Former Vice President Joe Biden, currently the Democratic frontrunner, clashed with his primary rivals on Monday over whether it is “naive” to try and work with and win over Republicans in a post-Donald Trump era, The Guardian writes.
Appearing at an event with other Democratic candidates for the first time in the 2020 race, Biden spoke at a forum in Washington organised by The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
The Reverend William Barber, the co-chair of the campaign, urged the audience to refrain from cheering or clapping any of the nine candidates but rather focus on listening. “If you don’t do that, the media will misinterpret it, and our issues won’t get out,” he said. “The movement is bigger than any one person.”
Even so, some of those present could not resist generating some noise for Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whereas the reaction to Biden was somewhat cooler, The Guardian adds.
Joy Reid, an MSNBC host who moderated the question and answer sessions, asked Biden how he would get his plans through a resistant Congress, noting that, when he was vice-president, the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell considered anything that came from the White House “dead on arrival”.
Biden fixed his gaze on the sitting Reid, walked closer and leaned towards her as he replied: “Joy, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together. The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive. Zero.”
He acknowledged “there are certain things where it takes a brass knuckle fight” but said a president has to use the power of persuasion. “You’ve got to make it clear to Republicans that you understand on some things there’s a rationale for compromise.”
Biden, who made several references to Barack Obama during some meandering answers, added: “You can shame people to do things the right way.”
During the campaign so far, the former vice-president has implied that Trump is an aberration, and that his defeat could herald a return to the kind of bipartisan cooperation he enjoyed in the Senate with the likes of John McCain. Other candidates, however, have suggested that Trump is a symptom of a far deeper malaise.
Warren, who is gaining on Biden in opinion polls, told the forum: “Let’s be clear, if we’re in the majority and Mitch McConnell wants to block us on the kinds of things our country needs and the kinds of things they elected me and other people to enact, then I’m all for getting rid of the filibuster. We cannot let him block things the way he did during the Obama administration. I’ve been there when it was one set of rules when President Obama was president and now it’s a different set of rules now that they’ve got Trump in the White House. We can’t do that as Democrats. We have to be willing to get in this fight.”
The Senate filibuster is a gift to obstructionists, enabling a minority of senators to use procedure to prevent a bill from being voted on by the full Senate by extending debate.
In an energetic performance, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado also suggested a combative approach: “I wouldn’t want any of us to be as malevolent or as cynical as Mitch McConnell, but could we please just be as strategic as he is?”
Raising his left hand, Bennet almost shouted: “We have a climate denier in the White House! The majority of the American people believe that climate change is real, that humans are contributing to it and we should deal with it urgently. But we have a climate denier in there who ran proudly on that and the Senate is full of climate deniers as well.”
Rather than trying to persuade them, the senator argued in favour of out-organising them and building a coalition, including farmers, that could overcome McConnell. “I do not believe we can change all this in one election,” he added. “I think this is going to take the rest of my lifetime, election after election after election, starting with the defeat of Donald Trump.”