No Degree? No Problem. Biden Tries to Bridge the ‘Diploma Divide.’
When President Joe Biden told a crowd of union workers this year that every American should have a path to a good career — “whether they go to college or not” — Tyler Wissman was listening.
A father of one with a high school education, Wissman said he rarely heard politicians say that people should be able to get ahead without a college degree.
“In my 31 years, it was always, ‘You gotta go to college if you want a job,’” said Wissman, who is training as an apprentice at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia, where the president spoke in March.
As Biden campaigns for reelection, he is trying to bridge an educational divide that is reshaping the American political landscape. Even though both political parties portray education as crucial for advancement and opportunity, college-educated voters are now more likely to identify as Democrats, while those without college degrees are more likely to support Republicans.
That increasingly clear split has enormous implications for Biden as he tries to expand the coalition of voters that sent him to the White House in the first place. In 2020, Biden won 61% of college graduates, but only 45% of voters without a four-year college degree — and just 33% of white voters without a four-year degree.
“The Democratic Party has become a cosmopolitan, college-educated party even though it’s a party that considers itself a party of working people,” said David Axelrod, a top adviser to former President Barack Obama.
Axelrod added that the perception that Wall Street had been bailed out during the 2008 recession while the middle class was left to struggle deepened the fissure between Democrats and blue-collar workers who did not attend college.
The election of Donald Trump, who harnessed many of those grievances for political gain, solidified the trend.
Now, in speeches around the country, Biden rarely speaks about his signature piece of legislation, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, without also emphasizing that it will lead to trade apprenticeships and, ultimately, union jobs.
The White House says apprenticeship programs, which typically combine some classroom learning with paid on-the-job experience, are crucial to overcoming a tight labor market and ensuring that there is a sufficient workforce to turn the president’s sprawling spending plan into roads, bridges and electric vehicle chargers.
文／Zolan Kanno-Youngs 譯／高詣軒