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Newsflash: Joe Biden is not a progressive and there are a million reasons why

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Newsflash: Joe Biden is not a progressive and there are a million reasons why
Joe Biden likes to see himself as a progressive hero. Mainstream media — which boasts large numbers of Biden superfans — likes to see him that way, too. But pretending to be progressive is a lot different than actually being one.

Biden, while not the worst of the worst, is still a soggy swamp creature, the likes of which Washington DC desperately needs to rid itself of. On the spectrum of political ideologies, Biden can be found nearer ‘Hillary Clinton’ and ‘moderate Republican’ than ‘Bernie Sanders’ or ‘Elizabeth Warren.’

The former VP’s candidacy provides the perfect demonstration of the problem Democrats face going into 2020. The party is divided by older, moderate-minded Democrats who fawn over establishment figures like Nancy Pelosi — and the younger, more progressive voters who are drawn to the Democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders and the bold policy proposals of political newcomers like freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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Centrists like Biden know, however, that there is a currency in progressivism and are eagerly trying to fit themselves into the progressive box to appeal to those voters, while at the same time trying not to lose their appeal to more moderate Democrats. Rather than just being who they genuinely are, candidates like Biden (Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke also fall into this category) want to appeal to everyone (including moderate Republicans). It’s a disingenuous, swampy strategy which, as Clinton could attest if she wanted to be honest, can actually alienate a lot of people.

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Biden has faced numerous mini-controversies since launching his campaign in April, as progressives challenged his record and old videos resurfaced in which he made some fairly questionable statements.

He is taking serious heat from progressives over his role as a primary architect of the infamous 1994 Crime Bill, which even Bill Clinton — who signed it into law — admitted had made mass incarceration worse. In fact, it led to an explosion in the US prison population, which doubled in just 10 years and disproportionately impacted minorities. Biden, however, is still defending the bill, bragging about having written it and lying about its effects today. How progressive?

Fellow candidate Harris, a prosecutor who laughed and sneered about her own role in threatening poor families with jail time over their kids truancy — a punitive policy that does nothing to help disadvantaged kids and families — even took a swipe at Biden's ‘94 bill. Biden was also an author of the Bush-era Patriot Act, which gave the go-ahead for the FBI to wiretap Americans' calls and emails without a court order. Biden has repeatedly engaged in public self-praise for his role in this debacle, too.

Where foreign policy is concerned, Biden is also a far cry from progressive. He voted for the Iraq War, declaring that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons and hailed George W. Bush for his “moderation and deliberation” after the September 11 terror attacks. He's also a fan of "decent man" Dick Cheney and the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who he said had a "brilliant strategic mind." One wonders if Biden is referring to Brzezinski’s support for arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan ("God is on your side," he told them) and helping create Al Qaeda?

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Biden also really likes to frame himself as a candidate of the workers, but lo' and behold, this man of the people also likes the sound of cutting medicare and social security. He also voted for NAFTA, TTP and the Wall Street Bailout — hardly a record to be bragging to progressive voters about. Forward-thinking Biden is also against the legalization of marijuana, which he still believes is "a gateway drug,” has “no empathy” for young people and called whistleblower Julian Assange — who faces life in prison for exposing US crimes — a “hi-tech terrorist.” That’s not to even mention the creepy groping.

Then there’s climate change. Biden raised eyebrows last week when he claimed that he “started this whole thing” on climate change activism back in the late 1987s. The strange, tangent-y claim was a response to a question posed by an activist from the US Youth Climate Strike group, who wanted to know if he would commit to a debate focused on climate change (he didn’t). This came just weeks after Biden’s climate advisor Heather Zichal — who previously worked for a fracking company (yes, really) — said he would seek a "middle ground" approach to climate policy, enraging activists.

There was once hope for a young Biden. Speaking 1974, he admitted that a system whereby politicians need to beg for money from big donors does "produce corruption” and sounded like he was genuinely interested in changing that.

“They always want something,” the young Biden said of donors, adding that running for office “you run the risk of deciding whether or not you're going to prostitute yourself to give the answer you know they want to hear in order to get funded.”

As the years passed, Biden seems to have mellowed out and instead of fighting to change the system, found it easier to play by established rules. Like his fellow 2020 Democratic candidates, he has pledged not to take cash from lobbyists and corporate PACs — but his first big 2020 fundraiser was hosted by lobbyists and donors and he has sneakily taken donations from those special interests through a political action committee he set up in 2017.

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Yet, you’d hardly know anything about Biden’s many failings if you were relying on mainstream media, where there is a whole lot of fawning going on over his centrist ways and folksy, gaffe-prone approach to politics.

Last week, Fortune Magazine published a head-scratcher of a piece headlined “Why Joe Biden Is the Only True Progressive Candidate.” The big, central argument of the article was not that Biden was a genuine match for true progressives, but that — no joke — ‘centrists’ are the real progressives.

As expected, the media is playing a role in amplifying establishment-favorite Biden and praising his centrism as the best strategy to beat Donald Trump in 2020 —  but if they’re not careful, they might be in for a replay of 2016.

The voters who couldn’t bear to vote for Clinton will be the same ones who would find it hard to stomach voting for Biden — and blaming Russia might not cut it the second time around.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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