The last three presidents of the United States met this Saturday in Pennsylvania. At the same time that Democratic voters gathered in Philadelphia, the largest city in the state, to listen to Barack Obama and the current president, Joe Biden, Republicans gathered about 400 kilometers away to cheer Donald Trump in Latrobe, a city of about 8,000 people outside of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania is a key state for control of the Senate in this Tuesday’s elections and it may also be in the 2024 presidential elections. The battle for the soul of the United States is fought there, with two antagonistic stories about the country’s problems and the solutions you need.
On Saturday night, Latrobe echoed the words inflation, immigration, drugs and crime, real problems that the Republicans exaggerate to the extreme and that have become the axis of their campaign to mobilize the electorate. In Philadelphia, there was talk of democracy, abortion, public health and firearms. In Latrobe, Trump proclaimed his lie that he won the 2020 presidential election. In Philadelphia, Biden made it clear that he defeated his “predecessor” (he rarely calls her by his name). Trump’s invectives were directed against the “radical left.” Those of Obama and Biden, against the Republicans MAGA (by Trump’s motto, Make America Great Again).
With almost 13 million inhabitants, Pennsylvania is the fifth most populous state in the country (only behind California, Texas, Florida and New York) and reflects like few others the division between two sectors of American society that not only have different ideologies, but they even start from a different vision of the facts.
Pennsylvania was one of the states that, by a narrow margin, gave Donald Trump victory in the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton, despite the massive campaign closing rally she gave in Philadelphia with Bruce Springsteen as guest artist. Trump’s populist message connects not only with the population of rural counties, but also with the inhabitants of run-down industrial areas, who feel that their best moments are behind them, who view immigrants with mistrust, who have lost purchasing power and have seen increased drug use and insecurity. White working and middle class population. The forgotten, Ben Bradlee Jr. named them in his 2018 book.
Biden took Pennsylvania back in 2020 for Democrats, who are strong in cities (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Scranton…), more racially and culturally diverse. He bet heavily on that state in the campaign, took advantage of the plus that being born there (in Scranton, in 1942) and the discontent of the population with the pandemic and economic problems. But the advantage was small and the forces remain balanced between both sides.
Pennsylvania is the only state where Trump has given two rallies in the legislative election campaign. It’s also where Biden has gone the most, more than half a dozen times since September. On the campaign trail, Obama and Biden have followed parallel paths. The former president is now more popular and has come to the rescue of the Democrats in some of the states where the decisive battles are being fought, in which an appearance by Biden could be counterproductive due to his low popularity. Pennsylvania, Biden’s home state, has been the exception.
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“This crowd is so loud I think they can hear us in Latrobe!” Biden joked during his speech on Saturday. This Saturday’s Democratic rally was the first in which Obama appeared alongside Biden of the entire campaign, and even since he is president. But in reality, despite the fact that the poster was the best possible, the Liacouras Center pavilion at Temple University barely covered between a third and half of its theoretical capacity of 10,000 people, according to a calculation by EL PAÍS. The White House put the attendance at 7,500 people.
“Friends, [faltan] three days, three days until one of the most important elections of our lives. The result is going to shape our country for decades to come, and the power to shape that result is in your hands,” Biden began in Philadelphia, a symbolic place, where independence was declared and the United States Constitution was written. Joined. “The place that defines the soul of America,” Biden said. It was there that he first directly accused Donald Trump of being a threat to democracy.
The president of the United States repeated his message that Tuesday’s vote must be seen not as a referendum on his administration, but as a choice between two very different models of country. “This is a defining moment for the nation. And we must all speak with one voice regardless of our party. There is no place in America for political violence. (…) There is no place for voter intimidation,” he stated. “Today we are facing a turning point, one of those moments that happens every few generations. One of those moments where you look back a few years from now,” he added.
Biden said he was “more optimistic than ever” about the future of the United States. His story is that of a predecessor who left the economy in ruins and the country in a pandemic with no plan to overcome it. He highlighted that under Trump’s presidency jobs were lost and that in two years of his, 10 million jobs have been created, although much of it is due to the recovery from the pandemic. And he assured that what the Republicans want is “for the richest to get rich and for the richest to remain rich.” “The middle class gets ripped off and the poor get poorer with their policies,” he added.
Obama, who closed the rally, got the biggest applause. He intervened without his jacket and with his shirt sleeves rolled up, showing off his oratory. “What is at stake in this election is a fair economy that gives workers a fair chance. Fundamental rights are on the ballot. Truth, facts, logic, reason and decency are on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot,” he said. When he quoted a Republican and rally attendees booed, the former president cut them off: “Don’t boo, vote!” He recalled how his defeat in the midterm elections conditioned his legislative agenda and prevented him from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And he threw flowers to the one who was his vice president during the eight years of his presidency. “The good news is that you have a great president right now in the White House,” he said.
“I understand that democracy doesn’t seem like a priority right now, when gas prices are high and grocery bills are high. But let me tell you something: we have seen throughout history, we have seen all over the world, what happens when democracy is given up,” he maintained.
Trump gave his rally at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. For his entrance on stage, he went down the stairs of an airplane with his last name in giant letters that served as a background decoration for the rally. He liked to do it with Air Force One when he was president. Donald Trump has been taking his speech to extremes and paints an apocalyptic picture of the United States.
“This country is going to hell,” he repeated in Latrobe again. A country where prices are rising, according to him, double what the statistics say. A country that is experiencing a bloody wave of crime, where rapists, drug traffickers and murderers roam freely while “patriots” are imprisoned, expressly included in that category those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. A country that “ it is being destroyed by Biden and the extreme left radicals.” A country where the border with Mexico “is wide open” and “an invasion” is taking place. A country where “the extreme left is indoctrinating children with a twisted madness of race and gender in schools.” A country that with Biden has overcome “socialism” and is now immersed in “communism”. Where the media is corrupt and where the Democrats “the only thing they do well is disinformation and cheating in elections.” A country that with this government is on the way to “a nuclear war” and that perhaps “will not survive two more years.”
During Trump’s rally, a video was shown to ridicule Joe Biden with a compilation of all his lapses. And from Latrobe you looked out of the corner of your eye at Philadelphia. “They say that they have gathered 5,000 people for Obama and Biden, it seemed more like a crowd of about 200 people, but here there are tens of thousands,” he said, although the released photographs seemed to show an attendance similar to or less than that of the Democratic rally.
These different visions of the soul of the United States are what have polarized the country to the extreme, but in no state with as many voters as Pennsylvania is the balance so balanced.
The current battle in the State for the Senate is between the Republican Mehmet Oz, of Turkish descent, a famous and television billionaire doctor, and John Fetterman, current Lieutenant Governor of the State, of the left wing of the Democratic Party and who has done most of the his campaign in a sweatshirt and shorts. Fetterman seemed ahead in the polls, but the aftermath of a stroke (shown in the only debate between the two) and some general trend in favor of Republicans across the country have leveled the race. The seat is one of the three (along with Georgia and Nevada) most closely matched in the polls. The party that wins two of those three seats has the best chance of controlling the Senate.
Pennsylvania’s votes, moreover, will also be key for the 2024 presidential elections. Trump continues to make clear his willingness to run. “I promise you that in a very, very, very short period of time, you are going to be very happy,” he told his followers. “We’re going to get that beautiful house back,” referring to the White House, he also said. And Biden also maintains his intention. Tuesday’s result may affect those expectations.
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