Nothing has characterized the 2020 Democratic presidential primary more than the crowd of Democrats hoping to chip away at former Vice President Joe Biden’s steady polling lead. Apparently this tendency is contagious because the media has also joined in the pile on by publishing a disproportionate number of negative stories about Biden in recent weeks — many of which I will concede are self-inflicted. As a result, two more left-wing candidates — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — are closing in on him in the polls.
Much of the activism for these candidates centers around their progressivism and determination to part with the more moderate status quo — one that Biden represents. However, many liberals who support Warren and Sanders over Biden overlook the more problematic issues in these left-wing candidates’ past and underemphasize the large body of evidence that shows Biden to be more in line with the views of the American people.
In regards to Sanders and Warren themselves, neither have the blemish free pasts that their supporters claim they have. For example, Sanders voted against the Brady gun control bill five times and voted for immunity for gun manufacturers. Additionally, while he constantly rails against mass incarceration, he voted for the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill which worsened the problem. Sanders also referred to open borders as a Koch brothers proposal — a sentiment that would likely appall many of his socialist supporters.
Warren has also undergone quite a leftist shift from her past positions. For example, in her book “The Two-Income Trap” Warren backed financial support for stay at home moms and a voucher system for public education. Also, despite her railing against corporations, was also a consultant for several corporate interests while she was a law professor at Harvard, including Dow Chemical — a company that produced napalm during the Vietnam War.
Some supporters of these two would say that they both underwent an evolution on many issues to get to their more progressive stances today. However, many criticize Biden for a similar shift in his own beliefs and opinions.
Nevertheless, many on the left seem to have excused these discretions because Warren and Sanders have supported policies such as reparations, decriminalizing the border, allowing undocumented immigrants to access helathcare services and banning private health insurance — all of which are insanely unpopular.
Additionally, in the argument about who is the best candidate to beat Trump, the lessons of 2018 seem to be willfully ignored. Moderate candidates won governorships in two of the three midwestern states that Trump won. Furthermore, in only six states do liberals outnumber conservatives, which strongly indicates to me that extremely progressive Democrats would struggle on the national stage.
Biden is also polling well in traditionally red rates which could help Democrats win the electoral college — a system which is already stacked against them. According to one sobering analysis, Trump could lose the popular vote by 5 million and still win the presidency. Furthermore, between Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump needs to retain only one in order to still win the electoral college.
Performing well in moderate and right leaning states is important because they hold the key to retaking the Senate, without which exactly 0 progressive policies stand to be enacted. Not to mention that Biden seems to be the only candidate who does not seem to be running away from Obama’s legacy who — it should go without saying — had a 2-0 win record running for president.
No Biden is not perfect, but progressives also willfully ignore how imperfect presidents in the past have pushed for meaningful and positive change in the lives of everyday Americans. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson opposed civil rights laws for several years while he was in Congress, only to sign several pieces of civil rights legislation into law once becoming president. Former President Bill Clinton did a great number of despicable things in office, such as worsening mass incarceration and increasing welfare restrictions, but he also appointed progressive icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, given the institutional constraints on a president’s ability to enact drastic change, the idea Biden will really end up being that much worse a president than any more left-wing candidate is crazy. Sure, Biden is not as progressive as I would like, but the constant moralisms about who would be a better president are exhausting and obscures the difficult realities of governing. No matter which Democrat becomes president, they will be in a position to do immense good for the American people.
Every instance of liberal infighting that obscures these facts makes it more difficult for Democrats, no matter who the nominee is, to win the presidency. My number one priority is ensuring that Trump is not re-elected and oftentimes I feel progressives lose sight of that overarching mission by ignoring the nuances and contradictions in both politicians and our political system. Unless we come back down to reality, I fear that we might as well kiss the White House in 2020 goodbye.
Jacob Asch is the Executive Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.