DETROIT — Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden visited Michigan to speak at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit.
Netroots Nation is a popular annual gathering for progressively oriented bloggers, activists and other individuals in Michigan and beyond. The Vice President also visited Wayne County Community College and spoke to local Democrats during his time in the city.
During his speech he addressed the crowd on multiple issues, but focused on the idea of passion throughout, stressing the importance of advocating for what you believe in.
“What are our priorities?” he asked the crowd. “What is most important to us? What do we care about? What is it that will make America more fair, just and prosperous, not just for some? If everything is equally important to you than nothing is important to you. So we have to straightforwardly state without apology what we are for and why.”
In a moment of personal candor, he drew on his past experiences with civil rights issues, speaking to comments he made in 2012 in support of gay marriage that were considered stronger in tone than previous comments made by President Barack Obama on the issue at the time.
“I make no apologies,” Biden said. “My comments were not planned but was what planned and understood is that when I’m asked a direct question I give a direct answer.”
Along with LGBTQ issues, the Vice President touched on several other key Democratic policy points, including taxes on the wealthy, healthcare and supporting the middle class.
He celebrated efforts already made to decrease tax breaks for corporations and highlighted the Obama administration’s historic health care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Because of you, the law is now established,” he said. “I remember the first time I ran as a 29 year old kid, being branded a socialist in the state of Delaware because I argued that healthcare was a right and not a privilege.”
On supporting the middle class, he referred back to Detroit, talking about US automaker Henry Ford and his decision early in the company’s history to pay his workers much more than the current market rate.
“He understood that when people get paid more, the economy grows,” Biden said. “More products get bought. The richer get richer. The middle class grows. The poor have a way up. But that bargain’s broken.”
He also spoke on several facets of gender equality, and decried both violence against women and specifically campus sexual assault. Biden has long been involved in issues surrounding domestic abuse, sponsoring the Violence Against Women Act during his time as a senator.
He told the crowd that he believed the US was currently at a unique moment in time, occurring only three or four times before in its history, when individuals had the chance to have an influence on these and other top issues.
Following a protest by several activists in the audience, who chanted “Stop deporting our families”, Biden also discussed immigration, pausing his speech to lead a round of applause for the protestors before saying that the constant flow of immigration is part of what has contributed to the country’s ability to consistently reinvent itself.
“They are not the problem,” he said. “They fuel America’s dynamism.”
Biden also spoke more broadly about political climate. He said because of the continued, growing diversity of the US, more wedge issues and divisions are likely to arise, and highlighted the importance of consensus building as the only way for government to efficiently function.
“We can rise to what the American people demand and what our country needs at the same time,” he said. “I realize very few people agree with me on this. But we can debate without being demeaning. We should not hesitate for a moment to question repeatedly the flawed judgment of our opponents without having any necessity to question their motivations.”
He urged the audience to continue in their passion and energy, and thanked them for their previous efforts.
“We need you,” he said. “I need you. The country needs you. We’ve come a long way together. We’ve got a lot further to go to get home.”