Joe Biden’s Plan for the Economy
The campaign trail for the 2020 election hasn’t been well-trod this year, particularly by Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden. Between the worsening pandemic, social unrest, and President Trump’s mishandling of the nation’s crisis response, Biden hasn’t had much opportunity or need to make headlines.
But on July 9, Biden made front page news when he unveiled a major economic proposal. His proposal sounded strikingly similar to the campaign rhetoric Trump used in 2016. Biden’s plan for the economy was populist, leading many pundits to question if the 2020 campaign will be a battleground of populist promises.
What is populism?
Populism is a political approach that speaks to the needs and interests of ordinary people who feel misunderstood and ignored by the elite. Populist messages are often, but not always, aimed at rural and suburban audiences made up of middle-class and low-income families.
Trump’s populist promises to make America great
Donald Trump employed populist rhetoric throughout his 2016 campaign to great effect. He promised to bring back industry jobs for Americans whose jobs were sent overseas. He promised innovation that would revive dying blue-collar industries. And he promised infrastructure investments that would create thousands of jobs.
Like many, if not most, presidents before him, Trump has not made good on most of those promises. Many of his economic policies have benefitted the very wealthy, and he’s made little headway in revitalizing working-class life in America. However, his populist appeal is still strong, and millions of Americans still see Trump as the best hope for the country.
Biden’s populist plan to build back better
In Biden’s recent economic speech he revealed a plan to “Build Back Better.” He focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the country, on buying American-made products, and on investing in clean energy. His promises rival Trump’s 2016 promises and will give him a strong platform for debate, since Trump has not delivered everything he promised.
Biden’s economic platform is rooted in his own life experience. He grew up in a working-class home in a blue-collar area. And he has held onto that modest identity throughout his political career, famously commuting by train between his home in Delaware and Washington, DC.
Though his platform is different from the platforms of many other leading Democrats, it is a reasonable choice for “Uncle Joe” given his background. And it is a reasonable choice given the uphill battle he must fight against President Trump to win voters’ confidence that he not a member of the “liberal elite.”
Americans seek leaders who serve their interests
Biden’s plan for the economy doesn’t signal that his entire campaign will be based on populist messages. But it’s possible that both he and Trump will spend the majority of the election season making populist promises that will be hard to keep. Ultimately, Americans will vote for the leader who convinces them that their time in office will be spent serving the best interests of the electorate.