More than a few of Joe Biden’s critics say he’s lost a step (or two), that his age has caught up with him, that he’s not as sharp as he used to be — which is saying a lot since they didn’t think he was all that sharp to begin with. And they may be on to something.
Maybe Joe forgot that he ran as a moderate. Maybe he doesn’t remember that he beat the progressives who ran against him for his party’s nomination. Maybe he’s unaware that Democrats have only a slim advantage in the House, and the Senate is split right down the middle.
Most of all, maybe he forgot that he’s not Bernie SandersBernie SandersPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE.
As a headline in the Wall Street Journal put it, “Democrats are trying to pass a Bernie Sanders agenda on a Joe Biden mandate.” Except, even that’s a tad generous. A Joe Biden mandate? What Joe Biden mandate?
Biden got 51.3 percent of the vote to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE’s 46.9 percent. That’s a real victory no matter what Trump thinks, but it’s not a mandate.
Still, like Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.), President BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE wants to make the federal government a lot bigger than it is, to make more and more Americans dependent on the largesse of government, to provide “free” entitlements to millions of Americans and make sure they know Washington will take care of them from cradle to grave.
Like Sanders, Biden has absolutely no problem spending trillions upon trillions of dollars — which to him will actually cost nothing, since the rich supposedly will pay for all of it.
America, like Congress, is pretty evenly split. It’s as if Biden is unaware of that, too. A majority of voters elected him because he wasn’t Donald Trump. They didn’t elect him because they wanted a rerun of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society or Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Both of those presidents had mandates to transform America. Biden doesn’t.
Yet President Biden, who I’ve often thought is sitting in the back seat eating a cookie while somebody else is driving the car, is letting the progressives “play the part of conscience of the party,” as Peggy Noonan observed in her Wall Street Journal column. “They appear to be calling the shots, and he’s ceding to them the idea they’re not part of the party; they’re the heart of the party.”
Biden, who will turn 79 next month, is too old to be having a mid-life crisis. But maybe he’s having a late-in-life awakening and has concluded that unless he succeeds at fundamentally transforming America, he’ll be just one more old, white, bland politician — one who will be remembered only as the guy who beat Donald Trump, if years from now he’s even remembered for that.
Maybe Joe has decided that the only way to go down in history as someone consequential is to forsake his middle-of-the-road liberalism and take on the mantle of progressivism, and in the process make America a different place than the one that existed as recently as the last election. Maybe Biden, who played second fiddle to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaProgressives say go big and make life hard for GOP Biden giving stiff-arm to press interviews Jill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia MORE, is trying to show the world that he’s just as consequential — maybe more consequential — as Obama himself. Maybe he needs to lie down on the couch and talk this out with a therapist.
Bernie Sanders lost his run for the White House precisely because Americans thought he was too progressive, too far out of the mainstream. That’s why they picked Joe Biden. Now a lot of them are probably wondering how they got President Bernie Biden instead.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.