What Joe Biden Could Learn From Harry Truman

Like many Democrats these days, Biden feels beholden to the wealthy. At a Manhattan fundraiser Tuesday night, Biden made a brief jab at Republican economics as he said, “I’m not a big trickle-down guy.” But then looking out at the wealthy crowd in a midtown apartment during an event that raised about $2 million for the Democrats, Biden quickly added, “A lot of you do very, very well. And you should do well. You deserve to do well. But I want to build this economy from the middle out and the bottom up…. When that happens, everybody does well. The wealthy do very, very well, and everybody does well.”

In contrast to Biden, Truman’s economic attacks on the Republicans had an internal coherence because they were based on the theory that the GOP leaders would do anything to help corporate America feed its profits. That was his answer to high inflation (8 percent) in 1948. Speaking from the rear of his campaign train, the Ferdinand Magellan, in Terre Haute, Indiana, on the Saturday before the election, Truman explained GOP inaction: “The Republican leaders are too interested in helping big business make bigger profits. They know, just as well as I do, that unchecked inflation can lead to a depression. They know that, but they are shortsighted and selfish.”

Class warfare does not come naturally to modern Democratic presidents, especially when speaking to the party’s donor class. As a result, Biden’s style is far less confrontational. “We understand something Republicans don’t,” he said at a September 9. DNC fundraiser. “Wall Street did not build this country. Working people, the middle class built this nation. And I got news for you: Unions built the middle class.”

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