the middle class has built the country. That's who's built the country.
We find ourselves protecting and expanding civil rights. Well, we've got to speak out more. We've got to make sure that we make our case and keep repeatedly making our case.
And we have to have—you know, reasserting America's leadership in the world, because we are.
Look at—I'll bet you—I can tell you that there are—a vast majority of the foreign policy establishment and military establishment are surprised at how incompetent the Russians have been so far—looking at how they've conducted themselves. And yet we tended to think they were 10 feet tall—many folks.
It doesn't mean we won't—I'm not going to put a single American troop in Ukraine. But we're going to make sure Ukraine has what they need to be able to defend themselves.
But here's the deal: The point is that I think we have to start looking at the world as it really is. You've heard me say before, I think we're—you know, about every—anywhere from three to five generations, we reach an inflection point of world history where things began to change, whether it's because of technology, the environment, or changes in the relationship amongst nations. They change in a big way. And we have to be in a position to understand that we have the capacity to try to make sure that in this inflection point, we know what we're doing.
And we have an opportunity to increase—increase not to decrease—the whole notion of equity in the world, the whole notion of how we look at one another, the whole notion of—
For example, you know, Putin is in a situation—and my last discussion with him was a while ago—was, you know, his—the tundra in the Arctic in Russia is burning, burning, burning. No, I mean, literally burning—leaking methane, which is so much more dangerous than any other thing that can affect the environment. And it's not going to—it's not going to freeze again.
So there's so many things that have to be dealt with, but they present enormous opportunities if we are—and gather ourselves together and figure out who—remind ourselves of who we are and what we want to do.
And look, the other thing I'd say is that, you know, the whole idea—if this draft opinion in the Supreme Court turns out to be the opinion of the Supreme Court, it is everything that some of us talked about before.
You may remember I led the fight to defeat Robert Bork's nomination as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, because I was convinced—when we started off that nominating hearing, I said—because I'd read everything he had ever written and every decision he'd ever written—and he was a bright—he was a brilliant guy.
And I said to him—I said, "Judge"—he had been a judge. And I said, "Judge, let me describe to you what I think your constitutional philosophy is and mine, and you tell me whether we differ, whether I accurately am portraying it."
And I said: "Judge, you believe that the Constitution—the Ninth Amendment is an inkblot in the Constitution and, secondly, that there is no such thing as a right to privacy in the Constitution. And you believe the rights you possess are because the Government gave them to you. They gave them to you. I believe the rights I possess are because I'm a child of God, because I just exist. And I, by implication, gave up some of those rights to the Government for purposes of making society function." And I went on from there. And he said, "I agree, it's exactly the difference."
Well, look, what we're talking about here. It's not only the brutality of taking away a woman's right to control her own body and all the damage that does physically, psychologically, practically.
But it also, if you read the opinion—if it turns out to be the same opinion—basically says there is no such thing as a right to privacy. Mark my words: If that decision holds, it's not only we're going to be fighting for a woman's right to control her own body and the brutality that goes along with having to give birth in a circumstance that is something beyond what—that can be tolerated, but what else is going to happen?
Mark my words: They're going to go after the right of the—Supreme Court decision on the right of same-sex marriage. They're going to go after—they're going to—we're going to be back to Griswold versus Connecticut, where there was a time in Connecticut law where it said a married couple, in the privacy of their own bedroom, cannot use contraception; it was a decision—the Government can make the decision you can't do that.
You're going to see these decisions up for grabs and further split the United States. We're going to be arguing about things we shouldn't have to argue about.
So I think it's important that as we go forward—and you're going to hear me talking more about not only what we've done, but what they're trying to do. For example, if you take a look at what the leader—their—the head of their campaign committee, the distinguished Senator from—Republican Senator from Florida—he talks about that what he has in mind is that they're going to—he's laid out the only plan put forward in the last years, what the Republican Party stands for, what they're going to run on.
And what they say is—it's really quite basic. They're making the point that what happens is that what they're going to be—we're going to increase taxes on 90 percent of the American public, people making a—excuse me, 70 percent of the American public—people making under $100,000 a year are going to have tax, because the notion is everybody should pay something. Even a family that's raising three kids, in fact is making 25-, 30,000 bucks a year, they should be paying Federal taxes. Nothing for people who can afford to pay more.
Secondly, there is a provision in the bill they put forward—the law they're proposing—that every 5 years, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be on the chopping block, that Congress will have to affirmatively again vote to put them into the law. Otherwise, they will—it goes out of the law.
And you know what they're going to do, those of you hold public office. If that were ever to pass and they were to take control, what they're going to do is, they'll use that as a bargaining chip. They'll say, "Unless you vote for such and such, unless you end your attempt to try to force environmental regulations in place, we're going to cut the following elements of one of those programs."
The idea that—and it's in writing—that every 5 years you'd have to reauthorize Social Security, which you've paid into your whole life—have to reauthorize that? I won't go through it all, and I'm going—taking too much of your time. But is really a genuinely radical agenda.
And I think we have to point out how radical it is—how radical it is—so people are reminded what's at stake here, not only internationally, but domestically, in terms of people's basic fundamental rights, in terms of education.
Did you ever think we'd be in a position in the year 2022—we'd be talking about banning books in schools? I mean, you know, the idea that you cannot mention—you cannot mention to the school. What's going to happen to a gay child, an LBTQ [LGBTQ]* child in school? I mean, this thing—it's one thing to take on Disney World. They're going to storm Cinderella's castle before this is over.
But I mean it. Think about it. If I told you these things, I think you'd think I was crazy. You may think I'm crazy anyway, but—[laughter]—but—so, folks, we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work. I think we can pick up three Senate seats. And I think we can increase our majority in the House, but we have to do it by more than just a couple of votes. We have to do it by more than a couple of votes, because it's getting much too close.
If in fact they were to win back the House and/or the Senate, we've got a different world we're in. We got a different world we're in.
And so, again, I'm taking too much of your time. But that's why what you're doing is so damn important. It really makes a difference. It makes a gigantic difference.
And so we're going to be hopefully having the DNC spend a lot more time and, quite frankly, money making the larger generic case. And we can do it honestly, without having to exaggerate or make up things that are not on the docket.
And so I want to thank you all so very, very much for the time and the effort. And I realize your time is even more valuable than your contribution because you all are people of consequence who are—have a lot you have to do.
But look, the—we have to make sure we keep this clear contrast on either side. This is—as I said, this is not your father's Republican Party. This is a different breed of cat. I mean, all kidding aside, it really is. It really is.
There's some really decent Republicans in the House and the Senate, but they're so overwhelmed and intimidated. And some of them are just leaving. They're giving up their seats and just moving out of public life.
And you know, if the Court follows this leaked opinion, it has the potential to generate significant enthusiasm to get out and vote, but it also has an enormous potential if we fail, what that will mean—what that will mean.
And so, folks, we—these guys are doing everything—I got involved in politics—I'll end with this—because of civil rights. I come from a State that has the eighth largest Black population in America as a percent of population: Delaware. We have—we're the eighth largest population.
As a matter of fact, we were one of those border States in the Civil War. We were a slave State, to our shame, like Maryland and—anyway.
And so it is—that's what got me involved. I used to—we moved from Wilmington—from, excuse me, Scranton, Pennsylvania, where there were very few African Americans, down to Wilmington, to a place called Claymont, Delaware, which was a—it sits on the border of the Pennsylvania State line, where there are more oil companies and refineries than in Houston, Texas.
And I went to a little Catholic school called Holy Rosary, which is—I was in third grade. And it was up what they call a Philadelphia pike, a four-lane access road. It was—where it went through the little town of Claymont. It was—I-95 is. It replaced it, in effect. And I remember asking my mother—it was too dangerous to walk up because of the streets you had to cross. So my mother would drive me from this apartment complex we moved into.
And I remember, dropped off in the parking lot, I'd always see this bus go by. And they're all Black kids in the bus. At the time, they weren't called "Black kids"; there were "Negroes" on the bus. And I asked why. She told me they weren't allowed to go to school—and this was before Brown versus the Board in Delaware, which—and we were one of the cases—Delaware was—in Brown versus the Board. And I thought to myself, "What's going on?"
But the point is that—think about it. Think about it: where we are today, what we're fighting over. There are more restrictive efforts to restrict the right to vote today than there'd been in my whole political career. I thought we were well by that.
I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate, and I was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. I got Strom Thurmond to vote to extend it. Not a joke.
And I thought: "Well, my God, we can do it. We can defeat hate." But I made a big mistake, a lesson I learned: Hate never goes away; it just hides. It hides under the rocks. And when somebody breathes oxygen under those rocks, it comes out in ways that we never thought it would—I never thought I'd see again.
And look where we are now. Look at all the States that have changed the means by which people can vote, letting the States decide whether or not the vote counts, count the vote. I mean, come on. What in God's name is going on?
So there's so much at stake. I'm convinced we will succeed if we make our case. I'm convinced that we will be able to do this. But we also have to understand that if we miss, what's at stake?
A distinguished Senator from your neighboring State of Wisconsin, Ron Johnson—he's made it very clear. He's going after—repeal the Affordable Care Act again. We've expanded it so people are saving 2,400 bucks a year on their health care costs.
And you know, we're going to need to control the House and the Senate. And we need your support to reach out to those registered voters and convince them that it's worth their effort, that it matters. It matters to us a great deal. It matters to them.
And I think that—it sounds a little melodramatic, but I can say this to a sophisticated audience involved in politics, as you all are. I really do think we're still in the battle for the soul of America. Not a joke.
I wasn't going to run again, as Billy Brodsky knows. We went to school together. I really wasn't. I was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. I was enjoying it.
But when those folks came marching out of the fields in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches—torches, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile—the same anti-Semitic bile chanted in the streets of everywhere from Nuremberg to Berlin in the early thirties—exact language, by the way. Go check it out. Carrying swastikas, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan. And a young woman was killed in the process. And the then-President of the United States was asked—was asked the question, "What do you think?" He said there are very good people on both sides.
We can't let this happen, guys. So, we have to—we have to—and it's going to be hard. It's going to be hard, because inflation is going to scare the living hell out of everybody. I was raised in a family where when gas prices went up significantly and food went up, it was—it mattered to my family. It mattered.
We're making progress, but there's going to be a way to go. Our inflation rate is lower than almost any other nation—industrial nation in the world. We're in a situation where we find ourselves with supply chain problems and Putin's gas tax in the extreme.
But we have a problem we have to deal with. In the meantime, we can't take our eye off all that could happen if we do not prevail. And so I'm counting on you all. I really mean it. And the DNC is going to have to play an increasingly important role in how we get this done.
I apologize for going on so long, but thank you very much for listening.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:39 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis Chicago hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Jay R. "J.B." Pritzker of Illinois; Jaime R. Harrison, chairman, Democratic National Committee; President Xi Jinping of China; former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; former President Barack Obama; Supreme Court Associate Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson; President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; Sen. Richard L. Scott Florida, in his capacity as chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee; and William J. Brodsky, chairman, Options Solutions, LLC. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355866