Joe Biden may have just fallen for a fatal argument from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run.
The former vice president held a rally in New Hampshire on Monday, where he pushed the idea of retraining coal miners as programmers by saying “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well.” And as The Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel noted in a tweet, “This sort of ‘just transition’ stuff was murder on Clinton in 2016.”
In contrast to President Trump, Democratic presidential candidates have pushed the idea of phasing out coal production and dependence in the U.S. That requires ending coal mining jobs too, and tasks the candidates with proposing replacements. Biden gave one broad proposition on Monday, saying “Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!” After all, Biden said, he’d been in charge of spotting “jobs of the future” under former President Barack Obama, and this apparently seemed to be the right path.
“What, exactly, these blue collar workers in the mining and coal-shoveling sectors should learn to code is unclear,” Alec McGinnis writes for Gizmodo. Coal jobs may be shrinking, but the tech sector isn’t seeing the unlimited growth it once was. While “anyone can learn to code” even if you’re “not in your 20s,” Massachusetts congressional candidate Brianna Wu says Biden’s job advice is just “tone-deaf and unhelpful.” And as Weigel continues to point out — and compare to a similarly “elitist” notion from Clinton’s campaign — this is all “the sort of thing you hear from well-meaning rich people who don’t live in Appalachia.”