Nearly three weeks into office, President Joe Biden is trying to do what he knows how to do best — connect with average Americans, letting them know he understands their suffering, and offering words of comfort. But instead of doing so quietly on the campaign trail, he’s now using those skills to win a different kind of campaign — to sell his massive Covid-19 relief package to the American people.
In the first installment of a series of weekly addresses to the American people, released by the White House Saturday, Biden’s team filmed him calling Michele, a woman from Roseville, California, who lost her job because of the pandemic. He promised that his economic plan is intended to help restore the loss of dignity and purpose that she and so many others have felt over the past year.
Biden hasn’t made headway with his initial efforts to win bipartisan support for his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, so he is taking his case directly to the voters — connecting with Americans one at a time as he uses their stories to drive his policy agenda.
The clips of the conversation — which the White House framed as a modern-day version of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats — were brief, tightly-edited, and organized around Biden’s longstanding campaign theme that many Americans derive their dignity and self-worth from their jobs.
On the campaign trail last year and as Barack Obama’s running mate, Biden sought an emotional connection with voters by telling the story countless times of what he learned from his own father’s struggle to find steady work. He has often reflected on the isolation and self-doubt that can come from losing a job. As often, he has highlighted the lesson his father taught him — that success can also be measured by one’s resilience, getting back up after being knocked down.
In Biden’s conversation with Michele, he sought to convey his empathy for the economic struggles many Americans are facing as the driving motivation behind the relief legislation — which he views not just as an effort to power economic growth numbers, but also to help restore a sense of pride and purpose for Americans who have lost some of the 9.9 million jobs that have disappeared since last February.
The video was also intended as a reminder that there are real people still suffering economically across the country who are far removed from partisan bickering in Washington over the deficit and the details of what will drive the economic recovery.
“I’ve been saying a long time — the idea that we think we can keep businesses open and moving and thriving without dealing with this pandemic is just a nonstarter,” Biden told Michele. “We’re putting together a plan that provides for emergency relief to people who are in desperate need now.”
The President is expected to touch on those same themes in an interview on “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” that will be broadcast Sunday ahead of the Superbowl, giving him a chance to connect with a huge audience as lawmakers in Washington begin work on the economic proposals he laid out during his first few days as President. He and first lady Jill Biden have also taped a video message thanking health care workers that will be shown before the game, according to a source familiar with the plans.