President Trump has accused Joe Biden of being a puppet of the “radical left.” But the US’ most prominent leftist, Bernie Sanders thinks Biden isn’t leaning left enough. His concerns seem to be falling on deaf ears, though.
Trump has said that Joe Biden, a centrist democrat with nearly five decades of experience in Washington, is a “puppet of the radical left movement that seeks to destroy the American way of life.” Central to Trump’s argument is Biden’s refusal to strongly condemn the wave of violence that’s accompanied ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, as well as his pledge to roll back Trump’s tax cuts should he win in November.
To Bernie Sanders, however, Biden is sticking too close to the center for his own good. According to a Washington Post report on Sunday, Sanders “told associates that Biden is at serious risk of coming up short in the November election if he continues his vaguer, more centrist approach.”
That approach has seen Biden focus his campaign almost entirely around opposition to Trump, rather than the “economic populism” that made Sanders a hit with young voters during this year’s primary season. According to the report, Sanders wants Biden to embrace single-payer healthcare and higher wages, and to unveil plans to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Furthermore, Sanders reportedly wants Biden to campaign with popular leftist politicians like New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a bid to reach young and Latino voters, the latter of whom are leaning more and more toward Trump as election day draws nearer. Ocasio-Cortez was a late addition to the speakers’ roster at last month’s Democratic National Committee, and in a move perhaps indicative of the party’s dedication to Biden-style centrism, was afforded less time to speak than Republican former governor John Kasich.
Sanders’ decision to back Biden came as a disappointment to his legions of supporters, who saw the socialist senator’s endorsement as a capitulation to the same machine politics that forced him out of contention against Hillary Clinton in 2016. In response, Sanders promised that he’d pull Biden to the left, and both men set up a number of task forces to shape policy on climate change, immigration, healthcare, and a number of other hot-button progressive issues.
Yet the task forces settled this summer on expanding Obamacare rather than implementing Sanders’ signature ‘Medicare for All’ system. The climate recommendations fell short of the radical ‘Green New Deal’ some progressives demanded, and the criminal justice reforms outlined did not mention defunding police departments, a core demand of some leftists and ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists. Even in announcing the task force’s recommendations, Sanders admitted that himself and Biden had “strong disagreements about some of the most important issues facing our country.”
His pleas to Biden have only intensified since then. “You got to give people an alternative or reason to vote for you other than saying, ‘I’m not Donald Trump,’” Sanders said in a PBS interview on Friday. “And that means speaking about an economic program, which Biden has. It is not as strong as I would like it. It is not the Bernie Sanders program.”
If there’s anything Sanders should be used to by now, it’s being sidelined by the Democratic establishment. Despite Hillary Clinton’s record low favorability ahead of the party’s 2016 convention, Sanders was muscled out by a party whose staff were hand-picked by the Clinton camp, and went on to endorse Clinton, a move many of his supporters saw as a betrayal of his values.
This time around, the bias against Bernie began in primary season, with leaked stories of Sanders’ so-called Russian support circulating in the media in February, and liberal pundits comparing the avowed socialist to Adolf Hitler. Bernie Sanders, the Washington Post declared in one of its ten anti-Sanders op-eds in less than a month, is “the Donald Trump of the left.”
Yet Sanders has hitched his wagon to the Democratic Party, and when push comes to shove will choose Biden over his own progressive ideology. Speaking to PBS on Friday, he said his own disagreements with Biden came second to their common goal: “to defeat Trump.”
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