Joe Biden Personifies Democratic Party Failures Since the Cold WarRoundup
tags: liberalism, Democratic Party, Joe Biden
Michael Brenes teaches history at Yale University. He is the author of For Might and Right: Cold War Defense Spending and the Remaking of American Democracy, which is forthcoming this year from University of Massachusetts Press.
Former vice president Joe Biden has emerged as the anointed moderate to take on Senator Bernie Sanders. Despite poor performances in the Democratic debates and a fourth- and fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary respectively, Biden’s victories in states like Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina have made him the “unity candidate” to defeat Donald Trump. Biden, the theory goes, can best appeal to the disparate constituents seeking to oust Trump.
Yet Biden personifies the ways Democrats have been complicit in the failures to further racial and economic equality in the United States since the 1970s. Moreover, Biden’s candidacy, not just the candidate himself, reflects a problem that has plagued the Democratic Party since World War II: the party’s unwillingness to build a coalition that includes the left.
For decades, centrists in the Democratic Party have marginalized the progressive left in the service of “electability,” of appealing to a public supposedly fearful of big-government policies. This strategy is a product of Cold War anti-communism, of liberal Democrats’ aim to appeal to a “vital center,” often through red baiting and anti-communist rhetoric. Many of these tactics have carried into the post–Cold War era. For decades, the Democrats’ approach to the left has sidelined popular progressive policies, delayed or diluted reforms in Congress, created fissures within the Democratic Party, and played into the hands of Republicans.
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