| April 25, 2019 05:11 PM
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s entrance into the 2020 presidential election will provide Democrats a choice: Do they want a reset, or do they want a revolution?
As Democrats have spent the past several months outlining the sweeping changes they want to make to the United States, more than anything, Biden’s candidacy represents a promise to go back to a pre-Trump era in American politics where things were a bit more predictable.
Though Biden has not had a chance to offer detailed policy plans at this juncture, he’s unlikely to embrace the transformative polices proposed by his rivals: free college, canceling all student loans, universal child care, ending private insurance, the Green New Deal, and so forth. He does not seem likely to respond to President Trump’s challenges to norms by arguing that Democrats need to blow things up to advance a more radical agenda of their own.
Instead, a Biden presidency is likely to involve the more typical arguments between Republicans and Democrats over marginal tax rates, expanding access to health insurance, passing gun control laws, investing in green energy, and so on.
Whether he’s ultimately successful will depend on which theory of President Barack Obama’s legacy ends up being more representative of a critical mass of the Democratic electorate.
Though Obama is overwhelmingly popular among Democrats, there is a critique of his presidency among liberals who are well-represented online.
In this critical view, while Obama did many things to advance liberalism, his approach to policy was too incremental, and he tried too hard to attempt to work with Republicans. Republicans, this group of liberals argue, will never act in a reasonable manner and agree to compromises — and there’s no reason to pursue more tepid polices when everything a Democrat proposes is going to be attacked as socialist no matter what.
The prime policy example is Obamacare. Though conservatives view it as a dramatic expansion of government, to liberals it represented Obama repackaging a Republican plan built around the private insurance industry.
This group of liberals is pushing for more radical changes, either on the policy front, on the procedural front (such as ending the filibuster), or on both fronts — pushing what would amount to a full frontal assault on the structure of American government and the economy.
Biden is quite straight forward about the fact that he’s running as an Obama-Biden Democrat. His hope is that there are Democrats who believe that the world was basically sane and rational under Obama, who they view has having pursued sensible policies in a reasonable way. These Democrats would basically like to go back to the way things were, and build on the progress.
At this point, it’s unclear which view is closer to what most Democratic voters feel.
Judging by the voices you hear online, Biden doesn’t have much of a shot. Consuming news from Twitter, one would get the impression that his younger, more diverse, and more liberal rivals are more representative of the modern party, while Biden’s long political career going back to the days when he opposed school busing in the 1970s is going to be a deal breaker.
But Biden has consistently led in polls. It’s of course possible his numbers will collapse as he undergoes more rigorous scrutiny and as his name recognition advantage erodes as voters get to know the other candidates better. Yet it’s also possible that a critical mass of the Democratic electorate is more moderate (both ideologically and temperamentally) than it would seem from the online conversation. In that case, Biden has a good chance of taking the nomination.