WASHINGTON (TBEN) — President Joe Biden Monday denounced “MAGA Republicans” and the far right, holding personal Labor Day appeals to swing-state union members he hopes will take effect for his party in November.
“The middle class built America,” Biden told a workers’ rally in the park in Milwaukee. “Everyone knows that. But unions built the middle class.”
Later Monday, he flew to West Mifflin, outside of Pittsburgh — returning to Pennsylvania for the third time in less than a week and just two days after his predecessor, Donald Trump, staged his own rally in the state.
The unofficial start of fall, Labor Day, also traditionally kicks off a politically busy season as campaigns scramble to excite voters for Election Day on November 8. That’s when control of the House and Senate, as well as some of the best governors in the country, will be decided.
Trump spoke Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, near Scranton, where Biden was born. The president made his own Wilkes-Barre trip last week to discuss increasing funding for police, dismiss the GOP’s criticism of the FBI after the raid on Trump’s Florida estate, and argue that new, bipartisan gun control can help reduce violent crime.
Two days later, Biden went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a prime-time speech denouncing the “extremism” of Trump’s fiercest supporters.
Trump has supported candidates in key races across the country, and Biden is warning that some Republicans now believe so strongly in Trumpism that they are willing to undermine core American values in order to promote it. The president said on Thursday that “blind loyalty to a single leader, and a willingness to commit political violence, is fatal to democracy.”
Trump replied at his Saturday meeting that Biden is “an enemy of the state.” Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel tweeted Monday that Biden is “the most anti-labor president in modern history,” noting that high inflation had taken a bite out of American wages, income and savings.
During his Milwaukee address, Biden said, “Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican,” but singled out those who have shouted Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign to dangerous or hateful lengths. He highlighted episodes such as last year’s mafia attack on the US Capitol.
He said many in the GOP are “full of anger, violence, hatred, division”.
“But together we can and must choose a different way forward,” Biden said. “A future of unity and hope. we are going to choose to build a better America.”
The crowd cheered as the president repeatedly reprimanded Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson for voting against a Democrat-backed measure designed to lower prescription drug prices. The president also suggested that Johnson and other congressional Republicans were willing to undermine Social Security.
The union approvals helped Biden overcome the disastrous early finish in Iowa and New Hampshire to win the 2020 Democratic primary and ultimately the White House. Since then, he has continued to praise the labor movement as president.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, called Biden’s campaigning for unions ahead of the midterm elections “critical” and said workers “should mobilize on battlefields across the country to ensure that working people to show up”.
“We’re very excited to have the president speak directly to workers about the opportunity to join a union,” Henry said. She added: “This president has indicated which side he is on. And he is on the side of working people. And that is extremely important.”
In Pennsylvania, Biden addressed members of the United Steelworkers and noted that Trump is a “former, defeated president.”
Referring to Trump’s persistent false claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Biden said, “You can’t love the country and say how much you love it if you only accept one of the two outcomes of an election: you won. or you were cheated.”
Both perennial presidential battlefield states Biden visited on Monday could provide important measures of Democrat strength before November. With inflation still raging and the president’s approval ratings slightly better but remaining low, it remains to be seen how much Biden can help his party in top races — and how many candidates want him to try.
That was on display in Milwaukee, where Democratic Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes tries to evict the incumbent Johnson, but he didn’t show up with Biden.
In the state’s other top race, Tim Michels, a Trump-backed construction manager, is trying to deny the Democratic administration Tony Evers a second term. Evers spoke at the labor event that Biden addressed and briefly greeted the president backstage.
“We have a president who understands the challenges working families face,” Evers told the crowd. He said Biden “hasn’t forgotten that working families matter, not just on Labor Day, but every day of the year.”
Pennsylvania voters elect a new governor, pitting state attorney general John Shapiro against another Trump-approved Republican, Doug Mastriano, and a new senator. That race is between Democratic Lt. gov. John Fetterman and Trump-backed celebrity heart doctor Mehmet Oz. Fetterman spoke to Biden before both delivered speeches in West Mifflin.
The Pennsylvania and Wisconsin races could decide which party controls the Senate next year, while the winner of each governorship could influence the results of the 2024 presidential election. The stakes are particularly high given that some Trump-aligned candidates have been spreading lies about widespread fraud that did not occur during the 2020 election. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after that election. and Trump’s own attorney general called the claims bogus.
Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to organized labor at a breakfast meeting with the Greater Boston Labor Council, declaring, “When union wages go up, everyone’s wages go up.”
“If union workplaces are safer, everyone is safer,” Harris said. “When unions are strong, America is strong.”
The Bharat Express News writer Wilson Ring contributed to this report.