• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Should I Feel Guilty That Joe Biden Speaks to Me?

Former Vice-President Joe Biden has several clouds hanging over his candidacy, if not skeletons coming out of the closet. He’s 76 years old. If elected president, he would be the oldest elected president in U.S. history. He’s touchy-feely with women, many of whom have complained about how he made them feel uncomfortable. He can’t apologize enough for his overbearing, insensitive moderation of the Clarence Thomas hearings. He might have prevented Silent Clarence from being a conservative stalwart on the Supreme Court for 27 years. His treatment of Anita Hill was unacceptable. He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq; his support of capital punishment and harsher anti-crime legislation have proven counter-productive if not politically out of tune.

This is Biden’s third run for the presidency. He’s had a long career in public service, 36 years as a Senator and eight years as Vice-President. Many believe it’s time for a generational change. Like 77-year-old Bernie Sanders and 72-year-old Donald Trump, Biden has had his day in the sun.

There are many new faces. 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg ticks many boxes; mayor of a mid-Western city, Harvard/Oxford scholar, military service in Afghanistan; Catholic and gay. What about 38-year-old Tulsi Gabbard? She was the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of Congress. She served in the military in Iraq and Kuwait, supports abortion rights, opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership, and was critical of interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria. She also ticks many progressive boxes.

And we could go on with other strong contenders to lead the changing of the guard: 44-year-old Julian Castro, 46-year-old Beto O’Rourke, 50-year-old Senator Cory Booker, 52-year-old Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and 54-year-old Senator Kamala Harris. When Biden was first elected to the Senate, Buttigieg, Gabbard, and Castro had not been born yet, O’Rourke was two months old.

Given all the above as well as several scathing criticisms of Biden in CounterPunch, (see Paul Street, Jeremy Kuzmarov and Binoy Kampmark in recent articles and a damning Roaming Charges by Jeffrey St. Clair), why was I impressed by Biden’s first campaign speech in Pittsburgh?

Biden chose to open his campaign with a rally in Pennsylvania, a key electoral state in the Banquet Hall of Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh. While many candidates talk about the plight of the middle class, and several have made proposals about increasing taxes for the wealthy and plans for redistribution to help the middle class, Biden understands that in order for the middle class to get back on its feet unions will have to be re-established as the backbone of American workers.

You will say that Biden was merely being opportunistic by opening his campaign appealing to unions, that he knows that in order to win in 2020 the Democratic candidate must do well in the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan Wisconsin and Ohio, all states Trump carried in 2016.

But what does it mean to do well in those states? It means dealing with a decaying industrial base that has not evolved to new technology. Biden’s answer was not just opportunistic, it was pragmatic and went back to his own labor roots and the important role of unions in protecting workers.

Listen to the beginning of his speech. Taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves, he personally thanked the International Fire Fighters head and local chief by their first names, the head of the United Steel Workers by his first name, and then rapidly thanked the unions in the building trade, federation of teachers, government employees, carpenters and commercial workers, all without notes.

“I make no apologies. I am a union man,” Biden told the crowd “The country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge fund managers, it was built by you.”

That was where Biden was directly speaking to me, someone whose parents were both union representatives and who worked for a time for the International Labour Organization. Unions have become obsolete, you will counter. Through corruption and new technology, they have lost their relevance to the gig economy. Temporary positions are more and more common with more and more people taking on short-term engagements as freelancers or part-time hires. An Intuit study predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. What unions can do to promote employment and remedy the skewed income distribution remains to be seen. “A number of trade unions are in fact investing in the future of gig and informal and independent workers,” a former ILO official informed me. There is even an impressive 2018 ILO Report entitled “Organizing on-demand Representation, voice and collective bargaining in the gig economy.”

Is Biden being nostalgic about the role unions can play in the future? (Am I being nostalgic along with him?) Perhaps. And I do accept many of the criticisms about Biden that have appeared in CounterPunch. I am not sure I will vote for him. But when Thomas Edsall asks in a New York Times opinion piece “Can Democrats figure out how to get unions back into the equation in 2020?” Biden’s pitch to the unions should not be ignored.

I liked his rolling up his sleeve; I liked his familiarity with the unions and his condemnation of the 1%. For that I feel no guilt. His appeal was democratic, something the Democratic party has long gotten away from. So let’s give him some credit, fully recognizing the clouds will not disappear, and that there are real skeletons still coming out of the closet.

More articles by:
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?