It was just last week The New Yorker published a profile of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asking if his hold on the center could hold through November. The piece spent words upon words going over Biden’s personal history in Scranton, Pennsylvania onto Delaware then Washington, DC as first a U.S. Senator, then vice-president. It focused particularly on Biden’s apparent transition from a pragmatic centrist to someone who saw the November election as a unique opportunity in American history to be another version of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
These comments came not from President Donald Trump or his campaign, whose efforts to paint Biden as some kind of socialist radical are as tired as 2020 is long, but from Data for Progress co-founder Sean McElwee, Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell, and former President Barack Obama.
“I think a lot of people who just [crap] on the Democratic Party haven’t spent a lot of time talking to mainstream actors within the Democratic Party ecosystem,” McElwee said in The New Yorker observing the party as a whole was pretty liberal. “I think people should just take a step back and look at what Biden has done. A.O.C. is someone I like a lot. She said that she wouldn’t vote for him in the primary, and that in a different country she would be in a different party from him. And he could have responded to that by being, like, ‘[Screw] you.’ But instead he responded to that by being, like, ‘How about you come in and write my climate policy?’ ”
“He’s recognizing that this might be a Rooseveltian moment,” Mitchell opined when asked about Biden’s rhetoric change from centrist to progressive. “He’s not all the way there—nobody thinks Joe Biden is a progressive star—but he can be a product of either your most cynical thinking or a product of your most optimistic thinking.”
“If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they’re not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level,” Obama said before noting Biden’s traditional tactics were different from Sanders but the circumstances suggest it time to change plans. “They both want to make sure everybody has health care. They want to make sure everybody can get a job that pays a living wage. They want to make sure every child gets a good education.”
The New Yorker reporter Evan Osnos saw Biden as running a reverse campaign of going moderate in the primary, then swinging to the left in the general election. “Within weeks, Biden had picked up Warren’s plan to ease student debt and overhaul the bankruptcy system—which entailed repealing parts of a law he helped pass. He embraced a limited version of Sanders’s plan for tuition-free college, and dropped his opposition to federal funding for abortions.”
Days after Osnos’ profile published, the progressive bonafide appear nothing more than some sort of glamour done by a campaign unsure of a direction.
“Joe Biden and I have differences of opinion, and that is no great secret,” Sanders said during a live-streamed speech to supporters on Saturday. “It is no great secret that Joe and I disagree on a number of issues.”
Sanders repeated the comments on several Facebook roundtables later in the day looking to assuage progressive towards a potential Biden presidency. The New York Times used Sanders’ comments as a way to beef up Biden’s more moderate standings.
All of the Biden policies that Mr. Sanders noted were widely acceptable liberal proposals. Mr. Sanders made plain that he and Mr. Biden were not ideologically aligned, in a clear effort to defend Mr. Biden from Republican attempts to cast him as a “Trojan horse for socialism.”
“I’m sure there are Republicans and Independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” former(?) Republican John Kasich had previously said at the Democratic National Convention in a night featuring (ex?)GOPers for Biden. “They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that because I know the measure of the man. It’s reasonable, faithful, respectful, and, you know, no one pushes Joe around.”
These comments, which likely had tactic approval from the Biden campaign, run counter to each other. Either Biden is a pragmatic centrist whose long tenure in Washington includes the willingness to compromise with Republicans to make sure they feel “okay” with a bill or he’s someone who wants to be FDR reborn.
If it’s both, then why? The nature of politics? The fact Biden’s campaign is trying to bring in everyone and calm certain factions willing to raise hell when necessary? It’s way too easy to poke holes in his strategy despite running against a candidate who vacillates wildly on policy solutions while wrapping himself in some sort of nationalistic aura. Thank God, Dr. Jo Jorgensen is running on the Libertarian ticket for those who believe consistency matters.
Biden’s campaign needs to pick a direction and stick with it unless he truly believes his stances don’t matter and the fact he’s running against Trump is enough. Short answer: likely not.