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Biden swings left while Trump turns right

Biden swings left while Trump turns right
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Strange days indeed! The pandemic has ended many time-honored traditions like taking the kids to visit their grandparents, going to the ballyard to see the local nine play and sharing date night with your partner at the cineplex. We live in the age of COVID-19, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re in the middle of a presidential race that reflects the strange nature of the times we live in.

The traditional pattern in American politics is for presidential candidates to embrace the ideological extremes of their parties in the spring and then race to the center after their nominations. Texas progressive activist Jim Hightower says, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.” This year there’s nothing but a black hole in the center of the political universe. 

But this year we have a Republican president who has held fast to the most right-wing tenets of his party without interruption since he entered the 2016 presidential race. We have a presumptive Democratic nominee who ran to the center to win his party’s nod but has moved left since he clinched the nomination in the spring.

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With both candidates moving away from center, there’s little middle ground left in the presidential race. Last week the ideological differences between the candidates stood in sharp relief. 

On Tuesday, Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Scalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Sidney Powell withdraws 'kraken' lawsuit in Georgia MORE proposed an ambitious initiative to end the use of carbon generated power by 2035. The next day, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE mocked the Democratic hopeful’s plan and ordered a rollback in the landmark National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to facilitate the construction of oil pipelines, highways and other infrastructure projects. The stark ideological difference between the candidates on environmental policy is a pointed symbol of political polarization in the United States

The presumptive Democratic nominee correctly realized that moving to the middle would be a mistake. Biden has demonstrated that extreme circumstances require bold measures and has concluded Trump’s defeat requires a united Democratic Party.

Biden’s move to the left started soon after securing the Democratic nod in March. The day after Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump leaves changed nation in his wake Cori Bush dismisses concerns of being 'co-opted' by establishment The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges MORE (I-Vt.) announced the suspension of his campaign, the presumptive Democratic nominee, announced an expansion of Medicare for Americans between 60 and 65. He also acknowledged another part of the Sanders agenda with a proposal to forgive tuition debt for students of public colleges and universities. 

Biden’s next step to embrace the progressives was the creation of committees of his supporters and activists who worked for Sanders to make recommendations to the Democratic Party’s platform committee. Notable among the participants was progressive icon, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFacebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension New York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Ocasio-Cortez: Facebook, Zuckerberg 'bear partial responsibility' for insurrection MORE (D-NY).

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The joint Biden and Sanders task forces eventually proposed far reaching ideas to reinvigorate the sagging economy and fight climate change. 

Absent from Biden’s progressive platform is support for Sanders’s signature proposal is “Medicare For All.” Instead the former vice president has called for a major extension of the Affordable Care Act.

Biden’s unwillingness to support Medicare for All is a deal breaker for some Sanders supporters. The presumptive Democratic nominee will never satisfy the “Bernie or Busters,” but he has satisfied Bernie and that’s something Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS CNN poll: Melania Trump leaving office as least popular first lady ever MORE was unable or unwilling to do in 2016. In response to the recommendations of the joint Biden and Sanders policy committees, the senator from Vermont said, “I think the compromise they came up with, if implemented, will make Biden the most progressive president since FDR.” 

Biden’s persistence in reaching out to progressives has paid off big time. A recent New York Times national poll indicated that overwhelming numbers of Sanders (87 percent Biden and 4 percent Trump) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden pick for Pentagon cruises through confirmation hearing Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Biden consumer bureau pick could take over agency on Inauguration Day MORE supporters (96 percent to 0 percent) were voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee. Some of these progressives may be voting against Trump than wholeheartedly backing Biden but the result is the same when the ballots are counted. 

Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump stock performance falls short of Obama, Clinton Press: Biden must go big and bold The challenge of Biden's first days: staying focused and on message MORE laments the fact that he didn’t have a major crisis to handle that would have proven that he was a great president. If he wins, Joe Biden won’t have that problem, but he will have lots of big problems to confront. He will inherit a nation plagued by pandemic and deep in a recession. The ravages of climate change lurk just around the corner. The only way he can deal with these crises is with an aggressive progressive FDR style assault on the threats to our national survival. Anything less will not be enough.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.