Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a Labor Day march organized by the AFL-CIO in Pittsburgh Monday, sounding more like a putative Democratic candidate than he has at any point since the 2016 election cycle came into full swing earlier this year.
Biden hit a lot of the same notes Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has hit along his way to frontrunner status, at least in New Hampshire. Sanders still polls more than 20 points behind Hillary Clinton in national polling, but that's a lot closer than he was at the beginning of the summer. Hillary Clinton began triangulating her own policies in his direction before the full Sanders surge was in effect.
Here's Biden in Pittsburgh, via CNN:
Vice President Joe Biden warned on Monday that "something is wrong" with the American economy as he launched a Labor Day march here with speculation swirling that he may run for President.
In a highly populist speech that could foreshadow the themes he would highlight on the campaign trail, Biden said workers have been "clobbered" in the modern economy.
"It used to be when productivity went up in America, everybody got to share. The people who caused the productivity increase, they got to share. They got a piece of the action," Biden said before leading a march of an expected 60,000 workers through downtown Pittsburgh. "Something is wrong, folks."
Something is wrong. Were Joe Biden closer to the center of American power than the vice presidency, which is "one heart beat away," perhaps he could identify the problem more specifically.
Republicans, naturally, will try to run against the bad economy, blaming it on President Obama and his eight years of interventionist policies. Perhaps some of those candidates will even rope George W. Bush and his 2008 bank bailouts into that failure.
But for Democrats to try to run against a bad economy is a higher school of art. So far they appear to be doing it without explicitly running against any of President Obama's policies or policy failures, preferring to attack the "billionaire class" (Bernie Sanders, who has been doing it since the Rockefellers were the billionaire scapegoats of the moment, in the 1970s) or Republicans (as Hillary Clinton has done), who have not controlled the White House for eight years, and during the majority of the Obama administration have been in control of one half of one third of the government.
Democratic voters, who must on some level agree with the prognosis for the economy, have been awarding Democratic candidates for these arguments so far, even though they rely on scapegoating and not identifying policy failures and policy reforms that could improve the economy. Whatever's wrong with the economy didn't happen overnight. Joe Biden has been Vice President for eight years, and a senator for 36 years before that. It's difficult to imagine any problem, with the economy or any other part of America in which the U.S. government intervenes, where Biden didn't have some role.