“I think if you look at Joe’s record, and you look at my record, I don’t think there’s much question about who’s more progressive,” Bernie Sanders recently said on ABC’s “This Week.” And, if that’s how America sees it, that could be a good thing for Joe Biden as he chases the Democratic Party nomination for president.
Sanders was hoping to make a different point, one that would spotlight him as the candidate who can take the White House for the Democrats in 2020. And the Vermont senator has begun to grind away at Biden, especially now that Biden is outpolling him by 31 points in South Carolina, by double digits in New Hampshire and by 32 points nationally in the latest Hill-HarrisX poll.
Other “progressive” Democrats, equally alarmed by Biden’s early lead, also went after him last week. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a shot at what she thinks is Biden’s environmental record.
The sponsor of the Green New Deal told her supporters, “I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives.”
That was pretty good radical rhetoric, but Ocasio-Cortez missed her mark. Biden is recognized by serious environmentalists for introducing and passing the first climate change legislation ever in the 1980s.
“You’ve never heard me say, ‘middle of the road, I’ve been middle of the road’ on the environment,” he said. “Tell her to check the statements that I made, and look at my record. … I don’t think she was talking about me.”
In these Democratic family squabbles, there are legitimate policy differences, but the big divide in this contest is more about character, style and tactics. And Democrats disagree over how best to engage Donald Trump in the public arena and beat him.
Some Democrats want their candidate to be like Trump, to out-Trump Donald Trump, only with different ideas. As Adam Green, a supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, told Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic, “We need an equal and opposite willingness to shake things up, but in the right way.”
Other Democrats believe that the voters are longing for a different approach, and Biden delivers that. Biden is a good talker and a better listener. He has strong beliefs, but he knows that others have strong beliefs, too. He admits to liking his political opponents, even if he hates their ideas. And when he makes mistakes, which he does as often as the rest of us, he steps up.
Trying to beat Trump at his own game may be a fool’s errand, because no one has ever been better at it than Trump. Chaos and high drama have kept his opponents in both political parties off balance.
But maybe Americans want steady. Maybe they would like to turn on the morning news without hearing that the nation is on the brink. Maybe they want to be spared another overnight tweet storm. Maybe Americans are just sick and tired of all the fighting.
And if they are, Biden figures to be the one to win this.