Fake labels

The Washington Post reports that some Democrats are mad as hell at Pete Buttigieg for abandoning some of his previous positions — e.g., Medicare for all and decriminalizing illegal border crossings. I think Buttigieg can live with their wrath, given that his move out of the hard left lane has corresponded with a surge in the polls, both nationally and especially in Iowa.

However, the Post’s article, by Chelsea Janes, illustrates what a slippery character Buttigieg is. The small city mayor used a leftist persona to make an attention grabbing entrance to the campaign, but started tacking towards conventional liberalism when he realized that’s where most of his votes (other than gay votes) are likely to be found.

Janes notes that, according to Federal Election Commission reports, Buttigieg has spent three times as much money on polling as any other candidate in the Democratic field. This fact shows Buttigieg to be politically astute. But coupled with his shifting positions, it also suggests that he’s “a political weather vane,” to use Janes’s term, and a worm, to use mine.

Janes’s article isn’t just interesting for what it says about Buttigieg. It’s also interesting for what it says about Janes and, by extension, the Post.

Janes, who last year was writing about baseball for the Post, persists in calling the views Buttigieg has abandoned “liberal” and his current positions “centrist.” The title of her article goes so far as to claim that Democratic candidates are drifting “rightward.”

Is Medicare for all the liberal position? Is decriminalizing illegal border crossings? Is packing the Supreme Court?

I would have called Medicare for all socialist, decriminalization leftist, and court packing radical. I would have expected the Post, at a minimum, to call them progressive.

If, instead, these positions are liberal, the political ground has moved from under our feet.

And if they are liberal positions, Joe Biden, who rejects Medicare for all and decriminalizing illegal border crossings, isn’t a true liberal. Yet, Biden has been considered a liberal all of his political life and, if anything, has been moving towards leftward during this campaign.

I think Janes and the Post are calling hard leftists “liberals” because they want to be able to call Biden a centrist. It’s false advertising for the former vice president. And it’s free.

They also want the political ground to move from under our feet. Under President Trump, it may be moving some, but not in a way that makes hard leftists into liberals and Joe Biden into a centrist.

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