Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday forcefully pushed back against criticism that he is naïve to think Democrats can work with Republicans in Congress after President Donald Trump leaves office.
Biden has campaigned on his ability to cut deals with GOP leaders, arguing that some Republican lawmakers will change if Trump is ousted in 2020. His leading Democratic rivals have instead railed against a political system they say has long been broken and must be changed, and critics of Biden’s approach have said his approach ignores Republican efforts prior to Trump to obstruct Democrats, particularly during the Obama administration.
“If you start off with the notion there’s nothing you can do, well why don’t you all go home then, man? Or let’s start a real physical revolution if you’re talking about it. Because we have to be able to change what we’re doing within our system,” Biden said Monday at the Poor People’s Campaign Presidential Forum in Washington.
Biden’s comment came in response to a question from MSNBC’s Joy Reid, who asked how Biden would overcome the opposition to nearly all Democratic ideas during former President Barack Obama’s tenure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
“Joy, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naïve to think we have to work together,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive. Zero.”
Other Democrats have proposed major reforms that Biden did not address Monday that would give the party a way around the need to work with congressional Republicans. California Sen. Kamala Harris and other Democrats have unveiled lengthy lists of executive actions they would take.
Biden said he would campaign aggressively against Republicans who refuse his efforts to strike bipartisan deals.
“There are certain things where it just takes a brass-knuckle fight,” he said.
He pointed to his efforts in the 2018 midterms and in 2017 and 2018 special elections, saying he campaigned in 68 races across 22 states. Those stops included Alabama, where Doug Jones won a special election for a Senate seat, and Pennsylvania, where he was a high-profile backer of Rep. Conor Lamb in a deep-red district.
“You have to go out and beat these folks if they don’t agree with you, by making your case – and that’s what presidents are supposed to do: Persuade the public. Move people as to what’s going on,” Biden said.
He later added: “You go out and you beat them. You make the case. You make an explicit case.”
He touted his efforts to attract three Republican votes for the stimulus package in 2009. And he said the reason Obama was unable to use the bully pulpit to increase the popularity of his signature health care law was “because everything landed on President Obama’s desk but locusts at the time, he had no time to explain the Affordable Care Act.”
Biden told Reid that “you can shame people to do things the right way.”