Lisa Blunt Rochester talks to students in Trabant, discusses Biden endorsement
Associate News Editor
The headlines in national news from Capitol Hill over the past weeks have been occupied with ongoing intergovernmental feuds between the Executive and Legislature. Delaware’s sole Representative in the House, Lisa Blunt Rochester, still took time amid a troubled congressional session to return to the university and speak to students.
Blunt Rochester, 57, who received her master’s degree in public policy from the university, appeared on campus Friday in the Trabant Student Center. She met with supporters and answered questions from students on various issues: including her endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden for President in 2020 and recent disputes between House Democrats and the Department of Justice.
“I’ve known the Vice President for over 30 years,” Blunt Rochester said. “What I look for in a president is someone who experience, and he has a track record of accomplishments, major accomplishments. Everything from dealing with healthcare to helping to make sure that our car industry still exists.”
Biden, 76, declared his candidacy for president on April 25, entering into a race with over 20 other Democratic hopefuls.
Surrounded by a small crowd of her campaign staffers and volunteers from the College Democrats and standing before a booth with campaign flyers and pins, Blunt Rochester could have been mistaken for another student group advertising with a Trabant booth, were it not for the pedigree of high office.
Biden is one of the most well-known and perhaps the most distinguished university alumni; however, his campaign for the presidency was marred from the get-go with numerous accusations that his “handsiness” around women both in office and on the campaign trail was inappropriate. Additionally, his controversial handling of the Anita Hill 1991 Senate testimony about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s alleged sexual harassment has raised questions about “Uncle Joe’s” feminist credentials in the Democratic Party.
Having sat down one-on-one with Biden to discuss this issue, Blunt Rochester believes he has “learned his lesson.”
“Having these conversations has helped him change everything, even the way he campaigns,” Blunt Rochester said. “To me, one of the things that I look for in a good leader is someone who can acknowledge an area in which they can improve and then do it.”
Blunt Rochester believes Biden’s track record overshadows the accusations of his alleged inappropriate behavior.
“After the Clarence Thomas hearings, one of the things that he intentionally did was to make sure that no woman would ever have to sit in a panel, an all male panel, like that again,” Blunt Rochester said. “He actually advocated, campaigned to women to be on that judiciary committee from then on. Biden’s demonstrated through the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for equal work, and his work on the Affordable Care Act alone show that he knows women are discriminated against based on the fact that they’re women for healthcare. He’s helped us learn some things as a country. He has learned some things. Now, he’s ready to lead.”
Blunt Rochester was formerly the CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, a small nonpartisan lobbying firm advocating for African American civil rights. She believed that Biden’s record on civil rights placed him above the other Democrats running in 2020. Specifically, she applauded his decision to announce his candidacy by criticizing President Donald J. Trump’s handling of the white supremacist march in Charlottesville in 2017.
Biden criticized Trump in his candidacy announcement video for the president’s now infamous “very fine people on both sides” statement many saw as placing a moral equivalence on the actions of the white supremacists and anti-fascist protesters.
“Charlottesville was a turning point in this current presidential administration,” Blunt Rochester said. “It was the moment when I realized that this is way different than anything else we’ve ever encountered as a country. We, as Democrats, are fortunate that we have some incredible candidates, it’s a strong team of people. For me, the decision was to have someone who I feel can start on day one in office to start moving us toward the future.”
Though not directly involved in the House Judiciary Committee hearings which have provoked many conflicts with the White House, Blunt Rochester spoke at length about the feeling of being a Democrat in the House of Representatives in such a contentious political climate.
“There’s a sense of gravity and seriousness about the times,” Blunt Rochester said. “Nancy Pelosi repeatedly mentioned during our caucus meetings, and I can’t remember for sure where she quoted this from, but she says ‘the times have found us.’ That’s part of the feeling [in the House] right now.”
She stressed that, while the ongoing investigations into possible White House corruption are important to ensure the maintenance of constitutional checks and balances, Congress cannot forget about the everyday problems of their respective constituencies.
“People take seriously our oversight responsibilities, and at the same time recognize that there are issues that people are dealing with today that we have to tackle,” Blunt Rochester said. “There’s this intentionality, therefore, we need to keep working and have people see us working while also taking seriously the state of our country right now. There’s no other way to put it than to say that the times have found all of us. Those who know me know that I’m a very positive person, but we consciously have to stay on a battlefield. You feel that at every meeting. How do we ensure that we have a democracy at the end of the day?”