Joe Biden made his first trip as president to the American West on Monday, September 13, to hammer home his arguments on climate change and major public investments, but also, rarer, go down into the political arena.
Main purpose of this trip: California, a Democratic stronghold that he had not visited since his election, to support Governor Gavin Newsom, facing a referendum which could, in theory, cost him his post.
Prior to that, Joe Biden made a stopover Monday morning in the Republican state of Idaho to visit a firefighting coordination center. The number and intensity of fires have increased in recent years in the western United States, with a very marked lengthening of the season.
“We cannot ignore the reality, which is that these forest fires are fueled by climate change”, launched Joe Biden during his second stop, in northern California.
“We have to think big”
Joe Biden notably flew by helicopter over the vast areas ravaged by the flames of the Caldor Fire, which has been burning continuously for two months. As of Monday morning, in California alone, more than 13,000 firefighters were fighting on the ground against about fifteen large-scale forest fires.
And the president to make the article of his major investment plans, calling for overcoming partisan divisions to protect the United States and green the American economy by adopting in Congress projects whose cumulative amount could approach 5,000 billion. of dollars (approximately 4,200 billion euros).
“These are not red states [couleur des républicains] or blue states [couleur des démocrates]. These are fires, just fires ”, he pleaded in Sacramento.
Noting that extreme weather events, made more violent and more frequent by global warming, cost his country nearly $ 100 billion each year, Joe Biden assured that “Every dollar invested in resilience saves six afterwards”.
“We have to think big, he insisted. When I think of climate change, I don’t think of what it costs but of the high paying jobs we create. “
Far from these major cross-cutting issues, the president will indeed endorse in the evening the habit of boss of the Democratic Party during his trip, by coming to support the governor of California during a last-minute campaign event in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles. Gavin Newsom must indeed face a “Recall referendum” organized Tuesday.
A referendum taken seriously
This very particular procedure allows dissatisfied voters to organize a referendum, outside any election, to try to bring down the boss of the state. Eighteen years ago, a similar vote allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to conquer California by bringing down the then Democratic governor. A scenario which Joe Biden does not want to pay more than Gavin Newsom.
On paper, Mr. Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco easily elected governor in 2018, and whose term does not end until next year, does not risk much in a state won over to the Democrats. According to the site specializing in political polls Fivethirtyeight, 55% of voters should vote for him to complete his term.
But Joe Biden’s last-minute reinforcement shows that the Democratic Party is taking the ballot very seriously, aware that a surprise dismissal is always possible, especially if the turnout turns out to be low.
Behind this referendum is playing a cleavage that goes far beyond California, between a Democratic electorate who supports the progressive program and the anti-Covid measures of Joe Biden, and a conservative camp which is wary of the interventionist tendencies of the public authorities in any domain: health, economy, education, customs or climate change.
Joe Biden will stop in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday to continue promoting his big investment plans, before returning to Washington.