WASHINGTON (AP) — Chairman Joe Biden excoriated “MAGA Republicans” and the far-right on Monday, issuing personal Labor Day appeals to swing-state union members who he hopes will show up in force for his party in November.
“The middle class built America,” Biden said at a rally of workers in a park in Milwaukee. “Everyone knows this. 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, organized his own rally in the state.
The unofficial start of fall, Labor Day also traditionally kicks off a busy political season where campaigns jostle to excite voters for election day November 8. This is when the control of the House and Senate, as well as some of the main governorates of the country, will be decided.
Trump spoke Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, near Scranton, where Biden was born. The president made his own trip to Wilkes-Barre last week to discuss increased police funding, to speak out against GOP criticism of the FBI after the raid on Trump’s Florida estate and to affirm that new bipartisan measures on guns can help reduce violent crime.
Two days after that, Biden went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a prime-time speech denouncing the “extremism” of Trump’s staunchest supporters.
Trump has endorsed candidates in key races across the country and Biden warns that some Republicans now believe so strongly in Trumpism that they are willing to undermine core American values to promote it. The president said on Thursday that “blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence are fatal to democracy.”
Trump responded at his Saturday rally that Biden was “an enemy of the state.” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted on Monday that Biden “is the most anti-working class president in modern history,” noting that high inflation has slashed American wages, incomes and savings.
During his speech in Milwaukee, Biden said “not all Republicans are MAGA Republicans,” but singled out those who took Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign cry to dangerous or hateful lengths. He pointed to episodes like last year’s mob attack on the United States Capitol.
He said many GOP members are “full of anger, violence, hatred, division.”
“But together we can and must choose a different path,” Biden said. “A future of unity and hope. we will choose to build a better America.
The crowd laughed loudly as the president repeatedly berated Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin for voting against a Democratic-backed measure to cut prescription drug prices. The president also suggested Johnson and other congressional Republicans were out to undermine Social Security.
The union endorsements helped Biden overcome disastrous early results in Iowa and New Hampshire to win the 2020 Democratic primary, and ultimately the White House. He has since continued to praise the labor movement as president.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, called Biden’s defense of unions “critical” ahead of the midterm elections and said workers were to “mobilize on battlefields across the country to make sure workers show up.”
“We’re really excited for the president to speak directly to the workers, if given the chance he would join a union,” Henry said. She added: “This president has indicated which side he is on. And he is on the side of the workers. And that matters a lot.
In Pennsylvania, Biden addressed members of the United Steelworkers and noted that Trump was a “defeated former president.”
Referring to Trump’s persistent false allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Biden said, “You can’t love the country and say how much you love it when you only accept one of the two. results of an election: either you won or you were cheated.”
The two eternal presidential battleground states Biden visited on Monday could provide key measures of Democrats’ strength ahead of November. With inflation still raging and the president’s approval ratings slightly better but still low, it remains to be seen how much Biden can help his party in the top races – and how many candidates want him to try. .
That’s been on display in Milwaukee, where Democratic Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes is trying to unseat incumbent Johnson, but hasn’t appeared with Biden.
In the other race for the top of the state, Tim Michels, a Trump-endorsed construction executive, is trying to deny Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a second term. Evers spoke at the union event 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 choose a new governor, with state Attorney General John Shapiro facing another Trump-endorsed Republican, Doug Mastriano, and a new senator. This race is between Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and famed Trump-backed cardiologist Mehmet Oz. Fetterman spoke with Biden before the two gave speeches at West Mifflin.
The races in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could decide which party controls the Senate next year, while the winner of each gubernatorial post could influence the results of the 2024 presidential election. The stakes are particularly high given that some candidates aligned with Trump spread his lies about widespread fraud that didn’t happen in the 2020 election. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after that election, and the attorney general’s own Trump called the allegations false.
Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to organized labor during a breakfast with the Greater Boston Labor Council, saying, “When union wages go up, everyone’s wages go up.
“When unionized workplaces are safer, everyone is safer,” Harris said. “When unions are strong, America is strong.”
Associated Press writer Wilson Ring contributed to this report.