Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden is receiving many sideways glances and correctives—as well as direct rebukes—for suggesting President Donald Trump is somehow an "aberration" separate from the ills and misdeeds of the contemporary Republican Party.
According to the New York Times' Shane Goldmacher published on Saturday, Biden has used the term "aberration" repeatedly on the campaign trail in Iowa over recent days. The reporting indicates that many Democratic operatives and voters—though they agree Trump represents a unique threat and is unlike any president to ever hold the office—believe it's a "naive" understanding of the current politics, as well as bad strategy, to frame Trump's relationship to the GOP this way.
As Goldmacher reports:
There is no disagreement among Democrats about the urgency of defeating Mr. Trump. But Mr. Biden's singular focus on the president as the source of the nation's ills, while extending an olive branch to Republicans, has exposed a significant fault line in the Democratic primary.
Democrats, like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, see the president as a symptom of something deeper, both in a Republican Party overtaken by Trumpism and a nation cleaved by partisanship. Simply ousting Mr. Trump, they tell voters, is not enough.
It's a debate that goes beyond the policy differences separating a moderate like Mr. Biden from an insurgent like Mr. Sanders, elevating questions about whether the old rules of inside-the-Beltway governance still apply. And it has thrown into stark relief one of the fundamental questions facing the Democratic electorate: Do Democrats want a bipartisan deal-maker promising a return to normalcy, or a partisan warrior offering more transformative change?
In his response to the Times story, former journalist David Sirota, now a speech writer and advisor for the Sanders campaign, sided with those who believe Biden's position is nothing short of "naive."
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John Carl Baker, a senior program officer for the Ploughshares Fund, said on his personal Twitter account: "There aren't many views I think should be outright disqualifying for a potential nominee, but this is definitely one of them." Lindsey Barrett, an attorney and co-founder of the Georgetown Law Technology Review, tweeted:
— Lindsey Barrett (@LAM_Barrett) May 4, 2019
And Luis Sanchez, an organizer with the progressive group Indivisible, responded:
— Luis Sanchez (@Luis__Sanz) May 4, 2019
While the Times quoted some potential voters at Biden events who believe that it will take someone who can "reach across the aisle" to get things done, Goldmacher also quoted Brian Fallon, former top aide to Hillary Clinton and now the executive director of the group Demand Justice, who said, "Joe Biden knows better" than to separate lawmakers like Senate Majority Mitch McConnell—with whom Biden worked closely with during his years in the Senate—from the president's actions and policies.
"I'm not saying a candidate needs to go around preaching doom and gloom," Fallon said. "But for the good of the country — beyond the short-term political calculus — we need someone who is cleareyed about the situation they will be inheriting if they win the White House."
Rebecca Katz, a progressive Democratic strategist who remains unaligned in the 2020 contest, told the Times, "I feel like the party went through this and the 2016 election showed that Trumpism isn't just Donald Trump — it's the entire Republican Congress, too."
And, she said, "Until there is someone in the Republican Party who can stand up to Trump, then none of them are better than Trump."