Former Vice President Joe Biden admitted “a lot of people were left behind” during his and President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House.
Biden, who has pitched himself as the only Democrat capable of winning back the white working class in 2020, made the admission when being interviewed for a profile in The New York Times that was published on Tuesday.
“A lot of people were left behind,” the frontrunner said when discussing the Obama administration’s efforts to combat the recession. “In areas where people were hard hit, I don’t think we paid enough attention to their plight.”
Despite the confession, Biden stopped short of laying the culpability on Obama. Instead, he claimed the president and others were preoccupied by more pressing issues during their eight years in office.
“Everything landed on the president’s desk but locusts,” Biden said in describing the early days of the administration. He added that Obama was so busy he “didn’t have time to breathe.”
The former vice president attributed the “lack of messaging” and Obama’s reluctance to “promote his successes.”
“He told me that he had encouraged Obama to promote his successes more — to “explain to people how we got where we were now and why it happened” — but that Obama was resistant. “The president said: ‘Joe, I’m not taking a victory lap. We have so much more work to do,’ ” Biden recalled.”
According to Bide, those failures helped lead to the rise and eventual election of President Donald Trump. In 2016, voters without a college degree backed Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 52 percent to 44 percent. The share was significantly larger among non-college educated whites who broke for Trump by the largest margin since 1980—67 percent to 28 percent.
Although the numbers of such voters are decreasing nationally, non-college educated whites are still a sizable population in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio—states that put Trump over the top in the electoral college.
Exit polling showed that most of these voters, many of whom identify as conservative Democrats, were inspired to join Trump’s movement because of his nationalist views on trade and economics. Many especially felt left behind by the Democrats’ embrace of globalization under President Bill Clinton and the “new economy” during Obama’s tenure.
Biden’s admission about having failed the white working class is surprising, considering he not only embraced the same policies as both Obama and Trump, but has spent considerable time positioning himself as Obama’s rightful heir.
Just last month, after a disappointing performance in the first Democrat presidential debate, Biden invoked Obama’s legacy during an address in front of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalition.
“My president gets much too little credit for all that he did, he was one of the great presidents of the United States of America and I’m tired of hearing about what he didn’t do,” Biden told the audience.