Biden Pitches 'Build Back Better' In Livingston County

Oct 6, 2021

President Joe Biden in Howell.
Credit Rick Pluta / MPRN

President Joe Biden traveled to Michigan Tuesday to pitch his Build Back Better and infrastructure plans to swing-state voters in a politically critical region. His destination was a union hall in Howell. Rick Pluta reports. 

Presidential visits are not random choices. And President Joe Biden’s stop by the union hall – the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324, to be specific -- was no exception.

“Hello Michigan. It’s good to be back. It really is.”

The Biden speech was heavy on policy – he wants to spend several trillion dollars on roads and bridges, job training, early childhood development, clean energy and the list goes on. He said other nations, China among them, are leading the US in critical areas.

"We are at an inflection point, every anywhere from 40 to 80 years in America, there is an inflection point. We have to choose what direction we’re going to go. Not Democrat or Republican, but who we’re going to be.” 

President Joe Biden in Howell.
Credit Rick Pluta / MPRN

Which is what brought the President to Howell. Howell is in the heart of Republican-red Livingston County, which then-President Donald Trump took last year with 60 percent of the votes. That’s compared to Biden’s 38 percent in the county. But that did not stop Biden from winning the state of Michigan, with 50-point-six percent of the vote – a decisive but narrow victory. Howell, and places like it, are where Biden has to sell his plan.  

“Folks, here in Michigan, you all know the cost of extreme weather. All of you remember the flooding this summer that shut down parts of I-96, the power outages and the tornado warnings. They’re costing your state billions of dollars.” 

But it’s really not possible to disentangle policy from politics, especially with the Democrats holding a slim eight-vote House majority. The congressional district here is represented by Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who’s won two elections with just a fraction more than 50 percent of the vote. She’s one of Congress’s centrist Democrats who will have to be reeled in by Biden if his plan is to pass. Slotkin says she’s on board with infrastructure spending but needs to hear more about the rest. 

“Everybody wants to know that we’re investing in our country, but everyone wants to know that it’s not going to be on the backs of working people, and I think we’re just at a moment in time where people are like, actions speak louder than words. They want to see the fine print, and I’m with ‘em.” 

Slotkin says she’s adamant that the spending is focused on education, energy, and jobs plans and not parsed out in ways that won’t be transformational. Livingston County Republican Chair Meghan Reckling says, to her, Biden’s Build Back Better plan is just too much spending.

“It’s still a lot of money. Three-point-five trillion dollars is still a lot of money.”  

Reckling was among the Biden protesters who lined the street on the President’s route. 

“My kids, my grandkids are still going to have to be pay off that debt, and it is going to impact everyday Americans, contrary to what the President says.”

Demonstrators waved Trump signs and banners, some cursed as the motorcade passed. One person waved a chainsaw. 

“Trump won! Biden sucks!” 

Biden supporters also showed up. There was a lot of shouting, a lot of cursing from both sides. Biden said his plan would create “a rising America.” He defended it in a town that represents a divided America.

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org