Joe Biden has emerged as the Democratic Party’s centrist, moderate nominee for president. The realistic challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020 that Bernie Sanders would not have been.
However, while Joe Biden may be many things ― experienced, pro-Israel, pro-working folks ― in the year 2020, a moderate he isn’t.
A look at some of his current policy positions shows that to be the case.
For example, with competing Democratic presidential candidates crowding the Medicare-for-All bandwagon, Biden could not entirely resist. True, he didn’t sign on to the $34 trillion Sanders healthcare extravaganza, but he did come out for putting $750 billion in expanding Obamacare to include more subsidies and a government-run plan to eventually take over from private insurers.
Free College for All and liquidating student debt is also not a Biden position, but $1.5 trillion to subsidize education from preschool through college, is.
The former vice president said in a recent interview with Politico that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act. He advocates massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off…a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters.”
Biden won’t outspend Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but he’s determined to outspend Trump, or at least to say he will. Overall, Biden’s moderate proposals would increase federal spending by more than $6 trillion, according to an assessment by The Hill. In a former time, that would make him a radical, but in 2020 he’s a moderate.
And that’s the point. The increasingly influential left wing of the Democratic party is dedicated to redefining American politics leftward, and Biden would be the instrument of that redefining.
Joe Biden can campaign for much of the party’s left-wing agenda, without the liability of being called or calling himself a socialist, “democratic” or otherwise.
He is of the Establishment, of the Obama years, of the good, old-fashioned, button-down liberals. He is not of the radical left wing of the Democratic party; he won out over the AOC-backed Sanders.
Biden is for fixing things, not tearing them down. He’s not, in the lexicon of Lyndon Johnson, a radical “bombthrower.” He doesn’t want to blow up American society; he wants to save it.
The campaign will be calculated―as it has been all along―not to scare off Middle America, but also not to alienate those in his party who want sweeping change.
Former President Barack Obama endorsed Biden the day after Bernie Sanders gave his endorsement. Both wings of the Democratic party can get behind Joe Biden.
In what amounted to a virtual keynote speech for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Obama described Biden’s policy platform as “the most progressive platform of any major party nominee in history.” Using a catchphrase salvaged from the Warren campaign, Obama said the country needs “real structural change.”
Nevertheless, the former president also made room alongside his praise of Biden for some praise of the not-so-vanquished Bernie Sanders: “Bernie’s an American original ― a man who has devoted his life to giving voice to working people’s hopes, dreams, and frustrations. He and I haven’t always agreed on everything, but we’ve always shared a conviction that we have to make America a fairer, more just, more equitable society,” Obama said.
Equally telling, Biden and Sanders have established a joint workshop of their two campaigns to formulate policy on six key areas: climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration, according to Politico.
Indeed, Biden sounds more and more like Sanders on some issues. Last week, he denounced corporate America as “greedy,” reserving particular vituperation for the banks accused of prioritizing federal loans for small businesses to favor their large-business customers, in order to earn bigger fees. Yes, such practices are deserving of criticism, and the banks have a lawsuit to face as well, but the populist language that Biden is using indicates which end of the political spectrum he is seeking to attract.
Relative to Bernie Sanders, Biden is in the center. But Biden has shifted leftward, along with the rest of the Democratic party. That shift has not ended, and if Biden should be elected, the left will likely have a say in his presidency.