What Joe Biden Is Revealing About Democrats

The seasoned, center-left standard-bearer of the party keeps his lead in a crowded primary race

More than a month has passed since former Vice President Joe Biden announced he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, effectively rounding out one of the most unusual fields ever assembled—23 candidates, six of them women, six minorities, with a stunning 40-year age gap between the youngest and oldest.

In that time, a funny thing has happened: Mr. Biden started at the front of the pack and has stayed right there. Normally, this would hardly be surprising, considering how well-known and deeply rooted Mr. Biden is within the party.

But these aren’t normal times, and the political universe was full of people who thought Joe Biden was (you can pick): too old, too old-school, too centrist, too willing to work with Republicans, too weighed down with baggage from past controversies, too prone to campaign gaffes.

Among the “punditry class…the view was that his best day would be his first day in the race,” says Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Third Way, an organization of moderate Democrats.

It is very early, of course, and those potential flaws could yet prove fatal. But for now, the buoyancy of Joe Biden raises the question: What is he telling us about the Democratic Party? Four things come to mind:

Democrats may not have moved as far left as widely thought. Many observers put together the very real energy among the party’s liberal base and the party’s success in the 2018 midterm elections and concluded that the first was responsible for the second. That has emboldened the liberal wing of the party to try to push the party’s agenda well to the left.

This almost certainly represents a misreading of the 2018 midterm election, when the most important victories weren’t by candidates on the left, but by 21 House freshmen who won in districts President Trump carried in 2016. They were centrist candidates, and represent where many Democratic and independent voters are: on the center-left.

That happens to be where Mr. Biden resides as well, and it appears that is just fine with a lot of rank-and-file Democrats. There actually is some unease within the party over the most prominent candidates of the left. In Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling, 36% of Democratic primary voters say they have reservations about or are uncomfortable with Sen. Bernie Sanders, and 33% say that about Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Meantime, just 27% have reservations about or are uncomfortable with Mr. Biden.

—Defeating President Trump isn’t just a priority for Democrats; it is far and away the top priority. From the outset, Mr. Biden has declared flatly that the 2020 race is above all about beating Mr. Trump—and that he is the candidate with the gravitas to do that.

That turns to have been smart positioning. As it happens, Mr. Trump, by directing so much of his Twitter fire at Mr. Biden, actually seems to be helping him make this case, by suggesting he is the Democrat the president considers the biggest threat.

—As a result of this Trump focus, this election may be more about values than ideology. Starting with his announcement video, Mr. Biden’s message, implicit and explicit, has been that Mr. Trump’s values and behavior, more than the policy debate, are the real issues in the 2020 campaign.

This approach presumes that voters are most interested in a candidate who represents the opposite of Mr. Trump in terms of style and demeanor, and puts less importance on ideology and policy positions. Mr. Biden will have his own policy proposals, of course—he rolled out a big education plan just a few days ago—but this approach still represents a calculated gamble. It is also a contrast with the approaches of Mr. Sanders and, especially, Ms. Warren, who has begun to gain traction with a series of detailed liberal policy proposals—a wealth tax, a corporate tax, student-debt forgiveness.

—The idea of working with Republicans isn’t anathema to Democratic voters. Mr. Biden presents himself as a traditional Democrat with traditional middle-class sensibilities—but also one who knows how to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans and find actual consensus in a Washington where there has been precious little of that.

“We need to have a candidate who is ready to rebuild trust,” says one senior Biden adviser.

This position also contrasts with many other Democratic candidates, who are appealing to the anti-Trump anger at the base of the party by using the word “fight” frequently, and stressing their eagerness to do battle with Republicans. As it happens, this approach also is designed to put Mr. Biden in juxtaposition to Mr. Trump, who, frustrated with Democrats, increasingly resorts to pursuing his goal through executive orders rather than negotiated agreements.

Truth as a Common Good with Robert Reich

(Visit: http://www.uctv.tv/) Economist Robert Reich, the Clinton-era Labor Secretary and prominent Democratic pundit, gives a rousing talk on how the intersection of politics and economics led to the rise of Donald Trump and describes the concerns he shares with Republicans who fear that Trump’s way of governing is harming American institutions. Reich is the featured speaker at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy’s Board of Advisors Dinner held in March 2017. Recorded on 03/29/2017. Series: “The UC Public Policy Channel” [4/2017] [Public Affairs] [Show ID: 32116]

Rules Won’t Save Twitter. Values Will.

Values would require that Twitter make tough calls on high-profile and obviously malevolent figures, including tossing them off as a signal of its intent to keep it civil.

And Mr. Jones is not even an edge case: His bilious lies, including that the murders of the Sandy Hook Elementary children were “synthetic, completely fake, with actors,” clearly sully the platform.

Twitter has certainly appeared to have adjusted the rules for Donald Trump. While the president has not descended down the same demented rabbit hole as Alex Jones, many argue that he has violated various Twitter rules, by threatening violence (he did so against North Korea and later Iran) and by systematic harassment of people (the list is too long).

.. Yes, many sources assure me that there is indeed a pull-emergency-brake plan for him, but it hasn’t come to that. Yet.

.. In any case, if you get kicked off Twitter, you can always unload your twisted mind on your very own website.

..  His intent was to tamp down widespread rumors that Twitter was “shadow banning” — who comes up with these creepy terms? — some conservative users. The idea is that their posts mysteriously don’t show up in search results. Twitter did not do that, Mr. Dorsey said, “period.”

.. It was opened by Mr. Dorsey, who sat cross-legged on the stage, leading a 10-minute meditation for his most fervent followers — Twitter’s employees flown in from across the globe.

.. The event had a very Silicon Valley feel-good vibe, and veered awfully close to becoming a spoof of itself.

 

How Conservatives Can Win Back Young Americans

(By Ben Shapiro)

Young Americans are moving to the left. On virtually every issue, they support the Democratic party.

.. among likely American voters aged 18-29, fully 65 percent supported Democratic control of Congress. Polls consistently show greater warmth for socialism among millennials than their elders, greater sympathy for regulation, and less interest in protecting core constitutional liberties ranging from freedom of speech to freedom of religion

..  “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 40, you have no brain.” We tell ourselves that as Americans age, get married, have children, and pay taxes, they’ll inevitably move to the right.

Not anymore.

.. Older conservatives, clutching the Trump presidency like a security blanket, sound less like steady advocates for calm and more like the man questioned about how things are going just after jumping off the top of the Empire State Building: “So far, so good.”

.. among Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), 29 percent considered themselves liberal in 1994; today, that number has shot up to 43 percent.

..Typically, conservatives combat this sort of broad-based political change by pointing out the extremism of the left. During the Carter era, things certainly looked dark for the GOP, but conservatives were able to point out Carter’s incompetence; after Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, Republicans ran against Hillarycare and higher taxes; after Barack Obama’s landslide 2008 election, conservatives made war on Democrats’ overspending and regulatory overreach.

..  Thought leaders like Ta-Nehisi Coates have sought to replace the blue-collar base of Bill Clinton with the intersectional coalition of Barack Obama, using identity politics as a club against Americans who refuse to admit their “white privilege.”

.. Instead of looking at young Americans vs. older Americans, let’s look at young conservatives vs. older conservatives. The data show that young conservatives tend toward libertarianism on issues like drugs and sex but share the same priorities as older conservatives on fiscal and economic issues.

.. It makes sense, then, that liberal social values have resonated with younger Americans. They believe that the case for religious freedom is actually a case for religious bigotry and think that opposition to same-sex marriage reflects a hackneyed version of Old Testament sexual repression. Millennials were raised on the gospel of diversity and tolerance, not the Judeo-Christian moral standards of their grandparents.

.. But the leftward shift on social issues has infused even young religious conservatives. Forty-five percent of millennial evangelicals said they supported same-sex marriage as of 2014; the numbers are undoubtedly higher now

.. Young conservatives in general are far more likely to support gay rights and marijuana decriminalization as well as openness to immigration. But they’re not embracing gay rights and marijuana decriminalization for the same reasons as liberals. Young liberals embrace the LGBTQ agenda because they believe that the strictures of traditional sexual lifestyles are damaging and intolerant; some even embrace marijuana decriminalization because they think that broadening one’s experiences by smoking pot is a necessary precondition to maturity. Young conservatives are far more likely to support same-sex marriage and marijuana decriminalization because they believe that the government should leave everyone alone.

.. Young liberals call for tolerance because they want to promulgate a lifestyle, in other words; young conservatives call for tolerance because they actually believe in tolerance, even of lifestyle choices with which they disagree.

.. Tolerance is a moral touchstone, then, for young Americans on both the left and the right, but for different reasons.

.. All of which suggests young conservatives have a shot at winning over their friends and classmates: They’re operating in the same moral universe as many of their peers.

.. They’re small government, leave-everyone-alone libertarians. Young conservatives may not care about same-sex marriage, but they’re deeply pro-life and pro-gun.

..  They militantly oppose the myth of a racist, sexist America, even as they condemn individual cases of racism and sexism.

.. An incredible 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters between the ages of 18 and 24 say they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.”

.. Why don’t young conservatives like Trump? It’s a question that baffles older conservatives. To older conservatives, Trump has been a savior.

..  Yes, he’s rough around the edges and impolitic; he’s crude about women and ignorant about policy. But he’s politically incorrect, and he speaks the language of the average American. What’s not to like?

.. Young conservatives, however, are more likely to see Trump as an obstacle to progress.

.. they see him mainly as a club the left can wield against the right in perpetuity—a political monster living under the bed that Democrats can dredge up every time conservatives seem to be making headway. They cite his egregious response to the Charlottesville alt-right march and subsequent terror attack and his willingness to wink and nod at the alt-right during the campaign; they point to his nasty comments regarding women, as well as his penchant for bedding porn stars; they cringe at his reported comments about immigrants and balk at his nearly endless list of prevarications.

.. Older conservatives judge Trump on his politics; younger conservatives judge Trump on his values.

.. older conservatives already fought the character battle over Bill Clinton, and they carry the scars from that ordeal. They remember arguing that Bill Clinton was unfit for office based on his treatment of women and his perjury, and they remember losing that argument. They remember arguing that character counts, even as Democrats held aloft the banner of “Lion of the Senate” Teddy Kennedy, who left a woman to drown in his car and made waitress sandwiches with fellow Democratic senator Chris Dodd.

.. Older conservatives remember Mitt Romney, the cleanest candidate for high office in modern American history, being destroyed by the media over pure nonsense. Older conservatives weren’t looking for character in 2016. They were looking for a hammer.

.. Younger conservatives, however, still feel that the battle over character is unfolding, which it is—among young Americans. Young Americans are still trying to decipher which party best reflects their moral values. Trump presents a serious problem for young conservatives trying to make the character argument in favor of the Republican party. Young conservatives didn’t see the battle of 2016 as a battle in which character had already lost. They saw it as presenting a question about their own character.

.. Young conservatives want to be able to tell their friends—all future voters, by the way—that they didn’t stand by silently when a candidate of their party said he could grab women by their private parts.

.. Second, older conservatives saw the 2016 election as a cataclysmic event, perhaps, indeed, the end of the republic. Hillary Clinton posed an existential threat to the future of the country.

.. They believed that Hillary, if elected, would usher in a generation-long rule of the hard left.

.. Donald Trump’s victory, in that view, was a miracle of biblical proportions, the hand of God reaching down and plucking a reality TV star out of the realms of cornball theatrics and plopping him into the Oval Office in the biggest upset in political history.

.. Younger conservatives were far more sanguine about 2016. In their view, Hillary would certainly have been a rotten president. But would she bar the door to all future conservative victories? Younger conservatives thought such an outcome unlikely.

After all, Republicans were likely to retain control of the Senate and the House.

Furthermore, Hillary was widely disliked, burdened by scandal, and unpopular even with her own base.

Older conservatives looked at young Americans and saw the end of the country; young conservatives looked at other young Americans and saw the possibility of change.

.. Third, because young conservatives and older conservatives disagreed about the consequences of 2016, they also disagreed about the level of risk to the Republican party.

.. Thanks to the crisis mentality of older Americans, the brand damage done by Trump became of secondary concern;

thanks to the lack of a crisis mentality among younger conservatives, the brand damage done by Trump became a crucial problem.

.. Young conservatives simply couldn’t understand how so many older conservatives were willing to dispose of key planks of the Republican platform to back Trump, or why so many older conservatives who had preached to them about personal values were suddenly gushing over a man who bragged about sleeping with other men’s wives.

.. Young conservatives knew that they were constantly being called racist, sexist, and homophobic by their comrades at school; they had always responded by saying that they and their party were being slandered. And they were right. But here was Trump—a man who, during the election cycle, feigned ignorance about David Duke—providing a custom-made caricature for the use of young liberals.

.. fourth area of controversy between older and younger conservatives regarding Trump: Is Trump an asset in the fight against political correctness?

.. 71 percent of Americans “believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.”

.. Older conservatives resonate to the verbal brickbats thrown by President Trump. They see him as a bull in a china shop, but he is our bull in their china shop. That’s the reason Trump could so easily escape punishment for political snafus that would have crushed any other conservative. He routinely claimed his own blunderings were the result of his willingness to fight political correctness. “Sure, he says dumb stuff sometimes,” the argument goes, “but he’s also willing to label the New York Times fake news. Nobody else fights like Trump fights!”

.. Young conservatives, by contrast, see Trump’s strategy for fighting political correctness as counterproductive. It’s one thing to attack politically correct viewpoints with data —to “destroy,” in the common YouTube parlance, political opposition through superior intellectual heft. But saying innately offensive things and then justifying those offensive statements under the rubric of political incorrectness actually undermines the battle against political correctness.

.. The left wants to make the case that when conservatives say they’re being politically incorrect, they’re actually covering for their own bigotry; lending that case a helping hand by promoting bigotry under the guise of fighting political correctness does the left’s work for it.

.. conservatives must stop promoting the notion that policy victories translate to political victory. Foolishly hopeful Republican legislators keep repeating the tired nostrum that if they simply pursue solid policy, young Americans will follow—if they pass tax cuts, cut regulation, and build up the military, they’ll stave off the impending generational electoral tsunami.

.. That argument did little to stir older Americans who had been through the political wars; it didn’t upset seasoned politics-watchers who knew that Hillary Clinton was more than a little deplorable herself. But it worked among young Americans, and it will continue to work so long as conservatives’ response is “but Hillary.”

.. So, how should conservatives respond?

They should respond by acting morally and arguing morally.

First, and most pressingly, with regard to President Trump this means condemning bad behavior.

.. Young Americans aren’t judging Trump. They’ve already judged him. They’re judging you and determining whether or not they can ever vote for the same candidates you endorse based on whether or not they admire your character.

.. Second, conservatives must argue in moral terms, and they must use moral terminology young Americans understand. This means learning to argue on secular grounds rather than religious grounds and recognizing that tolerance is a key value to young Americans.

.. Arguing in secular terms doesn’t mean arguing without reference to values. It means arguing against the controlling hand of the left. Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.

..  Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.

.. Most of all, conservatives can’t lose hope. A crisis mentality breeds poor decisions and short-term thinking that sacrifices long-term interests. We’ve seen discouraging trendlines before. But they can be reversed. In 1976, it would have been difficult to imagine the Reagan Revolution that was just four years away.

Republicans redefine morality as whatever Trump does

In marked contrast to the rest of the country, Republicans also say that Trump shares their values (82 percent) and that — get this — he “provides the United States with moral leadership” (80 percent).

.. Yet so strong is the pull of tribalism that we’ve reached a point where partisanship outweighs morality. Republicans aren’t approving of Trump despite his behavior; in calling him a role model, they’re approving his behavior.

.. The difference: Democrats disapproved of Clinton’s morality by 2 to 1 (65 to 33 percent), even as they overwhelmingly approved of his job performance. Only 16 percent of Republicans today say Trump does not provide moral leadership.

.. Such normalizing of Trump’s behavior makes the seediest elements feel safe to crawl out from under their rocks. The FBI reported in November that hate crimes were up again in 2016 after rising in 2015. And the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents were “significantly higher” through the first nine months of 2017

 

Even now, Republicans are ignoring the storm clouds

Not so long ago, Republican leaders prided themselves on protecting middle-American minds from the liberal intellectual rot being spread by politicians and college professors they viewed as being hostile to law enforcement, contemptuous of constitutional traditions, indifferent to personal morality and accommodating to Russian tyrants. They claimed to be the intellectual heirs of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr. Now those same politicians debase themselves daily in service to Trump.

.. “I faced great pressure because of Russia,” America’s president told the Russians. “That’s taken off. I am not under investigation.”
.. As a storm gathers over Washington and the world, Donald Trump’s Republican Party remains complicit in his frenzied efforts to undermine the American institutions and established values that conservatives once claimed to share.
And while the clouds overhead are cause for all to be concerned, it will be the husk of a once-proud Republican Party that will be swept away first by the deluge that is sure to come.