The Radical Joe Biden

The conventional wisdom right now is that Joe Biden is semi-senile, and that his choice of a vice president is all-important as it is likely this person (almost certainly a black female) will become president at some early point in the next few years if Biden wins in November. This conventional wisdom may be narrowly accurate, but ultimately wrong. Why?

First, there is an imperceptible difference between a senile Biden and a feeble-minded Joe Biden. Let’s face it, Biden has been feeble-minded since he entered national politics almost 50 years ago. What is decisive is that even if he isn’t trending toward senility, he has already sold out to the far left of the Democratic Party, and has signaled his intent to implement a far-left agenda if he wins.

Don’t take my acerbic word for it. Read Michael Tomasky’s article “Biden’s Journey Left” in a recent New York Review of Books. Tomasky is one of the smarter lefty writers who I make a point of following. And his article makes clear that a Biden administration would be the most left-wing administration in history—far to the left of Obama.

Among other things, Tomasky reports that Biden’s campaign was having close and cordial contact with Bernie Sanders’s campaign well before Bernie dropped out, and that Biden quickly incorporated a lot of key Sanders people in his campaign when Bernie finally departed the race:

Biden and Sanders get along fairly well personally, and Biden understands that he needs to take the left seriously. . .  After Sanders withdrew, the discussions between the two turned more toward substance—and the extent to which Biden would be willing to adopt pieces of the Sanders agenda. Thus were formed the six task forces that the Biden campaign unveiled on May 13. These eight-member groups cover the economy, health care, immigration, criminal justice, climate, and education, and each is co-chaired by one Biden supporter and one Sanders supporter.

The left-wing presence on many of them is remarkable. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-chairs the climate panel with John Kerry. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, a major Sanders backer, co-chairs the health care task force with Obama surgeon general Vivek Murthy. The economist Stephanie Kelton, a top Sanders adviser and proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, which holds that the government should pay for major new investments like the Green New Deal by printing more money, is on the economic task force. The task forces, I’m told, have a threefold mission: to publicly recommend the policy positions that Biden should run on, to guide the writing of the party platform, and to inform the transition, should Biden win the election (assuming there is an election, or an uncorrupted one). It stands to reason that some of the members of these task forces might also fill important slots in a Biden administration.

If you don’t have an NYRB subscription, here are some more key samples of Tomasky’s analysis:

One of the oldest truisms of presidential politics is that candidates run to the left or right (respectively) during the primary and to the center in the general election. But since he became the presumptive nominee, Joe Biden has moved left. . .

Biden might now be willing to depart from the economic principles that have governed policy-making in this country over the last forty years: the so-called neoliberal principles of free markets, little government intervention or investment, wariness about deficits, and more. He might be willing, that is, to cast off the values and policies that have given us our era’s raging inequality, this uber-class of billionaires, this ethos of the deserving versus the undeserving. Republican administrations have embraced those principles fully—except when it comes to deficits, on which the GOP is completely unprincipled and hypocritical—but our two recent Democratic administrations have also at times done so, as when Obama began talking about deficit reduction in early 2010. The Obama experience was a bitter one for a lot of people who hoped for more public investment in infrastructure, health care, and climate initiatives. “Obama and his team’s acquiescence in—indeed, public endorsement of—the turn to austerity in 2010 was absolutely fucking disastrous,” the UC Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong, who served in the Clinton administration, told me.

Translation: Biden will spend like there’s no tomorrow. And there might not be, if the radical Democrats get their way. The point is: Biden’s mental acuity may not matter much, given that the decision has been made to move the country hard left if he wins.

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