Joe Biden’s billing as the moderate-in-residence of the Democratic primary is a telling statement on the breakneck speed at which the party is radicalizing. His platform offers proof.
A Tuesday report in McClatchy compared Biden’s 2020 platform to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 platform, finding the former vice president’s policy prescriptions have drifted leftward from the former secretary of state’s. “From health care to climate change to criminal justice, Biden has proposed ideas more ambitious and liberal than policies supported by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign,” the article declared. It even went so far as to correctly note that “Biden’s current set of policy prescriptions would likely be considered radical if they had been proposed in any previous Democratic presidential primary.”
Examples include his health care plan, his climate change plan, his criminal justice reform plan, and his position on the death penalty.
Biden hasn’t clinched the nomination, and whether he eventually will is far from clear. But he’s the frontrunner, and like Clinton, a septuagenarian establishment Democrat willing to evolve along with the far left for the sake of political expediency. The movement from Clinton’s platform’s to Biden’s illustrates the level of hard leftism required to compete in the primary and, more broadly, reflects the movement of the party. What’s remarkable is that it happened in the span of three years.
For Biden, part of this is the impossible balancing act that involves placating the far-left base and appealing to older Rust Belt Democrats, all without blowing up his appeal between the coasts in a potential general election. In Biden, voters get a leftist wrapped in the packaging of good-old-days nostalgia, which can read as “moderate” in a cultural sense.
As McClatchy notes, Biden’s platform isn’t as far left as the platforms of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), so perhaps he’s “moderate” compared to a democratic socialist and someone like Warren. These distinctions will hopefully be clarified at Thursday’s Democratic debate, where all three candidates will be on stage together at last.
Some of this is the product of a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein the coastal media, surrounded and comprised of coastal progressives, has artificially accelerated the party’s ideological movement by a) convincing party leaders the Democratic electorate is farther left than it is (based on their own experiences in urban bubbles), and b) forcing candidates to comply with leftist litmus tests lest they risk bad press. The Biden campaign seems to understand the disconnect between the media and the broader Democratic base.
Whatever label fits Biden best, the movement from Clinton’s platform to his is evidence not just that the Democratic Party is lurching left, but that it’s doing so at a remarkable speed. If you accept that the media’s involvement is having an outsized impact on the party, it’s more evidence the lessons of 2016 have not been internalized.