Joe Biden began his bid for 2020 in a union hall in Pittsburgh, the location where he states to beat Trump, he must win a year November. “Middle Class Joe” he touts, wearing as a badge of honor a long forgotten average income, speaking of his working class parents who couldn’t afford to send him to college. Joe Biden states his objective in running for president is three fold: 1. Restore the soul of the nation; 2.Rebuild its backbone—the middle class; and 3. Unify all Americans. A tall order for a man in the midst of twenty Democrats running for President. Unifying the Democratic party will be the first battle. In an election cycle where the left will get plenty of air time for their agenda: a political plus, there will also be the magnification of the move from the middle ideas of the Progressives.
In contention for most moderate of the left-wing candidates, Joe Biden has the experience and likability in spades, but he is an old white man in a party where progressive ideals don’t come in that package. However, at this point, Biden might be the Democrat’s best hope at getting the White House. The more moderate the candidate, the more likely the grab of centrist conservatives who are willing to defect from Trump and his cultural zeitgeist. It will be difficult to win over Middle America with phrases like, “Unify the Country,” while also pushing far left policies that alienate the political sensibilities of most of the country. And then there is the economy. First quarter growth of the GDP for 2019 is at an ideal ranking. Economically, Trump is doing what he said he would.
Knowing this, Biden stated he would redefine what it means to have a successful economy. He connotes success as valuing work over wealth. A soft pitch to a room full of union workers. Biden appealed to the hardworking Americans who built the nation. Many of his phrases akin to this quote:
“I think building the middle class, investing in the middle class, making college debt-free so more young people can get their education, helping people finance their debt from college at a lower rate. Those are the kinds of things that will really boost the economy.”
The Middle Class talking points of political rallies is as textbook as kissing babies and taking off your suit jacket and rolling up your sleeves to look like “one of the guys.” But we, the American electorate love it. Why? Because we are all Middle Class. When we made $30, 000 a year, we were middle class. When we have made six-figures we have been middle class. Everyone we come into contact with is middle class. I had a conversation with a homeless man at a soup kitchen in Nashville, who was adamant he should not be classified as impoverished, but instead he, too, was middle class. The middle class IS America. It is baseball, apple pie, and Friday Night Football. But what is the middle class, really?
Pew Research Center states that for 2019, middle income families, depending on size of family would make between $50000-$90000 annually. The mean income for Americans is $61, 000 meaning half of all American’s make less than $61, 000, while half makes more than that number. Larger families making close to $200,000 annually, can fall into the middle-income range by most economist standards. But is middle income and middle class a false equivalent?
From a sociological view, Middle Class is not defined merely by wage earnings. For many Middle Class is just a hat they wear, similar to “Middle Class Joe” whose net worth is in the millions. It has as much to do with upbringing and aspirations as it does with numbers on a paycheck. There are millionaires who claim to be middle class. But there are also people living in abject poverty who claim the middle class as their own. It is a way of thinking, a self-identifier. In the middle class, you are one of the guys. You are revered as the foundation of America. There is pride in the middle class. Which makes it the perfect place for political rhetoric.
As Joe Biden kicked off his campaign by putting on his Middle Class team jersey, he was certain that 75% of Americans would like to hear how the government was going to make life easier for the Middle Class. The same 75% of Middle Class Americans who loved it when Trump said it four years ago. Rich people are bad. Poor people are to be pitied. But we, the Middle Class of America, we are….what exactly? We are declining. We are in debt. We are unsure of how we will get our kids through college, but we know we won’t allow them to be indentured with debt. A debt that the government has done more than its share to create and then wants to come in on a white horse and save us all from. We are building less wealth than our parents. We are unhealthier than our grandparents. Yet we are living longer with costly medical interventions we can’t pay for, so we think we need universal healthcare. We are outspending our income—often on things we don’t need. We don’t value work. We hate rich people, but boy do we want to be one of them. We hate the poor, because they clearly aren’t willing to work as hard as we do. We are the Middle Class. We built America. Or at least we are going to claim to. We are not sure what the Middle Class is, but whatever it is, we are; Whatever we are, it is.
And so it begins. In six weeks, the debates will kick off and the pundits will opine. This election cycle will be full of the unknown, which will make it exciting and anxiety producing. We can rest easy in the certainty, however, that every candidate is, and will be, the Great Champion of the Middle Class.