By TIM ROWDEN
Praising Missouri Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander as part of the next “greatest generation” the “9/11 Generation” that volunteered for military service after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a recent campaign event at the Pageant in the Delmar Loop, adding his enthusiastic support to one of the tightest and most closely watched Senate races in the country.
Kander served as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, an experience he’s emphasized in his campaign.
“He’s a patriot, as I said, like my son,” Biden said, referring to his late son Beau Biden. “He came home to serve just as he left to serve. He served in the Missouri House and as Missouri Secretary of State. He’s the kind of person we need in politics in both parties… Young. Optimistic.”
And, Biden noted, focused on the middle class.
“There’s always been a promise – a promise that’s existed here,” Biden said. “If you do well, if you play by the rules, there’s a basic bargain. If you help the enterprise do well, then you do well. Well that bargain’s been broken. It’s been broken. And ladies and gentlemen… not only does Jason get that the middle class has been hammered, he gets that it’s not just their economic standing – but our dignity.
“Jason gets it. He gets what this country is about. We’ve gone through crisis to recovery to resurgence and now is the time to restore the middle class. It’s the single most significant responsibility we have as a nation,” Biden said.
Biden gave the capacity crowd of 2,000 at the Pageant one of his trademark folksy speeches, and talked about being raised with middle class values. “My dad would say, ‘Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, I will tell you what you value.’
“Jason and I grew up a thousand miles away and decades apart, but he and I grew up in the same neighborhood,” Biden, 73, said of the 35-year-old Kander.
‘DO THE RIGHT THING’
“We need to do the right thing,” Kander said. “We need to do right by the middle class and that’s not what Senator Blunt is doing in the United States Senate. For far too long Congress has put millionaires and billionaires who can afford access to politicians ahead of everybody else, ahead of folks who are working multiple jobs when 15 years ago they were making more money working one job. They’re putting all those folks behind.
“Working Americans are not looking for a handout, they’re looking for a level playing field. We know… that America is at its best when our middle class is at its strongest.”
Kander also discussed education, valuing teachers, affordable college, higher wages, equal wages for women and his desire to see more veterans serve in Congress.
Repeating his campaign message, Kander said, “We can’t change Washington until we change the people we send there.”
Before Biden and Kander spoke, a huge line stretched around the block to get into the Pageant. Those who made it in included veterans, students, teachers, small business owners, activists, politicians and numerous representatives of Organized Labor.
Speakers who took the stage before Biden and Kander arrived included Cathy Jenkins, owner of Cathy’s Kitchen in Ferguson. She talked about how Kander visited her restaurant before the unrest in that city, and how he was there immediately after.
ORGANIZED LABOR ON THE LINE
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, another of the early speakers at the event, laid out the stakes in this election.
“Make no mistake, the issues we care about are on the line,” Louis said. “I am all too aware that the future of Organized Labor is on that ballot and we have to send Jason Kander (to the U.S. Senate) to protect that!”
Four years ago, Louis said, when Kander was elected secretary of state, he called the Missouri AFL-CIO office and asked what he could do in his new position to help working families in Missouri.
“He truly is a friend to every working person,” Louis said. “That’s the kind of friend we need in Washington, D.C.”
Touching on so-called “right-to-work,” and issue that has become central to the Missouri governor’s race and state legislative races, Louis said, “If you’re a Missourian, you’re concerned that each and every one of us working in our state should make a decent wage. There should be no phrase that scares you more than ‘right-to-work.’ The so-called leaders who support ‘right-to-work’ want to throw Missouri into a race to the bottom, destroy good paying jobs, degrade unions, degrade workers right here in our state. Well, folks, we’ve got to make sure that we elect officials who won’t do that to Missouri, who won’t do that to workers, who won’t do that to our families.”
As a former union member and a longtime advocate for workers’ rights and their ability to join unions, Kander has fought tirelessly throughout his career to protect working families, Louis said.
Kander didn’t come to the Labor Movement through politics. He is a former member of United Transportation Union Local 933 and represented their members in court. He also was part of the legal team that helped get the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police recognized for the first time by the Kansas City Police Department.
“He knows what it means to belong to a union,” Louis said. “Let me tell you if they ever try to bring up a national ‘right-to-work’ bill, they’re going to have to go through Jason Kander to go through Missouri, and that ain’t happening.
“I don’t know about you guys but I’m excited about getting a new senator that puts Missourians first instead of what’s been done for the last two decades,” Louis said. “I’m excited for a new generation of leadership. I’m excited for Jason Kander to go to Washington, and you and I have got to do that on Nov. 8.”