Sheep in wolves' clothing flock to Biden

Sheep in wolves' clothing flock to Biden
© Greg Nash

If the Democratic left feel like they are being used, it’s probably because they are. The dramatic swing from Bernie to Biden confirms that this race continues to be defined not by what the candidates are, but rather by what they are not.  

Since 2016, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Angst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (I-Vt.) has not only led the left but led the Democratic Party leftward. All the party’s energy has emanated from its left. The party acquiesced, and the left rewarded it with control of the House.  

The left’s energy has come at a cost. The highest has been its extremism. The left’s policies have put today’s Democrats further away from America’s political center than they, or any major party, has ever been.  

The other prominent cost has come to the Democratic establishment. Party rules were changed to constrain it — such as the change to super delegates voting. With impunity, the left has even attacked establishment Democrats in Congress. So far from favor, almost no establishment Democrat entered the 2020 race. Only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE bucked the anti-establishment trend.  

Democrats’ 2020 field more than willingly followed Sanders leftward, each in his or her own way sought to run ahead of him. All embraced leftwing policies. Every major 2020 Democratic candidate would be the most liberal nominee in U.S. history.  

Even Biden had to fall into the leftward line. But the rest of the field went one better: They have been anti-establishment, each in his or her own way an iconoclast. Biden could not go there, because establishment credentials were his sole qualification.  

Clearly Biden has been the weakest candidate running. His gaffes are legendary and unremitting. Until recently, despite solely representing the establishment, he consistently received only about one-third of Democratic support. In nine months of running for president, he never approached a majority –  compare that to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE in 2016 – and he still has not managed to win Obama’s unqualified support.  


What really separated Biden was not what he was, as much as what he was not: He was not as extreme left as the rest, and he was not anti-establishment. Before Super Tuesday, that looked insufficient for success. He had little money, won no votes, held few delegates and appeared to have no path forward.  

Considering the party’s drift and the campaign’s course to that point, none of Biden’s pre-Super Tuesday fates seemed surprising.  What was surprising was where his former opponents went after Super Tuesday: To Biden and the establishment.   

All the “wannabe Sanderses” suddenly wanted to be VP. Until Super Tuesday, they had all been ferocious wolves, baying at the establishment and snapping at its heels. After Super Tuesday, they fell into establishment line like sheep.  

Apparently, Biden’s opponents had been sheep in wolves’ clothing all along. They played at being left and anti-establishment, and they “played” the left at the same time.  

The Democratic field’s instantaneous transformation from lupine to ovine is a damning indictment of the Democratic agenda — or rather, lack thereof. There is an absence of coherence, save their abhorrence of Trump. Their leftist anti-establishment stance was all just posturing.   


They have not just come to support Biden, they have come to be Biden. Like him, they are now defined more by what they are not – Sanders – than by what they are, or even what they claimed to be.  

Following Tuesday’s primaries and Biden’s widened delegate lead, the result is that the Democratic Party’s left is again left out of the Democratic Party. It is 2016 all over again — only quicker. They find themselves again used but not rewarded. They will be expected to fall in line behind Biden.

Soon the establishment will seek to administer Sanders the coup de grace and put to him the question of whether he will support the party’s nominee. They will thereby box him in, forcing him to agree and join the flock that made Biden inevitable; or they will box him out, disqualifying him from further serious consideration.  

Once again, the Democratic establishment will set up its own self-absolution, even as it foists its weak representative onto the left and into November. They will claim that Biden’s inevitable failing will not be their fault or Trump’s success. Instead, they will blame Sanders and his left’s lack of support for the ticket. Everything would have been fine if only the wolves of the left had peaceably joined the rest of the establishment sheep.  

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.