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Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speak during the second round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2019. (Photo: Jim Waton/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speak during the second round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2019. (Photo: Jim Waton/AFP/Getty Images)

Here We Go Again: Neoliberal Centrists Are Anointing One of Their Own—and It Could Cost Us

Running a candidate who will advocate policies that are embraced by the elite are done in the interests of the oligarchy is literally the only path that leads to a Trump victory in 2020.

John Atcheson

The post mortem on the latest Democratic debate tells us all we need to know. The fix is in. Choose your so-called liberal media—New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, MSNBC, or any of the other members of the neoliberal media mafia—and you’ll be told either that Biden did well, that he was the “winner,” or that he at least avoided any major gaffes. A few non-traditional news sources questioned this the next day, but for the most part, most Americans would think things went well for Biden from reading the media accounts.

This whole routine is reminiscent of 2016, when the combined forces of the media, the party, and the supporting infrastructure of pundits, not-for-profits, and foundations assured that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination.  And if the neoliberals are successful in making Biden the candidate, the results are likely to be the same—a Trump victory.

An examination of the last two elections shows why.  A Democrat is unlikely to win without getting a good turnout from Blacks and young voters.  In 2016, Democrats ran a centrist and turnout was down among both these groups and Trump won.  In 2018, they ran a more progressive slate and turnout was way up in both these groups and Democrats won across the board.

Seems simple enough.  But throw in money, power and vested interests, and things get complicated.  Bottom line, the oligarchy seems willing to risk another Trump victory to get one of their own elected.

Biden, like Clinton, has a ton of baggage, but beyond that, he also has a predisposition for gaffes, and it appears that he’s lost a step or two.  And it’s not ageism to suggest this, it’s based on his performance.  For example, no one is questioning Sanders based on age, and he’s two years older than Biden. But he’s sharp, clear, consistent, and in command of the facts.

But just as the press ignored Clinton’s obvious weakness—her ties to Wall Street and big banks at a time when that was (and still is, by the way) the kiss of death, and a heavily scripted candidacy with all the authenticity of a high school theater production—they are ignoring Biden’s similar ties, as well as trying to portray his poor performance in the debates as a success.

For example, the media obsessed on Castro’s question about Biden’s recall of his earlier statement about health care, and so-called fact checkers overwhelmingly said Castro was wrong.  But a full analysis of the exchange shows Castro was essentially was right.   

And let’s not forget Biden’s completely incoherent “record player” ramble.

The problem with this was not simply that it was garbled, but it was racist as well. The white paternalism of his comment is palpable. Biden’s lead is largely a product of support from Black voters. The press has soft-pedaled Biden’s record on race, and his relationship with Obama has protected him from the consequences of his record, but if he continues to make racist statements his relationship with Obama won’t save him, and Black voters will abandon him. Let’s hope that happens before the primaries are over, because if Biden were to face Trump with only lukewarm support from African Americans he’d lose.

Then there’s the previous debate, when he urged people to visit Joe 30330, a non-existent web site, and warned of “8 more years” of Trump. Joe 30330 was a text address, but that hardly mitigates his error.  In fact, it showcases his age to a generation raised with texts and the Internet, alienating the other group that is absolutely vital for Democrats if they are to win the general election.

Recently he announced to a middling sized crowd how glad he was to be in Vermont.  Unfortunately, he was in New Hampshire.

But Google “Biden and Gaffes” and you’ll get a long list—a majority, in fact—of articles and stories that suggest they don’t matter.  The overall impression from most is that Joe is just a lovable old gaffe machine, and it’s not relevant to the general election. 

But think for a moment what Trump would do with these gaffes.  What he would do with Joe’s ties to Wall Street, banks, pharmaceutical companies, and the financial sector? What would he do with Joe’s long history of  positions that are anathema to Black voters, and more recent statements that reveal an antediluvian attitude about race? Think what how he’d portray him as a doddering old man—alienating the young vote. Sure, it’s unlikely that Trump would win many Black or young voters, but he could assure that enough don’t show up for Biden. And that would give Trump the victory.  Remember, he won in 2016 with just 27 percent of the eligible voters.

But Trump had help from centrist neoliberals who fought to keep the Democratic Party in the center—to reject progressive values and positions that poll after poll shows majority of Americans support.

And incredibly, the centrists and their media allies are at it again. Pundits, columnists, commentators are nearly united in their warnings about drifting too far to the left (where the people are, by the way).

But think about this: These neoliberal elitists, and conservatives are suggesting that running on issues that the majority of Americans support—for example 59 percent (Green New Deal), or 70 percent (Medicare for All), or 76 percent (tax increases on the wealthy), or 89 percent (stronger background checks for gun purchases, and 62 per cent supporting a ban on sale of automatic weapons) to name a few, is bad politics.  Really?

And so-called radical liberal ideas are backed by majorities in swing states too.  Not only that, but these majorities are holding in the face of a media assault on the “radical left.”  Imagine how popular they’d be with a little honest reporting, and the backing of a party that wasn’t a wholly owned subsidiary of the Oligarchy.

So, why would it be a bad idea to run on popular positions, and why would it be good idea to run a candidate who is more likely to lose to Trump?

There’s only one reason.  Centrist neoliberals represent the interests of rich folks and corporations, not those of the people. Just look at Biden’s contributors. The media’s attempts to convince us that popular progressive policies are unpopular is done in the service of the oligarchy. Their commitment to running a candidate who will advocate policies that are embraced by the elite are done in the interests of the oligarchy.

The problem with this is that it is literally the only path that leads to a Trump victory.  Democrats’ 2018 landslide was about the young, Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities turning out in record numbers to support a more progressive slate of candidates. The 2016 election was about their failure to show up for a centrist.

That’s how we got Trump; that’s how we could again.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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