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Reblogged:Morris and Chait on the Biden Surge

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It was not much of a surprise to see Joe Biden assume front runner status as soon as he entered the Democratic presidential field. The fact that he is its 800 pound gorilla has been, though. Towards the end of understanding what to make of it, I think reading two pieces, Jonathan Chait's "What Joe Biden Is Teaching Democrats About Democrats," and Dick Morris's "What Does Biden's Surge Mean?" can be profitable.

The former argues that social media and sympathetic news coverage caused by reporters relying too heavily on same have caused many to overestimate how far to the left the Democratic party presently is. (In terms of average voters, I think he is right. In terms of its intellectual leadership, I do not.) Morris might agree, but adds the following interesting point:
Agoraphobia -- fear of new situations and places -- is a key tendency in today's politics. With the nerve-wracking extremes of the left and the right, which our political parties often embrace, a solid, well-known face is attractive to many.

But Biden's surge is also a reminder of how weak the commitment to a leftist agenda is even among strong Democratic voters. These are not avowed, dyed-in-the-wool socialists who indicate support for the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They are strongly opposed to Donald Trump and eager to embrace any alternative. They are willing to stray from the leftist principals of the Democratic progressive movement for the warm familiarity and comfort of good old Joe.

How long will the Biden surge last? Not very long. It will begin to dissipate after the first debate this summer and will be a distant memory by Super Tuesday in March of 2020.
Regardless of how far left Biden actually is, I think his familiarity does make him more palatable to many Democratic voters, especially those who are (or regard themselves as) "conservative," as well as those who do not understand the full implications of so much of the Democrats' agenda for the past several decades. These voters may not want full socialism, but they fail to realize that the mixed economy they want -- that feels like "home" to them -- is inherently unstable and prone to result in less and less freedom.

If Morris underestimates what he calls "agoraphobia," Biden's lead could prove stronger than he thinks, and there will be a choice that will look "sane" to average Americans come November '20. If not, Trump of all people may well win reelection handily. Otherwise, perhaps Howard Schultz will eventually throw his hat into the ring. In any event, a danger Biden presents is that the same comforting fuzziness that makes him a strong candidate now (and could persist) could land him in the White House, where he will be under the unrelenting pressure of the left wing of his party to enact much of its agenda. As we have seen with Nancy Pelosi's failure to stand up to the anti-semitism of Ilhan Omar (despite initially appearing to do the contrary), the old guard will not be much of a bulwark against the young radicals, even if they do disagree with them. And I am not so sure Joe Biden necessarily disagrees. With Biden then, comes the threat of Americans voting for normalcy and getting a figurehead who will end up rubber stamping significant parts of a very dangerous agenda.

-- CAV

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