Joe Biden May Be the Last Hurrah for Moderate Democrats

Does Joe Biden represent anything more than the ghost of a Democratic Party whose time has passed? Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As Democrats in Washington wrangle over the extent to which they support progressive agenda items like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and as a left-leaning 2020 presidential field is steadily shaped, it’s easy for veteran observers of the Donkey Party to feel a bit disoriented. After all, in presidential nominating contest after contest dating back to 1972, self-identified Democratic progressives have been regularly outmaneuvered by party “moderates.” And there were plausible reasons that kept happening, beginning with an electorate in which conservatives significantly outnumbered liberals, and moderate “swing voters” offered Democrats the only path to a majority.

By the end of the Obama presidency and its horrible sequel, however, Democrats had reason to feel cheated by this long history of ideological self-restraint, which left them weakened at nearly every level of government, awash in corporate power and economic inequality, and still fighting to maintain the achievements of the long-ago New Deal and Great Society eras while battling a new wave of racism and sexism.

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