Biden won; what now for the left?


Jonathan Hoefler

Joe Biden, former Vice President under Barack Obama, was elected to the presidency, defeating one-term incumbent Donald Trump.

Daniel Bethke, Perspectives Editor

After an arduous and lengthy campaign season like no other, former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the winner.

While Democrats were predicted to take the Senate and keep their wide House of Representatives margin, it seems that they probably won’t get the Senate and that their House margin has shrunk substantially. Democrats across the country, most notably Sara Gideon, Theresa Greenfield, Amy McGrath, Joe Cunningham and Collin Peterson, all lost races in which they could’ve been victorious. Even Biden significantly underperformed. Why?

As a Democrat, both as a candidate and as a politician, you have to stand for something other than just being an alternative to the status quo. If you don’t vigorously advocate a specific yet debatable policy, your base’s turnout and therefore victory is not guaranteed. When a Democratic candidate runs on a vague, Blue Dog platform, even in an ostensibly conservative region, it should be no surprise that they will fail to generate as much support among more ideologically left, younger voters than they might garner with older voters. Because of how common this is, in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project, most 18-29 year old eligible voters didn’t vote at all! Meanwhile, 70 percent of age 60+ eligible voters casted ballots for the same election. Therefore, because of this disparity in turnout, a campaign should focus more on turning out younger, ipso facto left-leaning voters, devoting more time to the issues they care about.

The voters can see through power-grab campaigns; they don’t want a candidate that nominally supports beneficial policies but won’t strive to enact them. But this is too often what the Democratic Party offers—candidates on the other side of the same coin as their Republican opposition—and this is too often why they lose. As President Truman said, “If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

Of course, establishment Democrats always bemoan the prospect of ‘losing the middle’ by going ‘too far left.’ They say things like, “If Democrats can move enough to the middle, they will win.” However, the existence of a large moderate bloc that is swayable is a myth. Many people are registered Independents or like to call themselves moderates… granted. But they fall all over the ideological map, with most of them being partisan too! Congressionally speaking, this partisanship is also true; President Obama’s conservative healthcare plan, originally proposed by Newt Gingrich and Chuck Grassley, got not one Republican vote and was instead smeared as radical by its original proponents.

The John Kasichs and Biden Republicans did not win this election, nor do such types of voters ever manage to. Kasich couldn’t even deliver his home state of Ohio! It was the Rashida Tlaibs, as Common Dreams noted, and other such organizers that won the key states for Biden due to their voter registration and turnout efforts. Conversely, in 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the Rust Belt, including Michigan. Why? Not because she went too far left. Clinton lost, even among many former Obama voters, because she was perceived as too corporate and not populist enough by voters in the Rust Belt, who were willing to take a chance with Trump.

The Republicans never play this game. The Republican Party never worries about alienating the nonexistent middle; they simply cater to their base. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, caters to… whom? Not their base—the establishment Democratic Party, with few exceptions, is the worst enemy of its own base. They brought Trump’s victory on themselves.

Progressive policies are undoubtedly popular: a recent Fox News poll found that 72 percent of respondents supported a government-run health care plan.” In fact, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted, “Every single swing-seat House Democrat who endorsed Medicare For All won re-election,” whereas several who didn’t support the policy lost. Voters across the country, even in states Trump won, chose to enact a living wage, legalize certain drugs and establish paid leave. It’s just that, due to the previously mentioned issues, the Democratic Party isn’t viewed as palatable, and part of that is their insincere, tepid support of such popular progressive policies. 

Democrats must become fierce advocates for progressives and truly left policies. They must never stop pushing Biden to fight for the policies to which he paid lip service on the campaign trail. They must call him out if he reneges. They must be fearless of the labels that conservatives will inevitably attach to them: socialist, radical, etc. As shown with the passage of the conservative Obamacare plan, Republicans will ascribe such labels to all Democrats no matter what they do. 

We don’t need business as usual. We don’t need Biden’s ‘return to normalcy.’ That would be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, or, in the words of Albert Einstein, insanity. In fact, as Nina Turner said, Biden’s return to normalcy would only be “a circuitous route back to Trumpism.” If Democrats don’t do something now to take back the party from status quo capitalism and bring it back to pithy labor advocacy, they will continue to pay the price electorally.