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Joe Biden comes to Providence to stump for Democrats ahead of November elections



“We have the three Trumpeteers from Rhode Island: Flanders, Fung and Bell, whose objective is to Trumpetize this state,” said Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick), Chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, kicking off a Democratic Party rally featuring former Vice President Joe Biden. “Make no mistake about it: Republican challengers up and down the Rhode Island ticket, from Robert Flanders, Allan Fung and Brandon Bell, are big fans of Donald Trump who embrace the Trump agenda.”

The campaign rally brought the Governor, all four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation and Joe Biden together to deliver one big message to the more than 1000 people who attended: The only way to beat Trump is to vote Democrat.

United States Representative David Cicilline spoke about health care, inspiring one woman in the crowd to yell, “Healthcare for everyone!” a sentiment not expressed by anyone on the stage Sunday.

“We are going to take the House back for sure,” said Cicilline, who has announced his intention to run for Assistant Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives upon his re-election.

“David is on his way up in leadership and I think we can expect great things,” noted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, later in the program.

United States Representative James Langevin hinted at a possible impeachment of President Trump, saying, “These last two years have been a train wreck. Donald Trump has got to go. I don’t know if it will be in the next two years or sooner.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is being challenged by Republican Allan Fung, Mayor of Cranston. “We’re going to codify Roe v Wade,” said Raimondo, to cheers. “Because of what we have in the Whitehouse and what’s happening in the Supreme Court women in Rhode Island deserve to know that their rights are protected here in the great State of Rhode Island.”

“Mayor Fung does not have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump and his policies,” said Raimondo. “You’ve heard it over and over again. He will not stand up to the President when the President’s policies hurt Rhode Islanders. When the President tried to undo the Affordable Care Act, Fung was silent. They asked [Fung] in the debate are you pro-life or pro-choice – I’m not even sure what he said. [Laughter from audience.] It was six sentences long…”

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United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was greeted as a hero for his questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings last week.

“I don’t know about you but my stomach turned as I watched [the Kavanaugh] hearings last week,” said Raimondo. “Imagine those hearings last week without [Sheldon Whitehouse] there.”

“What a week it has been,” said Whitehouse as the crowd cheered.

“Thank you!” came a shout from the audience.

“You are very welcome,” said Whitehouse. “It was a great pleasure.”

“Set all the rest of it aside,” said Whitehouse. “Set aside that the guy is essentially bought and paid for by big special interests. Set aside that he has been groomed for this by the Federalist Society and the big money behind it: Chosen by them, supported by this special interest funded Judicial Crisis Network – Set aside all of those disabilities – Set aside Dr Christine Blasey Ford‘s incredible testimony… Just focus on the way the man behaved…

“Conspiracy theories, the Clintons are doing this to me, yelling back at Senators… the fact that we’re in this position now, with [Kavanaugh] going so partisan, him losing complete control over his temperament (and you know they talk about judicial temperament? Didn’t see much of that.)

“The fact that that didn’t disqualify him. The fact that doubling down on that actually helped pull the Republican Party around him, that tells you all you need to know about today’s Republican Party.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage after being introduced by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. Biden spoke for 40 minutes, at times very personally.

Shortly after Biden was first elected Senator, his wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident. As Biden considered whether or not to stay in the Senate or step down, he got a call from Rhode Island Senator John Pastore.

“John Pastore was more like a Dutch uncle,” said Biden. “He told me what I owed my wife. He and [Senate Majority Leader] Mike Mansfield told me only 1704 people had ever been elected to the Senate, and that she’s worked so hard and that I owed it to my wife and my children to be sworn in at least…”

When he got to the Senate, Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell and his wife Nuala Pell, “reached out to me… I commuted every day and Claiborne would say, ‘Come stay at my house. It’s too late to go home.’ And Nuala was incredible,” said Biden.

Turning to the Kavanaugh hearings, an issue Biden should be sensitive to considering the way the issue is mirrored in his conduct as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Biden has been criticized for his treatment of Anita Hill (and his treatment of three other women who were not allowed to testify, Sukari Hardnett, Rose Jourdain and Angela Wright) who accused Thomas of sexual harassment.

“Just last week we witnessed from Republicans on the Judiciary Committee a degree on invective, blind rage and brute partisanship that threatens not only the Senate and the Supreme Court it threatens the basic faith the people have in our institutions,” said Biden. “Dr Blasey Ford gave courageous, credible testimony, and yet she was denied an FBI investigation which was automatic when I was chairman. Automatically, immediately and FBI investigation would be in order… Dr Blasey Ford deserves a full, robust investigation.”

As much as Biden’s speech can be read as a 2020 presidential campaign stop, it was really about the re-electing Senator Whitehouse, Governor Raimondo and Representatives Cicilline and Langevin. Biden’s star power drew well over a thousand people to the Rhode island Convention Center on a Sunday afternoon, and galvanized them for the upcoming election.

See: Biden, in Providence to back local Democrats, also urges voters to ‘take this country back’

Sheldon Whitehouse

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.