Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Epsteins, for hosting us and for all that you do in so many ways for so many people. There’s truly not much that any of us can do by ourselves. It really does take a community of folks who care about our country. We all play in different positions, but I think we’re playing on the same team.
Which actually brings me to — I’m just going to share with you some thoughts about this moment and where I think we are.
So today, I actually spent the day — I flew out of D.C. this morning and spent the day in Boston, because in the last few weeks since the Dobbs decision came down, I’ve decided I wanted to get on the road and meet with the folks who are on the ground doing the important work that must be done right now, especially since the Dobbs decision made clear that this is now being pushed to the states, sadly.
For those of us who have been focused on the importance of understanding the difference between states’ rights and what we need to do at the federal level, we are now revisiting a moment where we’re looking at those issues in a very profound way.
And so I traveled to Boston to meet with the Governor of Massachusetts, Governor Baker, who has been signing some really outstanding legislation and, I think, making clear is a very important point that, on some issues, we really should understand they’re just fundamental to who we are, who we believe ourselves to be as Americans. And we should have the ability, combined with our conviction, in terms of what’s best for our country, to then understand that we can approach some of these issues in a nonpartisan way.
So I was with the governor and met, I don’t know, at least a couple dozen members of the state legislature. As I’ve been in Indiana, I’ve been in Florida, New Jersey, all over the country meeting with folks — some in re- — so-called red states, so-called blue states, talking about where we are.
And again, what has prompted these trips in the last few weeks has been the Dobbs decision because, of course, the United States Supreme Court took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America. And it will and is already having a profound impact on human beings, on individuals, but on the very principles that were part of the — there’s a spirit of the founding of our country, those principles being the principle of freedom and liberty.
And so I’ve been meeting with these folks to talk about what is at stake right now and also what can be done. And, of course, you all are here in this heat, but this incredibly beautiful setting, understanding that we are 96 days away from a very important election — the midterms — that in many ways will be an inflection point on this issue.
In that, in 96 days, we have the opportunity around the country to determine whether we will have a pro-choice Congress.
Our President, Joe Biden — who many of you know and have supported for many, many years — there’s so many incredible things about him, and one is that he is a lifelong and devout public servant who takes seriously the importance of traditions and protocols around the most deliberative body in the world, the United States Senate. And Joe Biden has had enough when it comes to the filibuster — which is part of a long tradition of the Senate — (applause) — to say, “Enough is enough. I’m not going to let the filibuster get in the way on the issue of choice and on the issue of voting rights.”
And so that brings me to the point, which is also that what happened in the Dobbs decision is a moment that is clear about what is at stake. But understand how it is connected to so many other issues that are present in our nation right now that mean that there is so much at stake.
I asked my team to do a Venn diagram. And one circle being which states do we see an attack on women’s reproductive health and choice. Another circle, the attacks on voting rights. And another circle, the attack on LGBTQ rights. You would not be surprised to know that there is a significant overlap.
And the next iteration of that Venn diagram — I’ve asked them — I want to also put on a circle where we’re seeing books bans, where we’re seeing attacks on immigrants.
And it paints quite a vivid picture of where we are right now. There is so much at stake.
You know, as Vice President — and we just celebrated, or at least marked, 18 months in office, July 20th. A year and a half. (Applause.) Thank you. And as Vice President, I have had the honor and the responsibility of meeting with, talking directly with — by phone or in person — at least 100 times with heads of state from around the world: prime ministers, presidents, kings, chancellors.
And I will tell you what you all know: When we, as the United States of America, walk in those rooms, traditionally, historically, we’ve been able to walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back, representing what we describe and believe to be the strongest democracy in the world, imperfect though we may be, flawed though we may be.
Walking in those rooms, we then talk about the importance of human rights, civil rights, rule of law. And we are able then, because of our standing, to exert some influence, sometimes pressure, to hopefully impact the condition of people around the world on those issues.
The first bilateral meeting I had with a foreign head of state was a breakfast at — now, my residence — the Vice President’s residence, where I had over for breakfast then-Chancellor Angela Merkel — who, by the way, is a wonderful human being. She really is. It’s awful how strong women are portrayed. Right? You know, “Oh, she’s cold. She’s this.” She’s warm. She has a sense of humor. We got on really quite well.
And we had an extensive conversation. We talked about China. We talked about Russia. We talked about the state of the EU. And then she leaned over and she said, “Tell me what’s going on with voting in your country.” And she then had details about what she meant in asking the question.
Because, you see, when one holds themselves out to be a role model, with that comes the fact that people will watch what you do to determine if it matches what you say. Nations and people around the world are watching right now what’s happening in our country — when our highest court takes a constitutional right, when long-settled issues like voting rights are under attack.
And I say all of this to say that this is a moment, I do believe, of crisis in terms of the vulnerability and the fragility of our democracy, and therefore the challenge, which you all have met by the very fact that we are here together this afternoon, which is our willingness and ability to stand up and fight for it.
Because you see, the way I think about democracy: I think of it — there’s a duality, actually. Democracies are strong when they are intact, when they do what they are supposed to do: They empower people. They provide a foundation that allows for stability, and with that comes all of the things we care about in terms of productivity, prosperity. Democracies can be very strong.
Democracy is also extremely fragile and precious. If we do not fight, if we are not vigilant in standing up for it, it will fall, it will fail, it will falter.
So that’s how I think about where we are right now. And elections matter. Elections matter.
Had you all not done the hard work that you did in 2020, electing Joe Biden and me, we would not have been able to do the work that we knew needed to be done.
Remember, our inauguration was after January 6th. We came in during the height of a pandemic. Our standing around the world was very weak with many of our longstanding friends and allies.
But because of the work that you all did, because of who our President is, we were able to bring Europe together at a time where — you all may remember, not very long ago — folks like Emmanuel Macron were questioning the existence of NATO and its reason for being. You remember that.
But we came in, because of the hard work you all did, and pulled NATO back together, stronger than it’s ever been, so that yesterday, the Senate took a vote to include two more countries in NATO, strengthening it and adding to it — (applause) — because of what you all did. Elections matter.
We said that we as Democrats stand for a strong country, and we know that vital to that is that we support the children of America. So we passed a Child Tax Credit extension, which lifted almost 40 percent of children in poverty out of poverty in just the first year.
We did the work of saying we need to invest in our infrastructure, and have an infrastructure law now in place that will allow us to remove lead from pipes, which folks from Flint to Oakland have been talking about, in terms of the poisonous water children — in particular, poor children — have been drinking, which has led to learning disabilities and health outcomes.
We’ve done the work of renewing a commitment to what we must do to deal with the crisis affecting our environment, which is leading to wildfires in my home state of California, floods and hurricanes, and what we’re seeing in Kentucky in terms of, unknown still, casualties.
This is the work we did because elections matter. You all came out in 2020. We — we — won, and we were able to do this work.
Elections matter. In the midterms in 96 days, these elections will matter in that we need to elect two more senators. We need to hold on to the Senate and get two more, because Joe said he will not let the filibuster stand in the way of the Women’s Health Protection Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. (Applause.) Two more senators. That’s what we need.
Elections matter. It matters. You know, you all know I spent a large part of my career as a prosecutor. Elections matter in terms of who is the county prosecutor, especially when you have extremist so-called leaders passing laws that will criminalize public health professionals and punish women.
Elections matter. Voting rights. Who is secretary of state. Elections matter. Who is governor; who is going to sign those outrageous bills being passed by extremist so-called leaders or veto them.
So the work that you all are doing to support this effort matters in a tremendous way, in particular when we are looking at the stakes being so high. And for all of those reasons, I thank you all. I do believe that we are up for this battle.
I was speaking with some historians recently, and the — you know, this is not the first time our nation has faced a moment like this. And we do get through it. History has shown us that. But it’s not without a fight and not without a commitment to standing together, knowing we have so much more in common than what separates us and that we believe in our country and we love our country.
So, with that, I thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.