WASHINGTON • US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was yesterday set to criticise President Donald Trump’s stewardship of the coronavirus-ravaged economy, as both campaigns kick into high gear with less than two months to go to the Nov 3 election.
Mr Trump has previously seized upon monthly jobs reports as evidence that the country’s economic recovery from the virus-induced downturn has been dramatic.
But jobs data released by the Labour Department yesterday showed that the US economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, down from July’s 1.8 million and June’s record-smashing 4.8 million.
The unemployment rate last month, however, fell much more than expected to 8.4 per cent, compared with the 10.2 per cent in July.
Mr Biden will deliver remarks from his home base of Wilmington, Delaware, after his busiest campaign week in months.
Mr Trump has no public events planned.
Mr Biden has this week travelled to Pittsburgh and Kenosha, Wisconsin, both in battleground states that help decide the election, to address the ongoing protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
Mr Trump also visited Kenosha – a flashpoint city where anti-racist demonstrators have clashed with his supporters after the police shooting of a black man – and made stops in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, another key state.
The most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that the race has remained relatively stable over the last several weeks, with Mr Biden holding a 7 percentage point over Mr Trump nationally.
On Thursday, drawing a sharp contrast with the President, Mr Biden aligned himself strongly and sympathetically with protesters of racial injustice and with black voters during an afternoon of raw interactions with people still grappling with the police shooting of Mr Jacob Blake.
Two days after Mr Trump travelled to Kenosha to focus attention on street violence and disorder, Mr Biden sought to strike a drastically different tone, as he repudiated the President’s divisive approach to matters of racial injustice and civil unrest and offered an alternative vision focused on national unity.
Mr Biden met Mr Blake’s family for about an hour after landing in Wisconsin, and spoke with Mr Blake himself on the phone.
He stressed his commitment to correcting decades of systemic racism, as he acknowledged racial disparities in health care, education and the criminal justice system.
“Win or lose, I’m going to go down fighting,” Mr Biden said as he described the possibility of a more just future. “I’m going to go down fighting for racial equality, equity across the board.”
The former vice-president also took pains to warn against violent expressions of anger, regardless of “how angry you are”.
He listened as a black lawyer discussed racism in the legal system and a white store owner praised the close-knit city’s community spirit even as she described her business being looted.
The scene and substance of the discussion provided a striking contrast to Mr Trump’s visit on Tuesday. The President neither met with the Blake family nor grappled with the searing issues of police brutality and racism.
Instead, he met local law enforcement leaders and delivered a message of protesters run amok, and of “looters” and “rioters” he said were cowing liberal politicians. He rejected the idea of systemic racism while expressing empathy with police officers.
While law enforcement members were listed as participants in the meeting, Mr Biden’s event did not focus on the police perspective in the way that Mr Trump’s trip did.
He sought, instead, to underscore promises that have animated his campaign from the beginning: That he can restore civility and steadiness at a polarised and perilous moment for the nation, and that Mr Trump is an incendiary figure who escalates already fraught situations and emboldens bigots.
“Not all his fault, but it legitimises a dark side of human nature,” he said of Mr Trump’s messaging.