“I am a practicing Catholic, but I attend services on Saturday and Sunday,” he added. Amidst laughter, he again asserted: “You all think I’m joking. I’m not.”
And this week, speaking to a group of Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, Biden discovered a kinship with a different culture.
“I was kind of raised in the Puerto Rican community back home, politically,” he said.
Put Biden in front of a crowd and he will try to connect with it — even if, sometimes, the connection seems to stretch the available facts. Upon delivery of the US Naval Academy commencement speech, he claimed to have almost attended school. When he spoke to a group of athletes in Israel, he suggested he was about to try his hand as a backup in the NFL.
The president tries to connect with local officials with remarks about his brief tenure as a county commissioner — 50 years ago — sometimes with a story about removing a dead animal from a constituent’s lawn. (In one version, he takes it away in a van; in another, irritated by her tone, he places it outside his door.)
Biden’s search for connection also shows his approach to ethnic politics, a skill he has needed for much of his career as he sought to meet the needs of small slices of the electorate in a small state. And it reflects his post-graduate role on the national stage as a cheerful Pole who visited Little Italy in Cleveland, Chinatown in Los Angeles and Little Havana in Miami.
“I am an honorary Greek, not just today but every day!” » Biden said in 2009 before quoting Aesop, the Greek fabulist and storyteller, during a Greek Independence Day celebration.
“We haven’t had a Greek in the White House, but now we have Joe Bidenopoulos,” the then-vice president said. said on another occasion. (Like an April Fool’s joke last year, the Greek Reporter news site wrote an article suggesting that researchers had traced Biden’s ancestors back to a Greek named Markos Bidenopoulos who fought in the Greek War of Independence.)
Although most of the mentions are harmless, Biden has previously gotten in trouble for appropriating a British politician’s family history as his own. During his 1988 presidential campaign, he slightly modified Neil Kinnock’s remarks about his ancestors being Welsh coal miners who spent hours underground before coming to play football.
Biden, who delivered those lines during a debate at the Iowa State Fair, later said he intended to credit Kinnock — but the episode helped him back out of the race.
During his last presidential campaign, his ability to interact with voters — especially those who are grieving or suffering from tragedy — was at the heart of his political strength, with voters often saying that amid ephemeral politics driven by tweets and memes, Biden’s humanizing relationships led them to ignore some of his gaffes or attacks from his rivals .
And there were plenty of them, especially as he sought to connect with black voters, who were a crucial part of his coalition.
“I come from a black community, in terms of support,” Biden said during a November 2019 primary debate. “If you notice, I have more people who support me in the black community who have made announcements for me because they know me, they know who I am.”
Responding to criticism of this comment, he said a few months later: “I don’t say: “I am black”. But I want to tell you something: I have spent my entire career in the black community.
Biden also often notes that he is a son of Pennsylvania (where he was born) and also of Delaware (where he moved at age 10).
“I grew up in a predominantly Irish Catholic community in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” he said in 2020, “and in a predominantly Italian Polish community in Claymont, Delaware.”
Her favorite food is Italian pasta, and Jill Biden has deep Italian roots as the country’s first Italian-American first lady.
But he is little more than Irish ” – an Irish Catholic with an Irish temperament, by his own account, who sometimes gets up Irish and finds himself in a “black Irish” mood.
“We, the Irish, are the only ones who are nostalgic for the future,” he likes to say.
But he also uses his Irishness to find connection, and not just with other Irish Americans.
“Whether it was my ancestors who boarded coffin ships in the Irish Sea during the famine of the 1840s or families who fled oppressive regimes and natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said in 2020 in Florida, “all our ancestors, yours and mine, they were equipped with one thing: the only thing they had in their pocket was hope.