The problem with being in politics for a long time is that there is a great likelihood that public attitudes and opinion about any number of issues has probably changed. This puts long-serving politicians in a very uncomfortable spot. They can either stick to their guns and go down in flames, or shade and trim their stated beliefs to mirror current public attitudes.
Joe Biden has been in politics for longer than many of those likely to vote for him have been alive. He has gone from being a law-and-order man who supported minimum sentencing laws to being a champion of prison reform. He opposed forced busing of school children, only to now proclaim he has seen the light and will support it. He supported the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment at the time, but now opposes it.
Where the media may have been reluctant to point out these inconsistencies, his Democratic primary opponents have not. And on the issue of sanctuary cities, Biden has left himself wide open.
When Biden was running to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2007, he was unequivocal when asked at a debate about whether he would allow sanctuary cities to ignore federal law.
“No,” he responded.
That changed when he became vice president under President Obama. The Obama administration embraced sanctuary cities and the policy flourished. But that change of heart may actually cost Biden, as several of his rivals, including Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, are trying to make Biden appear a wishy-washy moderate with flexible principles.
At the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly asked Biden if he thought the 3 million deportations under the Obama administration were a good idea.
Biden said he wouldn’t reveal his private conversations with Obama, but said they had “moved to fundamentally change the system” and that “much more has to be done.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) fired back, accusing Biden of trying to “have it both ways.”
“You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign,” Booker said. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge when it’s not.”
If you’re keeping score, Booker hit that one out of the park.
That’s why this issue is particularly dangerous for Biden. Very few Democrats want to leave Obama behind, but most are willing to point out the former president’s deficiencies. And in so doing, they are also painting Biden as a hypocrite — abandoning Obama in some cases and embracing him in others.
It’s not likely to cost Biden with ordinary Democratic voters. But the more he trims his political sails, the more he angers the radical activists who want to steer the party over the cliff.
This is music to Trump’s ears, of course, as the president waits patiently in the wings for the Democrats to expose their radical selves for all to see. It will only make it that much easier for Trump to help the voter connect the dots from AOC to Biden and the rest of them.