The Man in the Middle

Joe Biden has already won one of the major tracks toward the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination—perhaps even the decisive track.

He is the only leading candidate for the label of “moderate Democrat.” Pete Buttigieg has the manner and style of a moderate—but in substance, he backs the entire fantasy agenda of the far left, from court-packing to free college to reparations for slavery. Andrew Yang’s claim to moderation is that he once published in Quillette and occasionally says some nice things about intellectual diversity—while he proposes a new federal agency to regulate social media.

To be sure, there are a few other genuine moderates in the Democrats’ 2020 field, like maybe that guy from Montana, you know, what’s-his-name. But Joe Biden is the only big, recognizable name who can claim the mantle of the “moderate Democrat.” The poor sucker.

In a way, this might be a case of catastrophic success. There is no real competition over who can position himself as the leading moderate, but there is wide-open competition for who will be the leading far-left “Progressive” candidate—for who can out-Bernie Bernie. The way the “Progressives” have chosen to do this is to compete over who can take the best potshots at the moderates. And “the moderates” means Joe Biden. That’s how Kamala Harris vaulted herself into the top rank of candidates during the first Democratic debates by attacking Biden for opposing the forced busing of schoolchildren back in the 1970s.

All of this has forced Biden to grapple with the basic dilemma of the “moderate.” By definition, the moderate is the man in the middle. His position is always defined by a middle ground between radical alternatives, and it is the radicals who set the terms. The farther out to the left they move, the more he has to move to follow them. Hence the dodging and weaving as Biden tries to figure out what a “moderate” Democrat looks like in 2019, so he can become that.

Read the rest at The Bulwark.

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