HOLLYWOOD — Former Vice President Joe Biden says Democrats can rebound from their stinging November loss to Donald Trump if they start talking to “frightened” voters and the middle class again and treat opponents with “dignity.”
Biden, who hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run for president, delivered 50-minute speech to 1,300 Democratic activists on Saturday night at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual Leadership Blue fundraising dinner at the Diplomat Beach Resort. It was vintage Biden — shouting at times, stage-whispering at others, digressing into Senate cloakroom tales from the 1970s and invoking his childhood home of Scranton, Pa., and his father’s advice.
Biden gave a plug for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s 2018 re-election bid and also gave a shout-out to state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.
He didn’t mention Trump by name, but noted that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes nationwide than “the other guy.” Trump won more electoral votes by edging Clinton in Florida and other states that President Barack Obama had carried before.
“There’s that slice of people we had — Barack and I had, Democrats have always had– that don’t think we understand them. It’s not a lot, but it’s the difference in the election. We need to let them know we understand their fears, concerns. And that we have some real answers,” Biden said.
“We have to make it clear what we stand for. We have to refocus our attention on how to unite America and the values for which we stand,” said Biden.
“We can’t get bogged down — I hope don’t offend anybody here — in this phony debate going on in the Democratic Party. The Hobson’s choice we have been given is do we become less progressive and focus on working folk, or forget about working folk and become more progressive. There is no need to choose. They are not inconsistent.”
Biden offered a harsh analysis of the way Trump won in 2016.
“This past election cycle that we just went through churned up some of the ugliest realities that persist in our country. Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric, stroking some of the darkest emotions in this nation,” Biden said.
“I thought we had passed the days when it was acceptable for a politician to bestow legitimacy on hate speech and fringe ideologies,” said Biden. But, he said, “Notwithstanding the base appeal that was made, there are a lot of people out there who are both afraid and were susceptible to this negative appeal.”
But Biden said Democrats need to treat the voters they lost with respect.
“We have to treat the opposition with more dignity,” Biden said.
He predicted things will turn around for Democrats.
“I assure you, that the state of the nation we are in today will not be sustained by the American people…We are better than this,” Biden said.
“We have to pick our heads up and start thinking big again,” he said. “The nation is waiting for the Democratic Party to reassert itself.”