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Biden’s no moderate, just establishment

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Joe Biden won the battle between Democrats’ left and far-left in the presidential nomination battle; however, moderates still lost. Super Tuesday saw the field close ranks against Bernie Sanders, and the contests since have shown the result: Sanders is for all intents and purposes done. Despite those results, it is clear Democrats still will nominate someone who will advance their left’s agenda. 

Super Tuesday completely transformed Democrats’ 2020 race politically; however, it only marginally changed it ideologically. 

Biden entered Super Tuesday on his last leg among a crowded field of left candidates, and exited standing head and shoulders above Sanders in what clearly had become a two-person field. The size of the field shrank, but the smaller field’s position on the ideological spectrum did not budge. The non-Sanders contenders’ consolidation around Biden helped propel him to big wins on March 10 and 17. Biden’s lead over Sanders ballooned and his path to the nomination looks clear. 

Still, the party’s position will remain distinctly left of center. 

Democrat leaders will try to cast Biden’s sudden ascendancy as an equally dramatic swing away from their left toward their moderates. It is not. While Biden appears to be on his way to beating Sanders, it doesn’t mean the former vice president is being more moderate than his far-left opponent, and it certainly doesn’t mean moderates have won.  

Biden’s current stances belie any moderate credentials. While he does not support Medicare For All, he supports it for more people, just not all — this despite the current entitlement being already unsustainable. Until recently, he did not support free college for all; now, he supports it for some. He also supports a host of higher taxes, including on capital gains, corporations and wealthy individuals.  

Biden simply leans less left than most on the left, but that does not make him a moderate. Should Biden win the nomination, he will go down in history as being the most left candidate any major American party has ever had.

There is a reason why no significant candidates even attempted to run as moderates in the 2020 Democratic field. The party has drifted so far left that there was no electoral room to run as a moderate, let alone as a conservative. 

The true distinction in Democrats’ 2020 race is not between left and moderate, but in candidates’ relationship to the establishment. Here, Biden has been unique and the contrast clear — of all the Democrats, Biden’s entire qualification rests on being the quintessential establishment candidate. 

Undoubtedly, the Democrat Party’s establishment and its dwindling moderates hope Biden’s career politician pedigree will propel him to the center. But in order to secure the nomination, the party and Biden need voters on the far left

The Democrat Party had to bury Sanders because they cannot bury the left. Their hope is to expunge the left’s scariest attributes — especially Sanders’s “socialist” label — and then seek to redefine anything less left as moderate. With Sanders having little path to the nomination, they are halfway to their goal. Biden’s current position as the front-runner means the Democrat establishment has won another battle — just as they did with Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

However, make no mistake: the establishment is losing the war. Compare where 2020 Democrats are versus Clinton in 2016 — let alone Barack Obama in 2012 or 2008. Biden is far to the left of either of those candidates. It is also the reason why Biden has been able to dispatch Sanders so much more quickly than Clinton could four years ago. 

As Sunday night’s debate proved, Biden is not through going left. Even if his currently large lead over Sanders makes his nomination a foregone conclusion, he must keep the left energized for November. Biden, without constant refreshing of his left credentials, will not excite the base.

While the political outcome of Democrats’ 2020 contest will still take time to settle, its ideological outcome was determined long ago. The left won because there was no contest. Yes, the establishment once again won the candidate battle, and one of theirs, Biden, will be the nominee. However, the left has won the ideological war and they will set the agenda. The result: Biden is no moderate, just establishment, and that is the best the Democrat Party can do now. 

 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.


Tags 2020 Democratic Party primaries 2020 election Barack Obama Bernie Sanders campaign Democratic nomination democratic socialist Election Hillary Clinton Joe Biden

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