July 18--Vice President Joe Biden gave his pitch to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party today in Detroit, hitting on themes of income and marriage equality, compassion for immigrants, expanded access to the ballot box and the need for more civil discourse in politics.
"This is one of those moments that people get a chance to bend history just a little bit," he told several thousand people attending the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit. "And there are fundamental changes taking place."
The change needs to be based on some core principles, he said, including: equal rights for all Americans -- which translates into the LGBT community, equal pay and the right to choose for women, expanded access to the ballot box and the way the country stands against abuse of power in areas of domestic violence.
Those changes are coming about because of progressives, Biden said, who are way ahead of politicians when it comes to issues of civil rights and social justice.
"When I was a young kid running for office, I was branded a socialist because I argued that health care was a right, not a privilege, and you made that happen," he said. "Because of you, we've recognized basic fundamental rights in the LGBT community."
He was preaching to a receptive audience. Netroots Nation grew out of a small community of liberal bloggers and blossomed into a movement of activists fighting for progressive change.
ProgressNow's executive director, Arshad Hasan, introduced Biden and said the vice president's candor might amuse his critics, but his words also are inspiring.
"Look at how much we've changed and grown in the last few years. Nine years ago we were just bloggers. And now, years later, we're millions-upon-millions of people working to make change," he said. "And now we have an honest partner to help us figure out how we move forward."
Biden, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has been on the speech circuit this summer, but wouldn't talk about his plans today.
At Netroots, he's competing for the spotlight with the likes of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a hero to progressives for her role in taking on Wall Street and her commitment to income equality -- a key tenet of the progressives' platform. She'll speak Friday morning.
While another potential presidential candidate -- former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- won't speak at Netroots, her supporters are in Detroit. The "Ready for Hillary" political action committee came to town in a big purple bus emblazoned with their name and is a major sponsor of the four-day conference in Detroit. People attending the conference got fistfuls of snacks bearing the logo.
Lindsay VanDyke, 25, came from Oakland, Calif., to see what other activist organizations are doing to grow their membership. She's with the Free Speech for People group that is trying to get the Citizen's United ruling overturned -- the ruling that opened the floodgates of unrestrained campaign contributions.
"It's great being amongst like-minded people," she said, noting the trip became even more worthwhile when she found out Biden would be giving a keynote address to the roughly 3,000 people attending the conference.
"But I'm originally from Massachusetts, so I'm really pumped to see Elizabeth Warren," VanDyke said. "I'm thinking about the presidential election, but not prepared to say anything yet."
Antonio Leonard, 26, of Detroit, was especially excited to see Biden, but also wants to hear more from Warren. He appreciates her taking on Wall Street, "But it would be crazy for me to make a decision so far in advance."
"I just want to get some more info and facts about all of them," he added.
They learned that Biden hopes politics can become more civil.
"We can debate without being demeaning. We shouldn't hesitate to question. We can make sure we are heard, but still demonstrate we're willing to listen to the other side," he said. "It's time for our politics to become as big and grand as our people are."
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kathy Gray on Twitter @michipolgal.
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Original headline: Biden tells liberal Dems at Wayne State: It's time to 'bend history'
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