Salamander Washington D.C.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, everybody. (Applause.) Well, first and foremost, I just wanted to come up after seeing everybody at the tables just to thank you all.
As the President said — and I know you all know, which is why you’re here — there is so much at stake in this election. And so I just wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts as we all recommit ourselves to this, which, as Doug said, is a recommitment to our democracy. It is a recommitment to foundational principles.
It is a recommitment to the ideals of our nation and the basis of the foundation of our nation, a belief in the importance of freedom and liberty, the importance of justice and equality, the importance of understanding that we want leadership in our country that understands that the true strength of leadership is not measured based on who you beat down, it is measured based on who you lift up. (Applause.)
These are the things that we stand for. And I firmly believe when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for. And all of this is at stake.
As the President said, this is an inflection moment in the history of our country. And, dare I say, this is a moment where not only are the stakes high, but there is a full-on intentional attack on hard-won freedoms, where these supposed so-called and certainly extremist leaders have an agenda that, let’s be clear, is not just about the people of Texas and Florida, it’s a national agenda that is about a full-on attack on hard-won freedoms — the freedom to exercise your vote, which is an expression of your voice. And around our country, especially after our win in 2020, those supposed leaders who have been passing or proposing laws to make it more difficult for the people to vote. This is a national agenda that is at play.
I think part of it a backlash because of the progress we had in 2020 during the height of a pandemic, where more people turned out to vote than ever before because of the work of the people in this room. (Applause.) And that scared some people.
So you saw those laws being proposed and passed to attack voting rights.
Look at where we are. We thought so many things were settled in our country — long settled — like the right to vote. We passed the Voting Rights Act. We thought that all of that stuff had been done, and they’re turning back the clock.
Long settled that a woman would have the ability to make a decision about her own body and not her government telling her what to do. (Applause.)
For so many of us, because we’ve all — I mean, we can — you know, so many of us have been in these campaigns together for a long time. So many of us have just been seeing each other. We’re kind of like perennial, right? (Laughs.) We see each other around this time every cycle.
And remember for years we would say that one of the most important reasons that people should care about elections and get out to vote is the United States Supreme Court? And remember how sometimes it would be a bit frustrating for some of us because we knew how important it is, and we thought it was really one of the most important reasons to vote, but it sometimes was the least persuasive? And then look what happened.
We’re looking at a time in our country where so many of us were part of the movement to say that our value should be reflected, in terms of equality, when we fought through the states, and then through the United States Congress, through what we had to do in the courts to say that we would have marriage equality.
But yet, now we are seeing states that are proposing and passing laws that would attack LGBTQ rights. Look at what is happening in our country.
And so the stakes are very high. And, you know, sometimes, during the course of the work we’ve all been doing over the years, we’ve referred to a year such as 2023 as an off year. Well, I will say to the friends here, that is dated language. Every year is election year, in terms of what we have to do to turn out the votes. (Applause.)
So, there’s so much at stake, and each one of these days leading up to the election will matter. And this is a group of extraordinary leaders who have always understood the importance of putting the resources, putting the thought, as the President said, putting your reputations, your networks, your friendships, in play, activating them to remind our neighbors and our friends about what is at stake and what is important and that we see them and we hear them, and that our motivation, as Doug just said, is based on love of country.
We love our country. That’s why we fight for it. Because we believe in these foundational principles. Because we believe in the importance of the integrity of our nation and our ability, as the President said, to walk in those rooms around the world and have the authority then to talk about issues like human rights and rule of law.
As Vice President, I have now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings. When we walk in those rooms, we still carry with us a certain authority to talk about the principles that are a foundation of a democracy.
But let’s be clear: In holding ourselves out as a role model — this is a room of role models — we know when you’re a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say.
So when we think about what is at stake in this election, yes, it is our democracy. But let us also understand, and certainly it is my great fear, that one of the repercussions of this all is that in those places, led by dictators and — and — and autocracies, that those supposed leaders are looking at their people and saying, “You want to fight for these freedoms? You want to hold that country out as a model? Well, look at what they’re doing. You be quiet.”
So when we think about the stakes, it is, yes, the people of our country but, arguably, people around the world who will be impacted by the outcome of this election.
So that’s on one side of the ledger. But the other part of this, which is why I am so darn excited — (laughs) — we got a lot of good material, guys. We got a lot of good material. (Applause.) We really do.
Because — the President talked about it. What we have accomplished because of what you all in this room did in 2020 is extraordinary. The people said, when we asked them to vote, “Hey, I need y’all to deal with the fact that I have many members of my family who have diabetes.” And for the seniors that I know who have diabetes, too many of them have to make a decision about whether they either buy their insulin, which is prescribed by their doctor to save their life, or pay for the rent or put food in the fridge. And because for years they’ve been demanding something would be done about it, and because of your work in 2020, we were able to cap the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. (Applause.) It’s huge.
I’m traveling our country. When I mention this, one of the things that I do is I ask the crowd, “Raise your hand if you have a relative or a friend that’s got diabetes.” Almost every hand goes up.
Here, I’ll ask this room: Raise your hand. And then when we talk about capping it at $35 a month, people get it.
We have now capped the cost prescription medication at $2,000 a year for our seniors. Has anybody heard about the issue of medical debt? Well, a whole lot of Americans have when they’re going through bankruptcy and being evicted and learn that that’s what they’re in, is called medical debt. We’ve been dealing with that.
I traveled around the country on the issue of lead pipes. Grandparents, for generations — those grandmothers and grandfathers have been talking about the fact that there’s lead in these pipes, and I may not have a medical degree, but I know that that water is causing health impacts to my child, including an impact on their ability to learn. (Applause.)
And here’s an important thing that you have to understand about that issue in terms of how we, as Democrats, approach something like that. Of course that’s a public health issue. Of course it is an issue that is also about public education when you understand the direct link in terms of how it affects learning ability.
But here’s the thing: Lead pipes weren’t only installed in low-income communities and communities of color; they happened throughout the country. But if you were in a neighborhood that had high rates of homeownership, you could take some equity out of your home and replace those pipes.
In the low-income communities, in high-rent communities, folks couldn’t afford to do it. And so they had then those impacts, those desperate impacts.
We, as Democrats, say, “No, it shouldn’t be on that individual to do it because it’s a public health issue. It’s a public education issue.” So we have now passed a law that within the next, now, eight years, we’ll get rid of lead pipes throughout America because we took this issue on. (Applause.)
We took on the issue of broadband. Well, it was highlighted during the pandemic. Folks who live in rural America, folks who cannot afford high-speed Internet — well, then they didn’t have the ability for their kids to take advantage of online education. They’d have to go in a car to a parking lot in a McDonald’s to take advantage of public Wi-Fi.
Seniors who live in rural America who had no access to high-speed Internet couldn’t take advantage of telemedicine without going to the public library and sitting in a public place to talk with their doctor.
You all did your work in 2020. We came in and said this has got to stop. It’s an equity issue. It’s an issue of dignity. And we have now put in place a policy where we are going to ensure the installation of high-speed, accessible, and affordable broadband throughout our country. It’s because of the work you did.
The work that we have done together — I’m looking at Tom Steyer — the work we have done together on climate. The clock is banging on this issue. We came in, and despite some of our opponents that for years have been denying the existence of the climate crisis, because of the work you all did, $1 trillion has now been dedicated to addressing this issue and the development of a clean energy economy. (Applause.)
So all that to say we’ve got a lot of good material. And we’ve just got to get the word out. And we need the resources and the friends to all come together so we can join together, as we have always done, to remind the people that their voices do matter and they get heard.
And here’s the benefit of that: reminding people that when they are active, when they vote, things happen that uplift and improve the condition of lives.
What we have done also reminds people of what they have a right to demand of their leaders and their government. And when they stand in those lines for hours, even if so-called leaders deny them the ability to have food and water, that the outcome directly impacts their lives in a way that is responsive to what they demanded.
This is very exciting — our ability to communicate with folks and let them know we heard you, we see you, and these things happened, and there’s more to come.
There’s more to come in terms of what we need to do around affordable childcare, paid leave; what we need to do to extend the Child Tax Credit. There’s more work to come. We’ve got a lot of good material.
And so my last point is this: When we fight, we win. (Applause.)