Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders are the current front-runners to become the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidate. It is, as it happens, perfectly apt that these two septuagenarians represent the two factions of today’s party: the corrupt and the crazy. Biden is the Centre Left candidate, simultaneously reformist and moderate, idealistic and pragmatic, and recognisably corrupt after leveraging his later vice-presidential years for the advantage of his entrepreneurial son Hunter Biden. Peter Schweizer’s Secret Empires (2018) is a disturbing exposé of Hunter’s lucrative dealings in China and Ukraine while his father served in the Obama administration (from 2009 to 2017). Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is the far Left candidate, an unapologetic socialist and an unreconstructed radical. He said much about the merits of Really Existing Socialism during his 1988 honeymoon in the Soviet Union and has recanted none of it. Biden and Sanders both fall under the category of “progressive” and yet their political histories are obviously disparate: together, however, they exemplify the sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory nature of what it means, in today’s administrative state, to be “progressive”.
Progressiveness, Joe Biden emphasised even before his campaign launch on April 25, was not the sole domain of Bernie Sanders and the other twenty-odd Democratic candidates. Biden has been around a long time (thirty-six years as a Delaware senator and eight years as vice-president) but progressive politics has been around a long time, too. On March 16, for instance, Biden told a Delaware audience that he possessed the most progressive credentials of anybody seeking the Democratic nomination: “I’m told I get criticised by the new Left. I have the most progressive record for anybody running.” Bernie Sanders immediately countered that he “didn’t think there’s much question” that he—that is, Sanders—was the “most progressive” Democratic candidate: “Joe voted for the war in Iraq, I led the effort against it. Joe voted for NAFTA and permanent trade relations, trade agreements with China. I led the effort against that. Joe voted for the deregulation of Wall Street. I voted against that.” Ouch.
This essay appears in Quadrant‘s latest edition.
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There are a myriad of ways in which Biden could count himself as a progressive, not least in his tacit support of the Great Kremlin Hoax. In May 2019, after the Mueller Report had already determined that Donald Trump did not collude with the Kremlin, Biden stated that he “absolutely agreed” with the notion that Trump is an “illegitimate president”. He also took the opportunity to criticise Attorney-General William Barr’s intention to unearth the origins of the collusion-delusion which might, of course, go all the way to the top of an administration in which he was the number two: “You’re absolutely right, and now that they have an investigation of the investigators investigating whether or not Vladimir Putin and the Russians engaged in trying to affect our elections, give me a break. Gosh almighty.” Biden, at the commencement of his campaign, also took the hard-line approach of connecting Donald Trump to the “basket of deplorables” and white-supremacists. He explicitly linked President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy with the rise of Nazism: “It was there in August of 2017, we saw Klansmen and white-supremacists out in the open. Their crazed faces, illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and baring the fangs of racism, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ’30s.” These days (as I argued in “Progressive Ideology and the Ghosts of Nazism”, Quadrant, March 2019) nothing is more progressive than a soupçon of reductio ad Hitlerum.
Senator Biden, it might be argued, has had his own moments of veins-bulging-baring-the-fangs-of-racism. Back in the 1970s, for instance, with a nod to the perceived (perceived by Biden and the Democratic machine, at least) bigotry of Delaware’s Joe and Jane Citizen, Biden strenuously opposed integration in educational institutions across his home state. He talked tough, in a 1975 interview with the Washington Post, about the egregious inequities of racial quotas, forced integration in education and state-mandated busing while denying any personal responsibility for slavery. He was, as he said, a “true liberal” who disdained what we today would label identity politics:
But I do not buy the concept, popular in the sixties, which said: “We have suppressed the black man for 300 years, and the white man is now far ahead in the ‘race’ for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a ‘head start’ or even hold the white man back to even the ‘race’.” I don’t buy that. I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.
But even here, thanks to his “buddy” Barack Obama, he will have few problems with run-of-the-mill progressives or even most African-American voters. Some Biden critics will recoil at his eulogy for one-time segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond in 2003, but that becomes redundant when we consider that President Obama eulogised Ku Klux Klan member-cum-Democratic stalwart Senator Robert Byrd in 2010. While the forty-fourth president acknowledged that Byrd made “mistakes” as a younger man, Byrd had redeemed himself by loyally toeing the Democratic line over the subsequent decades.
Barack Obama’s greatest achievement, if achievement is the right word, was to formally transmute the left-wing identitarian Democratic Party into a nascent totalitarian entity. If rehabilitation was possible for white supremacist turned loyalist Robert Byrd, Barack Obama decided, then Joe Biden and all other evolved Democrats were also welcome in America’s millennialist “progressive” movement. Moreover, the ever-evolving Biden might bring to the “liberal” agenda a significant percentage of blue-collar whites. How deliciously ironic that America’s traditional working class should, in the form of post-America globalism, PC insanity, the United Nations, multilateral trade deals, Chinese hegemonism, open borders, Islamic revivalism, Black Lives Matter, late-term abortion, indifference to Christian persecution, Iranian appeasement, Third Worldism, Bowe Bergdahl and anti-Zionism, vote for its own demise.
It was not by accident that Candidate Obama chose Senator Biden, who had previously struggled to rise above the 1 per cent support mark as a presidential candidate in his own right, as a running mate in the 2008 election. The purpose of picking the inveterate also-ran Joe Biden to complete the Democratic ticket, obviously, was to normalise the outrageously radical back-story of Barack Hussein Obama. As it happened—and it is easy to say this in hindsight—Joe Biden was probably extraneous to Obama’s 2008 presidential victory. Big Media, back in 2007 and 2008, showed no interest in exposing his radical leftist pedigree; and, in any case, political spinmeister David Axelrod did an extraordinary job in positioning Barack Obama, the son of an African father and a white American mother, as a prospective Healer-in-Chief.
Joe Biden sold out all his remaining principles—if principles and Joe Biden can be used in the same sentence—during his tenure as Obama’s number two or, as he now calls it, Obama’s “buddy”. Senator Biden remonstrated most strenuously that he would not have signed up to be Barack Obama’s partner if he sensed that The One was not pro-Israel. The free world learnt the hard way that Barack Obama’s far-Left version of Zionism, in the fashion of radical Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, was so Israelophobic that the Palestine Liberation Organisation, under Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas, would have had few problems supporting his ideology. Vice-President Biden, supposed forever friend of the Jewish state, was a key figure in an American administration that, on Christmas Eve 2016, gifted Old Jerusalem (including the Jewish Quarter and the Christian Quarter) to the Palestinians courtesy of UN Resolution 2334. With a forever friend like Joe Biden you do not need enemies.
Other examples of Joe Biden’s evolution are not so different from any other American-style liberal or everyday progressive. Though he voted for a bill in 1986 that came to the aid of the National Rifle Association, Biden can boast of receiving a failing grade from the NRA in 2003 for his anti-gun-ownership stance. It is a similar story with abortion. His flexibility on the matter was enough to eventually earn him, as a senator, a 100 per cent rating from a pro-choice advocacy group. The nuanced Biden, the ostensible Roman Catholic who believes life begins at conception, opposed expanding access to abortion by the increase of government funding on the grounds that it was inappropriate for the state to either sanction abortion or prohibit it. But that is not enough for today’s progressive ideologues, with their penchant for late-term abortion and out-and-out infanticide. Therefore, the ever-evolving Biden recently announced his support for taxpayer-funded abortion.
In 1996, similarly, he voted in favour of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law which categorically prohibited the federal government from recognising same-sex marriage. However, well before the Supreme Court endorsed gay marriage in 2015, Vice-President Biden got ahead of the curve by announcing that he was “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties”. In many ways, Biden reminds me of Catholic-raised Bill Shorten, who implied he would protect us from the crazies on the Left and the nutters on the Right. It worked for so-called centrists such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton but, in the midst of our modern-day culture wars, does it make any sense? How authentic, especially in this political climate, is it to be anti-Christian and nominally Christian at the same time?
For radical progressives, perhaps, not very authentic at all. Carrying the baton for this wing of the Democratic Party is Bernie Sanders. Unsurprisingly, he has formed a pact with the new Democratic Party vanguard, which includes the youthful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Sanders, unlike Biden, is on board with Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (GND), costed at anywhere between $53 trillion and $93 trillion, more money than the US government has spent in total since 1789. The GND is intended to kill two birds with one stone: solve forever the problem of inequality and fix Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). Only 15 per cent of Democratic members of the House and 25 per cent of Democratic senators voted for the GND bill, even though it jettisoned one of the pledges in Ocasio-Cortez’s original manifesto of February 7, 2019: “Economic security for all those who are unable or unwilling to work.” But this is to quibble. The GND, in either its original or slightly modified form, amounts to the same thing: fast-tracking the usurpation of any residual capitalist autonomy by the state.
So-called Justice Democrats, who facilitated Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress in 2018, are uninterested in a retrograde—retrograde from their perspective—candidate such as Joe Biden. There is no point in “going backwards” as Ocasio-Cortez put it even before Biden announced his candidacy. The radicals have a futuristic and far-reaching scheme: not to make America great again, but to remake America. The stated purpose of the movement that successfully sponsored new far-Left Congress members, comprising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Raúl Manuel, Ayanna Soyini Pressley, Primila Jayapal and Ro Khanna, is to commandeer the Democratic Party for its own socialist ends. Ocasio-Cortez is “not saying there isn’t a role for the private sector” in the GND. It is simply that “even if all the billionaires and companies” wanted to end inequality and achieve “net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2030”, they would not be “co-ordinated enough to do so”. The state, instead, must supervise the co-ordination (Gleichschaltung) of Amerika. Can Joe Biden keep evolving fast enough to be an acceptable candidate for today’s true radicals?
Evidence that Joe Biden might struggle to win over millennialist millennials presented itself on May 10 when a rumour surfaced that Team Biden was planning to take the “middle ground” on CAGW; that is, maintaining a role for fossil fuels into the future. Part of Biden’s progressive persona is that in 1987 he was the first senator to introduce a bill concerning CAGW, a bill that, in an amended form, became law and led to President Reagan setting up a task force to consider what policies America should adopt to mitigate “global warming”. But that was then, and this is now. Ocasio-Cortez made this pronouncement on social media back in January 2019: “Millennials, and Gen Z, and all these folks that come after us, are looking up and we’re like ‘the world will end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?’” Four months later, Ocasio-Cortez, not known for dry humour or sarcasm, insisted that her tweet was an example of “dry humour and sarcasm” and that “you’d have to have the social intelligence of a sea sponge” to take her “the world will end in twelve years” thing literally. Unfortunately, some 2020 Democrat candidates had already taken her literally, and the fact remains that for those indoctrinated by millennialist CAGW, young and old, Ocasio-Cortez’s GND is, as she claims, “like WW2” or the “moon-shot”.
Biden’s challenge was outlined in the popular leftist Mother Jones outlet: “The Planet Is Heading to Catastrophe and Joe Biden Apparently Wants to Take the ‘Middle Ground’”. Bernie Sanders responded swiftly to Biden’s non-announcement about the GND: “If we don’t commit to fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we will doom future generations. Fighting climate change must be our priority, whether fossil fuel billionaires like it or not.” Curt Mills, writing for the Spectator USA, aptly characterised the radicalised Democratic forces aligned against Biden as “an alliance of millennials in a hurry and their geriatric socialist grandparents”. Here we have the perfect “watermelon” strategy, socialism disguised as up-to-the-minute environmentalism. This is a scenario made for Bernie Sanders, the same fellow who, on his 1988 USSR honeymoon, bellowed out Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”, shirtless and three sheets to the wind. Biden, of course, won’t be taking any of this lying down. Soon the former vice-president was announcing he had a better strategy to save the planet than the Green New Deal—it would be called the Green Revolution. And why not? Hopefully (from Biden’s perspective), he might be able to sell himself as both a trendy climate alarmist and a friend of blue-collar workers who rely on traditional energy resources for their livelihood.
Joe Biden’s working-class-hero posturing is so massive that it’s difficult to know where to start. During his senatorial days he made a big deal about commuting between DC and Delaware. He has endured a number of personal setbacks since he was elected senator at the age of twenty-nine, including the death of his first wife Neilia and their young daughter Naomi in a traffic accident in 1972, and more recently the death of his son Beau from brain cancer in 2015. But a commute between highbrow Washington and middlebrow Wilmington is hardly a working-class tale of self-abnegation, especially if you take the express and nobody—in the PR photographs, anyway—ever seems to share the carriage with you. One of the big ideas behind Joe Biden’s candidature, nevertheless, is that the salt-of-the-earth commuter might rebuild the Blue Wall by returning salt-of-the-earth Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to the Democratic fold after the fiasco of Hillary Clinton’s disparagement of “Deplorables” (also known as salt-of-the-earth wage-earners in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and so on).
Biden’s own 1988 presidential run came unstuck when it was discovered he had passed off Neil Kinnock’s personal testimony as his own. In August 1987, at the Iowa State Fair, Biden declared: “I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in the family ever to go to university? … Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?” Britain’s Kinnock had previously stated: “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?” We can probably assume that both Biden’s and Kinnock’s antecedents were not as “thick” as their current-day namesakes, but it is hard to believe that any of them were freebooters on the scale of our Joe and Neil. Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty, no less, today claims that Biden with his “sense of mature judgment” will have “real appeal to the electorate” and that, in any case, anybody would be better than Donald Trump. The unbounded bitterness/entitlement of these would-be proletarian rulers is there in the “thousand generations” reference. Leaving aside the kind of tertiary education their forebears might have been denied in the Stone Age, we are left with the shared pathology of Biden and Kinnock. It is called entitlement.
Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton before him, holds a clear lead over his left-wing rivals in the early polling. Biden has never been a divisive figure but nor has he been a galvanising one, having failed badly in his previous attempts to win the Democratic nomination. Even his champions in the media, such as David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post, acknowledge the uninspiring nature of their candidate’s public persona, including “all his blarney and sometimes tedious speechifying”. The important thing, the only important thing from Ignatius’s point of view, is that Biden seems to be “the best candidate to beat Trump”.
Biden might be “too old, too white, too male, too touchy-feely, too loquacious”, but this lingering, long-term politician is a reminder of a time when America was not so polarised. He is, in short, the major traditional-type figure the Democratic Party establishment has at its disposal to see off the radicalised progressives such as Sanders. Will we see the powerful technocrats in the party, the Democratic National Convention (DNC), collude and conspire with Candidate Biden in 2019-20 as they did with Candidate Clinton in 2015-16? And will Bernie Sanders, the left-wing populist outsider, once again yield to the entitled demeanour of the establishment’s favourite, as he did at the first televised Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton in October 2015: “Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your emails!” The Los Angeles Times, at the time, rhapsodised about Sanders letting the unethical insider Clinton off the hook: “The crowd went wild. So did the internet.” But what is the sense of a populist firebrand covering for an establishment opportunist in the midst of a populist insurrection? It was not just self-sabotage on Bernie Sanders’s part but an act of irresponsible cowardice. America would have to wait until the following year for a non-establishment populist figure, real-estate developer and reality-television luminary Donald Trump, to put a spotlight on the criminality of Hillary Clinton.
The Trump re-election campaign, a conservative-populist phenomenon, will destroy the Joe Biden candidacy, as it did the Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016. These two old troopers both sold out their country and made a fortune doing so. This is what David Ignatius calls being “a decent man”. In the case of Biden, it is not only the hundreds of millions he leveraged for his surviving son Hunter in China but the hundreds of millions he leveraged for the same son in Ukraine. For Biden, who touches and grabs women and children even on camera as if he were the Sun King and ordinary people his supplicants, to be an American politician in the globalist era is to sell out his country and make a private fortune in the process. China is America’s “business partner”, as are Mexico, the European Union and, potentially, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Why not strike up friendships everywhere and make a small (or large) fortune at the same time? For the likes of “insiders” such the Clintons and the Bidens it is a win-win situation.
I would love to see the left-wing populists, in the form of Bernie Sanders, give Joe Biden his comeuppance, but he was not up to the task in 2016 and I doubt if he has the gumption to do it now, although fiery radicals such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might help provide some iron in his resolve. In May, promisingly, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored their Loan Shark Prevention Act, a provision to impose a 15 per cent annual interest rate cap on all institutional consumer loans. That makes good left-wing populist propaganda, even if in reality the bill is so draconian it would work against the interests of working-class people in dire need of a short-term cash injection and force them into the hands of loan sharks. Better, of course, to restrict illegal immigration, bring manufacturing back to America and reduce unemployment and improve wages, although that falls under the category of right-wing rather left-wing populism. Nevertheless, any kind of populist tilt is going to undercut Biden who, despite time spent aboard the Wilmington Express, has deep ties to powerful interests in Washington and Wall Street.
Most probably, though, the DNC machine will get behind “their” candidate, as they did four years ago, and Biden will win the nomination. He could, in all likelihood, nominate a far-Left politician as his running mate, such as California’s African-American/woman Kamala Harris, and establish himself as a more plausible progressive Democratic candidate, with past indiscretions—rejecting racial integration in schools during the 1970s, attacking Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, backing the mass incarceration of African-Americans with Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill—conveniently forgiven and forgotten. The Democratic Party will be at its most potent at the conclusion of the primaries, when the corrupt and the crazy are no longer at each other’s throat, and they can get on with the real business at hand: beating Donald Trump.
But here is the problem. A left-wing populist might have taken it up to Candidate Trump in 2016 but the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party put their thumb on the scales during the primaries. We know this to be a fact because of WikiLeaks revelations. Joe Biden, I submit, is just another evolved Democrat from “the swamp”, along the lines of Hillary Clinton. If the establishment Democrat versus the populist Republican match-up did not work out so well for the Democrats in 2016, it is even less likely to do so this time around, especially since the economy is booming and President Trump has seen off the Great Kremlin Hoax, and will now be able to turn the whole dastardly scheme back on Obama-era luminaries, such as Biden. The candidacy of Joe Biden, Obama’s buddy, not to mention China’s and Ukraine’s buddy, could well be a train wreck—no harm intended, of course, upon the venerable Wilmington Express.
Daryl McCann has a blog at http://darylmccann.blogspot.com.au, and he tweets at @dosakamccann. A regular contributor to Quadrant, he wrote “Big Media and the Great Kremlin Conspiracy” in the May issue.