Biden in Detroit: ‘Trump is bully who must be defeated’

Former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Former Vice President Joe Biden, one of two main Democratic presidential hopefuls left standing, touted his résumé and warned voters about the dangers of President Donald Trump’s reelection during a Monday Detroit swing, one day before Michigan’s presidential primary election.

“We have a president now who preys on people’s frailties; he preys on people’s fears,” he told the gathering of 350 people during a fundraiser held at the Detroit Athletic Club. “He’s a bully and I’ve learned to handle bullies.”

“There’s so many people that right now are hurting. They’re really hurting. They’re in a position where they get up every single day. Every day they get up, facing a hell of a lot more than I ever faced, and put one foot in front of the other.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a rally for former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

During the same event, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that Biden has a long history of having Michigan’s back.

“This is an incredibly important election, as we all know,” Whitmer said. “Every day I think about the families across Michigan who need to be able to look up to the leader of our country, who need to know that this is a leader who is going to protect the strides we’ve made in health care, who’s going to deliver on promises about ensuring people have paths to jobs. When Detroit had our backs against the wall, it was Obama- Biden that stood up for us.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, an early supporter of Biden said that despite the former vice president’s poor showing in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary he remained a strong supporter.

“Never for a second did I have one doubt about this man,” Duggan said.

Biden, Whitmer and Duggan were joined by Cynthia and Edsel Ford; NAACP Detroit branch President Wendell Anthony and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Other notable attendees included Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neely and Michael Kurtz, who served as state director for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign in Michigan.

Biden held an evening rally held at Renaissance High School on Detroit’s northwest side, the same site he campaigned at in 2012 when he and President Barack Obama were running for reelection. The former VP spoke at length about the auto rescue and what it meant for Michigan at the school eight years ago and it loomed large in introductions from officials, which included Gilchrist, Whitmer, Duggan, Booker, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). 

“We need a president of the United States who has the courage and talent to see and feel and define strength, and through that strength lift up people,” Harris said. “That is Joe Biden.”

Biden linked arms with Harris, Booker and Whitmer.

“I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden links arms with Sen. Kamala Harris and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Biden told attendees that as president he would protect union jobs, address college and university tuition debt and improve the nation’s standing on the world stage. He again called Trump a bully who must be defeated.

“Look, at our children who are listening,” Biden told the gathering of several hundred. “Silence is complicit. Just listen to how Donald Trump talks. How he treats people. The way that he demeans and demonizes people. The way that ridicules people with infirmities. We’ve never had a president like this. Never. He’s had a crucial effect on this country. Our children.”

The event was briefly interrupted by Green New Deal protesters, who routinely target Democrats at their offices and public events. They want a climate change resolution backed by Biden’s chief opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders held seven events across Michigan in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, while Biden also stumped in Flint and Grand Rapids on Monday. 

Tom Wilson, a supporter of former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Ken Coleman

Biden heads into Tuesday with a 652-575 delegate lead nationally, according to NBC News. In Michigan, statewide polls show Biden with a lead over Sanders. Six states have Tuesday primaries: Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington and Michigan.

When asked what brought him out to the Renaissance High School rally, Tom Wilson, a retired Detroit teacher and city resident, answered enthusiastically: “Who else? Joe Biden!”

Wilson, a precinct delegate, said that he’s supported Biden throughout the campaign season.  

Eunice Gantt, a Detroit resident, continued to be impressed by Biden’s candidacy and had praise for the former U.S. senator who represented Delaware.

“Oh, my God. It was phenomenal,” Gantt said about Biden’s 25-minute speech. “I love that Joe Biden is all about the people.”  

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this report.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.