The son of a plumber, Mike Reider has his dream team in the Obama-Biden ticket. The executive director of Haven House Services, a Raleigh nonprofit helping troubled young people and their families, Reider got behind Sen. Barack Obama's impending candidacy two and a half years ago, after he read the senator's second book, The Audacity of Hope.
He has been a fan of Sen. Joe Biden's, especially on foreign policy, he said "for a long time."
"My ticket is all about fairness," Reider said as he waited for Biden to take the stage last night at Meredith College. "Fairness on taxes, fairness on trade policies, fairness on environmental issues. I think we're all about fairness, and not having policies written by the lobbyists."
As for Joe the Plumber, "Make no mistake about it," Reider said, on a roll now. "My dad was a plumber in Ohio, and he would never have voted for these people. My dad was always on the side of the working class, and advocated for working people."
"These people" meaning Republicans in general? Or meaning his dad wouldn't have voted for the McCain-Palin ticket?
"I don't know if he ever voted for any Republicans," Reider replied. "But he wouldn't have voted for [McCain]."
Reider's wife, Kathleen, joined in, and the conversation turned to Roman Catholic teachings about social justice, as both Reiders were raised in God-centered Catholic families in Columbus, Ohio. Biden is Catholic.
"You shared what you had with others in your community," the Reiders said. Mike Reider's grandfather owned a neighborhood grocery store. During the Depression, he gave away a lot of food on credit to people in need; decades later, stories were told in praise of him. At Kathleen's family table, she added, "you never knew who'd be sitting down for dinner."
Their families raised them to "spread the wealth around," as the gospels teach, they argued, and as Obama said approvingly in the third presidential debate while discussing his plan to increase taxes on the rich. Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have disdained the very idea of it ever since—along with the Republican crowds who hiss when they hear the idea.
Bringing people together around simple themes like sharing and fairness: That's what Biden should talk about, Mike Reider said, to convince North Carolinians they should go blue this year for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Biden's appearance drew some 4,000 listeners, many of them college students, to the outdoor amphitheater at Meredith College on a crisp fall evening. His speech was a plea for old-fashioned verities like the dignity of work, the centrality of family and the common hopes—and worries—of all Americans. For the first time in eight presidential elections since he first won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1972, Biden said, there's "no difference in the hearts and minds" of people, regardless of their political views, about the country's problems. They're unnerved about the economy, their own jobs, health insurance, college costs for their children, and retirement security.
"This is not political hyperbole," Biden said, almost whispering. "These are big-deal issues. For too many people, the American dream is literally receding before their very eyes."
Biden called on McCain to stop the "scurrilous" robocalls attacking Obama for his previous, slight association with former Weather Underground figure William Ayers.
"Stop the politics of division and derision," he said, citing specifically Gov. Palin's comment about being in the "pro-American" parts of the country. "We all love this country," Biden said, raising his voice. "We are one nation, under God, indivisible."
The country's economic problems can't wait for the inauguration of a new president on Jan. 20, Biden said.
Anticipating an Obama-Biden victory, he said an Obama administration would call on Congress to act immediately after the election to impose a three-month moratorium on home foreclosures and fashion a second-round economic stimulus package.
The Bush administration acted to bail out Wall Street, Biden said. (AIG has already burned through 75 percent of its $123 billion in bailout money.) And finance and investment banking executives are still collecting "million-dollar" bonuses, which Biden called "obscene." "We have to immediately get stimulus for Main Street so people can hang on," Biden said, while Obama's plans for a middle-class tax cut, infrastructure and energy sector investments and health-care reform take shape.
"We're not going to wait," he shouted. "We're going to change it."