Vice President Biden revs up Range DFLers before tight election

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands after a rally in support of Rep. Rick Nolan at Hibbing Community College on Oct. 23, 2014. Biden and Nolan spent almost half an hour taking photos and interacting with people after the speeches were done. (PHOTO: Rich Puhek)

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands after a rally in support of Rep. Rick Nolan at Hibbing Community College on Oct. 23, 2014. Biden and Nolan spent almost half an hour taking photos and interacting with people after the speeches were done. (PHOTO: Rich Puhek)

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Solar eclipses are rare, but not as rare as a vice presidential visit to the Iron Range. Both of them on the same day? Well, that’s once in a lifetime.

The scene at Hibbing Community College last week included Secret Service agents, bomb-sniffing dogs and chattering staffers straight out of “The West Wing” swarming the hallways. It was all building to a big moment. Vice President Joe Biden’s plane, Air Force Two, set down on the tarmac of the Range Regional Airport shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday, motorcade in waiting. At 2 p.m., Rep. Rick Nolan led the Vice President onto the makeshift stage in the college gym. The crowd of about 650 DFLers and curious citizens broke out in cheers and the rally was underway.

Biden became the highest ranking American official to ever visit HCC, and the timing was no coincidence. Hibbing, heart of the Mesabi Iron Range, is centrally located in Northern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. Here in the Eighth, the Democrat Nolan faces a tough challenge from Republican Stewart Mills and Green Party candidate Skip Sandman nibbling on his left flank. Recent weeks have brought news of improving Republican prospects in the national midterm, something Biden and other high profile surrogates seek to stave off.

Air Force Two prepares for takeoff at the Range Regional Airport in Hibbing after Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Hibbing Community College on Oct. 23, 2014. (PHOTO: Rich Puhek)

Air Force Two prepares for takeoff at the Range Regional Airport in Hibbing after Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Hibbing Community College on Oct. 23, 2014. (PHOTO: Rich Puhek)

Before the arrival of the key speakers, most of the people I spoke to in the audience were speculating on the many ways Biden might go off script, creating one of his famous “Uncle Joe” soundbites. To the mild disappointment of some, Biden was on best behavior and rarely broke from his speech.

Biden’s oration was clearly one he’s been honing over the long midterm campaign. At one point he referred to “Cardinal Country,” a reference to the college mascot (and a prominent banner that hangs over one of the major entrances to HCC). He talked briefly about times he’s visited years ago with fellow Senators-turned-Veeps Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. We were at college, and Biden seemed to inhabit the role of professor, making the steady case for Democratic policies and the re-election of his colleague Nolan.

In fact, the most passionate speaker of the day was Nolan, clearly aware of how important this event is to party morale leading into what appears to be a neck-and-neck election.

“It’s about having a good-paying job with living wages, being able to provide health care for your family, affording to educate your children, knowing that there’ll be a little money left over at the end of the week,” said Nolan. “That’s what the American Dream is about and that is what we’ve fought for since you elected me two years ago.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan with Vice President Joe Biden at Hibbing Community College. (PHOTO: Kendal Killian, Nolan campaign)

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan with Vice President Joe Biden at Hibbing Community College on Oct. 23, 2014. (PHOTO: Kendal Killian, Nolan campaign)

Nolan and Biden both stressed themes of reorienting public policy toward helping the middle class, unwinding the dramatically rising percentage of wealth controlled by a very small upper class. Among the policies that would accomplish that goal: refocusing on affordable college education, like that offered by Hibbing Community College, finding ways to shift tax burdens off the middle class and investing in American businesses and communities to make them more competitive on a world stage.

Biden’s most passionate line was his closing: “We need to stand up and holler for what we are for!” bellowed the smiling man from Delaware. “Stand up for what we believe and let the people choose.”

The crowd cheered, and I’d be very surprised if anyone in attendance failed to vote in the upcoming election. The people will indeed get that choice on Tuesday, Nov. 4, or even sooner for those choosing to vote early at county courthouses or city halls. It’s hard to say when the next Vice Presidential visit will be, or if we ever draw the President to our region. It seems far more possible now that Minnesota’s Eighth is firmly established as one of the nation’s most competitive House districts.

Within an hour, Air Force Two was back in the air and Rep. Nolan was back on the trail. Life in Hibbing returns to normal, perhaps with a fresh reminder than we all play an important role in our ever-changing democratic process.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This column first appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

 

Comments

  1. John Ramos says:

    I heard that some pro-mining villagers showed up at the rally shaking shovels in a menacing manner, but when Joe Biden turned off the sun, they cried out in fear and ran away. They now worship Biden as a god. So that should help Nolan’s chances.

  2. Joe is a gaffe just waiting to happen. I personally like the guy but he puts his foot in his mouth steady. Very hard to believe he is the best and brightest we have to offer. Would love to have a beer with him at Riverside bar but having Joe make any big decisions for our country should make everyone scared.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.