Progressive rallying cry: We can push Biden around

Team Trump has already pounced all over Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s declaration on Comedy Central’s Daily Show, and one can see why. Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wants to energize progressive voters into lining up behind Joe Biden, whose establishment positions over the decades have made those voters wary of the Democratic nominee. Not to worry, Jayapal says — Biden is “movable,” and Jayapal knows how to move him.

In fact, Jayapal brags, she’s already done so — and will continue that process to ensure that the new administration implements the full progressive agenda.  That, actually, is precisely Donald Trump’s argument against Biden:

Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Comedy Central host Trevor Noah on Monday night that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is willing to change his positions in response to pressure.

“As soon as we get him in the White House, and even before with these task forces that we had, we were able to significantly push Joe Biden to do things that he hadn’t signed on to before. So he is movable, he is listening and he does understand that we need turnout from young people, from folks of color,” Jayapal said.

Jayapal’s remark is likely to play into President Trump’s frequent contention that Biden has become a “puppet of the Left.”

The New York Post links to a Trump tweet from late last month, previewing this argument in the context of urban unrest and media bias:

Both parties routinely use such claims, and in both directions. Every presidential candidate gets accused of being a stalking horse for the far Left/Right, and every party’s establishment sells their own candidate as “movable” to the agenda of its wings. How many times did conservatives get told that Trump was the only way to protect the Right’s larger goals? That turned out to be true in regard to the judiciary, thanks in large part to Harry Reid, and on abortion and taxes, but it’s been spotty on issues like spending, entitlement reform, and so on — and maybe especially on limiting executive power.

The reason this argument might work a bit more against Biden in this cycle is that he’s obviously slowing up a bit. He also moved away from previously centrist positions in order to pander to Bernie Sanders’ voters; Jayapal isn’t wrong about progressives finding Biden “movable,” and he might become even more flexible while in office. The escalating pressure on Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate makes him look even less like his own man, a quality that doesn’t exactly exude presidential mien even apart from questions of competence.

Even without Biden’s movability, Jayapal argues, the alternative is worse:

“There is zero progress that is possible on anything that we care about with Donald Trump in the White House. He is a fascist xenophobe who is destroying our Constitution. And so we have to get him out,” Jayapal said.

This too is an old argument for unity, well-used by both parties. Team Trump is already using this same idea to argue that Biden will destroy the suburbs and allow mob rule and anarchy, in order to galvanize conservatives and Republicans to unite against Biden. These arguments get hauled out every four years because they work, for two reasons. The first is that our general elections are almost entirely binary, which means a choice of one candidate can be explained easily (and accurately) as opposition to the other.

The second is that our political processes keep churning out poor options, and not just at the presidential level. At times, this is the only argument that actually fits. And unfortunately, we have no one but ourselves to blame for that. In the meantime, though, go long on noseplug producers and pick whichever antidote to The End of the World you perceive, as long as you don’t resent when others perceive it differently.

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