In many ways, Joe Biden is an old-fashioned politician. He’s courtly and friendly, not rude and scowling. He still kisses babies (and pretty girls) and can work a room as well as any candidate in recent memory.
But with questions being asked about whether the Democratic Party has passed the 76-year-old former vice president by, why does Biden want to run as an “Obama-Biden Democrat”?
Joe Biden is finalizing the framework for a White House campaign that would cast him as an extension of Barack Obama’s presidency and political movement. He’s betting that the majority of Democratic voters are eager to return to the style and substance of that era — and that they’ll view him as the best option to lead the way back.
Are Democrats really that nostalgic about the Obama years? Biden might have forgotten, but the Democratic Party was nearly destroyed during the Obama years. And progressive activists, who are pretty much running the show these days, criticized Obama heavily for not being liberal enough.
The former vice president has begun testing the approach as he nears an expected campaign launch later this month. After remarks at a recent labor union event, Biden said he was proud to be an “Obama-Biden Democrat,” coining a term that his advisers define as pragmatic and progressive, and a bridge between the working-class white voters who have long had an affinity for Biden and the younger, more diverse voters who backed Obama in historic numbers.
Though Obama remains overwhelmingly popular among Democrats, an undercurrent of the party’s primary contest is the push from some liberal Democrats to go far further than his administration in upending the federal health care system or addressing income inequality. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have led the charge, calling for more sweeping, systemic change, though neither has explicitly criticized Obama by name.
In truth, the differences in policy positions between Obama and Sanders are not that great. What’s different is the tone, not the substance. Obama’s honey-words made his radicalism go down more easily. The former president saw himself as a transformational figure in American history, and his agenda reflected the same radical belief held by Sanders that America had to be “fixed.”
But the biggest question about Biden is not about policy. Is Joe Biden angry enough to win the Democratic nomination?
Scott Mulhauser, who advised Biden during the 2012 campaign, said Biden’s positions put him in “the sweet spot where most of the Democratic Party could be, but also a decent amount of moderates and I’m sure some Republicans.”
But those stands do put Biden out of step with some corners of his party. Despite the increased popularity of Obama’s health law, surveys show the idea of a government-backed “Medicare for All” system, which numerous Democratic candidates have proposed, is also backed by a vast majority of Democrats. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken last month, both Medicare for All and “Obamacare” were viewed favorably by about 80 percent of Democrats.
Biden advisers say they see clear evidence in both polling and the results of the 2018 midterm elections to bolster their contention that the party tilts more toward centrists like the former vice president than toward liberals.
Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have tapped into the mojo of the radical socialists who have been gaining power since the 2018 midterms. While there are many rank and file Democrats who are far less wedded to the socialist agenda, you won’t hear them speaking against it for fear of being seen as less than true-blue. Many midwestern Democrats have accepted the leftward lurch of their party. They may not agree with everything the socialists are pushing, but they recognize it’s a new day for Democrats and the party needs new leaders.
Joe Biden is passe. He may end up winning a few primaries, but the heart and soul of the Democratic Party no longer belong to him or his old boss Barack. It belongs to angry socialists who spew hate toward their political opponents and are looking to radically alter America’s constitutional republic.