Election 2020

Joe Biden and the Limits of Moderate Politics

He's a centrist compared to Sanders, but he's also a classic big-government liberal.


In the expanded progressive universe of the Democratic 2020 presidential field, Joe Biden plays the part of the moderate. In this role, he's a squishy, sensible centrist with long ties to the party and its leadership, an average joe and a conventional, professional politician in an era where unconventional, unprofessional politics seems to have taken over.

That makes for a marked—and useful—contrast with his competitors, a motley crew of democratic socialists and ambitious progressives with socialists tendencies, eager to deliver the sort of political fan service the party's online activist class increasingly demands. And it has helped him stand out in the crowded primary field, rising quickly to the top of the polls and drawing fire from President Trump, who spent the morning tweeting, or rather retweeting, anti-Biden comments sparked by pro-Trump provocateur Dan Bongino's remark that he knows not a single fireman supporting Biden. (May we live in interesting times.)

But Biden's moderation, such that it is, is as much a stylistic tic as an ideological outlook, a sense that he's a practical politician and dealmaker who can connect with blue-collar voters.

Biden launched his campaign with an appeal to labor unions and promised he'd end the GOP tax cuts. In his speech, he attacked "Wall Street bankers, CEOs, and hedge fund managers," echoing the class-focused rhetoric of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He's not for the single-payer vision of Medicare for All favored by his 2020 rival, Bernie Sanders. But like Sanders, Biden has called for making health care a "right for for all," and he wants to both prop up Obamacare and allow more people to buy into Medicare. He's previously backed increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and he supports making tuition free at community colleges. Although he's been quiet on climate change so far (he's been officially running for less than a week), he backed a climate bill all the way back in 1986, and in recent years has continued to cast it as an existential threat.

So, while Biden may not support the most expansive and expensive aspects of the progressive agenda as it exists on Twitter, he is still very much of the modern left's mold, in part because he has adapted to the times, and in part because the idea that the role of government should be steadily expanded, especially when it comes to economics, is an idea to which he's long subscribed.

That doesn't make him a stealth democratic socialist, but it does make him something rather familiar in American politics, a type that was once viewed as far from moderate: He's what people used to refer to as a big-government liberal.

In the context of Democratic politics and the 2020 primary race, that probably does make him a moderate, at least compared to most of the rest of the field. But to understand that is to understand the limits of moderate politics, and the ways in which the moderate label can mislead, even while being correct in the moment. As the social climate changes, what once looked like strong ideological commitments have a tendency to slip silently toward the center.

It's not that Biden hasn't changed at all, nor that there is no upside to the Democratic party's leftward drift. In particular, on criminal justice issues, Biden has backed off from some of the harsher and more aggressively punitive stances he took near the peak of the crime wave in the 1980s and 1990s. On this issue, at least, he appears to have moderated, at least a little) and moved toward an understanding of sentencing policy that is simultaneously a bit more libertarian and a bit more progressive. (The specifics of what he supports, however, remain vague enough that it's worth remaining somewhat suspicious of his underlying commitments.)

But the sense that Biden is a moderate is largely an artifact of his personal style—the role, and it is a role, he plays—and how he stacks up to the other contenders in the race. It's a relative distinction, in other words, rather than something fixed. And it's all too easy to imagine a future in which the definition of moderate, on both the left and right, slips even further, in which Trumpian trade and immigration policy and Sanders-style economic ideas become the milquetoast middle-ground, pushed closer to the relative center by the radicals at the fringe.

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  1. I don’t think it is acurate to call Biden anything. Biden is one of the most dishonest and least sincere politicians of the last 50 years. He basically will say anything he thinks will get him ahead. So, who knows what he actually believes or would do in office. I doubt even Biden knows the answer to that.

    1. I don’t think Biden actually exists. He’s just someone’s simulation of generic politician.

      1. I think you may be onto something there Zeb.

      2. He even hails from Delaware.

      3. LOL!!!!! +1,000,000!!!!

      4. Zen, you misspelled ‘geriatric’.

    2. He comes across more as a bumbling idiot than a Machiavellian shit like the Clintons.

      But bad dumb ideas aren’t appreciably better than bad evil ideas.

      1. Biden is far from a bumbling idiot:

        Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, went hunting for cash in China during an official state visit by his father, the vice president in 2013.

        On his financial safari in Beijing, he managed to bag a $1.5 billion investment in his own hedge fund, Rosemont Seneca Partners.

        The key moment in his hunting expedition came ten days after he accompanied his father to China when the government-owned Bank of China agreed to invest $1 billion — later upped to $1.5 billion — in Rosemont Seneca Partners.

        The likes of Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy, Bill Clinton’s brother Roger, and Hillary Clinton’s brothers Tony and Hugh Rodham could only dream about paydays like this. Their manipulation of their relative’s fame and power led to paltry payoffs in the millions.

        Leave it to the Bidens to break ten figures.

        And Hunter made good use of China’s money.

        Rosemont used part of Beijing’s billions to invest in the automotive subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

        According to Breitbart and The Hill, AVIC is “a major Chinese military contractor accused of frequently stealing U.S. military technology.”

        AVIC, armed with Hunter’s investment, went on to buy 51 percent of American precision-parts manufacturer Henniges.

        Hunter purchased the other 49 percent to keep it in the family.

        This strategic purchase had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the same body that Oked Putin’s acquisition of 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

        The committee obligingly had no objection.

        Hunter’s hunt began in 2011 when he and his associates met with top Chinese government fund leaders only hours before Vice President Biden met with Hu Jintao, China’s president.

        Most politicians, following the likes of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Clintons, wait until after they have been elected to let their family enrich themselves by using their influence.

        1. Nice summary. Thanks.

          1. That was courtesy of Dick Morris

  2. “Biden launched his campaign with an appeal to labor unions and promised he’d end the GOP tax cuts. ”

    Vote for Joe, he’ll raise your taxes !!!

    1. And grope your daughters.

      Biden’s son left his wife of 24 years to hook up with his dead brother’s widow. That is just messed up. There is something seriously wrong with all of them.

    2. And limit your choices.

  3. As the social climate changes, what once looked like strong ideological commitments have a tendency to slip silently toward the center.

    Not so silently – if you listen closely you can hear the ratchet click. It’s no accident that there’s a “tendency” for the radical to become mainstream, you take what you can get now and come back later for the rest, what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable. You can’t give an inch to these fuckers.

    1. No you can’t. Today’s compromise is tommorow’s “loophole” that must be closed in the name all that is good.

    2. To paraphrase Douglas Murray: If you’d have suggested to people in Europe in the 1990s that we’d be passing anti-blasphemy laws, you’d have been laughed out of the room.

  4. I wish someone would get to the facts about Ole Joe.
    1. He’s not from PA. He was born in Scranton and his family moved to Del when he was 10 in 1953
    2. He’s not blue collar, NEVER had a blue collar job. Got his law degree in 1969, in 1970 was elected to state government, in 1973 went to D.C. and has been there since.
    3, He is a dear friend to bankers. He and the policies he spearheaded for over 40 years is reason all major banks and credit card companies are headquartered in Del.
    4, If he’s a union guy it would have to be the lawyers union and he can have them and they can have him.

    1. You are of course, spot on! And let us not forget, that not too many years ago – in THEE most egregious appeasement to the banks in Delaware and elsewhere, it was Joe Biden who – nearly singlehandidly – too the option of Chapter 7 protection away from the average tax payer. Biden and his henchmen were – and continue to – seize cash and assets of American with fewer than $10,000 aggregate to their name(s)!
      Doesn’t matter what Joe Biden does, he’s always gonna smell like fish!

  5. You don’t define a politician by comparison to other politicians and say he is centrist.
    If he advocates the policies of a screaming leftist, he is a screaming leftist.
    Should God display His unending sense of humor and Joe gets the democratic nomination, he will still have to run on a party platform written by AOC plagiarizing from Marx. (Karl, not Groucho)

    1. Karl is so unfunny even Zeppo was embarrassed.

    2. Groucho gets AOC:

      “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

    3. You don’t define a politician by comparison to other politicians and say he is centrist.

      I agree with this, but it’s hard to measure that. When the entire Overton window moves 100 feet to the left, then the question becomes, how come we don’t feel the earth spinning?

    4. You don’t define a politician by comparison to other politicians and say he is centrist.

      That is what centrist means. But I agree it’s a bad way to define a person’t political leanings. Describe what he is, not how he relates to the other idiots.

    5. Vote for Groucho in 2020, after all he ran Freedonia with Chico & Harpo as his wing men & everything was great!!!

    6. If “left” and “right” are ideologies, then “center” is NOT relative. If you’re trying to name the group of politicians “closer to the other big government duopoly party” then “center” is relative, and fair.

      Wasn’t Groucho a Zionist? AOC would support that, but only if she thinks it has something to do with the movie “The Matrix”.

      1. You define the center relative to the total population. The fact that Dems included are best measured in dozens doesn’t transmute a leftist into a centrist.

    7. “You don’t define a politician by comparison to other politicians and say he is centrist.”

      Well, if we compare a politician to a journolist then Suderman makes Trump seem like a libertarian.

  6. can’t believe this fucknut is still a thing how did he make it out of the ’80s unscathed?

  7. He’s a centrist compared to Sanders,

    Sure he is as long as we accept that centrists believe Republicans want to put blacks “back in chains”. Maybe they’ll reopen the African slave trade along with creating The HandMaid’s Tale in modern America also. If this is too extreme would believing only two out of three still be considered centrism? And let’s be serious when the left says this about Republicans they mean anyone right of Dems.

    Obviously Dems and the left generally have been sprinting left for decades. But renorming the results as centrism is stupid and misleading.

  8. a sense that he’s a practical politician and dealmaker who can connect with blue-collar voters.

    Biden launched his campaign with an appeal to labor unions

    Pro tip: One does not necessarily equal the other.

  9. After being part of the problem for 45+ years what better position to put Biden in than leader of the failures. If anyone in his position for that fucking long hasn’t fixed the problems by now, he never will and why would anyone think otherwise? In government shit is actually cream, rising to the top of the sewer.

  10. Because I have no intention of voting for Trump or any of the Democrats I am for whichever one will make the most entertaining election. Biden for sure because he is such a goofball.

    It is official. Sweet Meteor of Death is on the way according to NASA

    So party on Joe!

  11. The democrats seem to be going further to the left of Lenin every day which will only alienate the sane while simultaneously absorbing more of the insane into their party.

  12. In theory, his eight years of watching how NOT to do it should give him insights on how to it right. But if that were so, he would have sold out Hillary in 2016, and beat WIKI guy to the punch.

  13. He’s a piece of shit who is directly responsible for the insane incarceration rates of black americans.

    And he did it for votes. He’s got no spine, no morals and no character.

    1. He’s a piece of shit who is directly responsible for the insane incarceration rates of black americans.

      ^ This is the grossest thing about the “they want to put y’all back in chains” bit.

      To the extent that blacks in our modern historical moment have actually been “put back in chains,” Biden has been at the front of the crowd cheering it on.

      1. It’s not the grossest thing about that comment, but it is real bad

  14. As a staunch advocate for diversity, I’m not excited about another old straight white cis-male President. So Biden isn’t close to my first choice.

    He’s a formidable candidate, however, because of his association with Obama. It seems like so long ago because our economy has tanked so severely since then. But prior to November 2016 (when Drumpf’s election caused what Paul Krugman labeled “a global recession with no end in sight”) the US was experiencing its strongest 8-year economic boom ever.

  15. The democrats are running Biden for the prioritized purpose of abolishing the new tax law. SALT deductions for wealthy, crony, economic central planning democrats are the number one objective. No love for working entrepreneurs, risk taking movers, students and senior class who received a doubling of the individual standard deduction.
    SALT deductions are in
    Standard deductions are immoral

  16. He’s trying to get a grasp of the problems of the country. He wants to take a hands-on approach.

  17. I can’t take Biden seriously after seeing his shotgun speech. There are so many things wrong, I thought I was watching Pat Paulsen.

  18. “Xerox” Joe is a simulcrum of a talent politician. First-rate panty-sniffer, though.

  19. Liberals are what we need. Liberals are the real Americans.

    1. Too bad neither of the two major parties actually represents liberalism. It used to be that the Democratic party was at least socially slightly liberal, but these days, Democrats have gone full totalitarian.

  20. Joe Biden isn’t a “moderate”, he is a senile, opportunistic idiot without a political program at all.

  21. […] is nothing if not a rusty weather vane, and the Democratic wind is still coming in heaviest from the left. There’s no reason to suspect the former vice president will end up being any good on […]

  22. […] is nothing if not a rusty weather vane, and the Democratic wind is still coming in heaviest from the left. There’s no reason to suspect the former vice president will end up being any good on […]

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