Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., told the Los Angeles Times that he anticipated the victory of President-elect Donald J. Trump after watched a Trump rally at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and witnessed the lack of enthusiasm for Hillary R. Clinton.
“Son of a gun. We may lose this election,” Biden said, recalling his thoughts for the paper during an interview.
The vice president said that Trump’s connection with the audience, forced him to remember one of his father’s adages: “I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect them to understand it.”
It is an familiar theme for Biden, who instructs his speechwriters to mention his audiences’ concerns in his speeches, whether he agrees with them or not. “I was trying to be as tactful as I could in making it clear that I thought we constantly made a mistake of not speaking to the fears, aspirations, concerns of middle class people.”
It was that tact the vice president was expected to take during his own aborted presidential campaign, where he intended to maintain the policy trajectory of President Barack Obama, tempered by a spirit of comity and respect for the people on the other side of the aisle — “a campaign of the heart.”
In fact, he told the Times, unlike the former first lady, who called Trump’s supporters “irredeemable” and “deplorables,” Biden defended Trump’s voters as regular Americans, like the ones he knew growing up.
“They’re all the people I grew up with. They’re their kids. And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist. But we didn’t talk to them,” he said. “I believe that we were not letting an awful lot of people — high school-educated, mostly Caucasian, but also people of color — know that we understood their problems.”
There is a current of elitism running through the Democratic Party that offends regular people, who might not buy into the progressive agenda for their own reasons, he said. “In the meantime, you can’t eat equality, you know?”
The vice president, who made 83 campaign appearances for Clinton, said his misgivings were confirmed at a rally on the eve of Election Day with Clinton’s running mate Sen. Timothy Kaine (D-VA), when he said to his aides that he detected no excitement for the former secretary of state.
“You didn’t see any Hillary signs,” Biden recalled. “Every time I talked about Hillary they listened. But …”
Biden’s speech that night mirrors his message to Democrats now.
“God willing we’re going to win this, but there’s a lot of people who are going to vote for Donald Trump,” Biden told the crowd. “We’ve got to figure out why. What is eating at them? Some of it will be unacceptable. But some of it will be about hard truths about our country and about our economy. A lot of people do feel left out.”
After Jan. 20, Biden becomes a private citizen for the first time since he entered the Senate Jan. 3, 1973 — an institution he never left, because the vice president is the head of the upper chamber — but he told the paper he does not intend to leave the stage completely. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, expects to continue teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, and the Bidens are looking for a home in the Virginia suburbs of the District of Columbia.