In 2020, it was widely reported that Joe Biden wanted to be a “transitional” president. At a campaign event in Detroit, appearing with several younger and more progressive Democratic politicians, he appeared to endorse the idea.
âLook, I see myself as a bridge, not something else,â Biden said. âYou’ve seen a whole generation of leaders stand behind me. They are the future of this country.
His pitch wasn’t just about his age. Biden argued that his more moderate stance on various issues was necessary to be elected. The message at the base was indeed, “You have to put up with my opposition to socialized medicine and police funding if you want Trump to leave the White House.” “
But then, after being elected, Biden got it into his head that he could “go big.” All of a sudden there was a lot of talk about the New Deal. The progressive base, some liberal historians and cheerleaders in the press convinced Biden that he could be a transformative, not transitional, president who would usher in a new progressive era.
Biden has passed a platform that would be heavy with 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, as he struggles to get 50.
I won’t dwell on all of this, as a lot has been written about it already, including by me. But there is new data to consider.
The Pew Research Center has released the results of a major study on the 2020 electorate, and it turns out that Biden owes his victory to moderate and conservative voters.
Among married men, Biden received 44% of the vote, a huge improvement from Hillary Clinton’s 32% in 2016. Biden’s performance with men overall halved the gender gap – from the deficit of Clinton by 26 percentage points to a 13-point deficit for Biden. He got 16% moderate and liberal Republicans and improved considerably with white Catholics.
As the New York Times’ Nate Cohn writes: âThe data suggests that the progressive vision of winning a presidential election simply by garnering strong support from Democratic constituencies simply did not materialize for Mr. Biden.
Further, Cohn notes, âBiden has lost ground in almost every constituency on the Democratic base. Only his gains among the moderate to conservative voting groups allowed him to win. “
This brings me to why Biden needs an overhaul.
Biden’s fantasies of a new New Deal were a mirage. The hubbub over the infrastructure agreement demonstrates this. But there is still time for Biden to become a historically important transitional president. Opportunity looks him in the face.
The grassroots of the Democratic Party are obsessed with the idea that a massive transformation of the US government is possible. They are wrong.
Whether you call it democratic socialism, a New New Deal, or some other euphemism for a cradle-to-grave new welfare state, the left thinks it can do it just by wanting it to exist. The fact that they do not have the votes and that they would have to break down the obstruction to get even a fraction of what they want should tell them that they are living in a bubble. If Americans wanted all of this, Biden would have the votes in the House and Senate to deliver it. FDR had qualified majorities in Congress to grease the skates of the New Deal.
Moreover, the longer the Democratic Party remains attached to this fantasy, the longer it will be a minority party.
Biden could resume his presidency much like Bill Clinton did after a dysfunctional and overly ambitious start. Opportunities – on crime, infrastructure, race, etc. – are everywhere. All he has to do is trot his folk rhetoric “Look at the man” and say that he is going to reject the nonsense on either side and drag his party to the center.
The path is there for Biden to become a transitional president – not to a new socialist nirvana, but to a more moderate Democratic Party that actually speaks to voters who won him victory in the first place.
Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch.