Biden’s Policy Recommendations Could Cost Him Bernie Voters

bernie sanders joe biden

Coming into this election cycle – I remember believing that the main storyline and determining factor on Election Day was destined to revolve around the fracturing of the Democratic Party. Split between the “Bernie Sanders Left” and centrist liberals, the DNC would surely have to surrender control to the surging progressives, or go down with the ship, all-but-ensuring a second term for Donald Trump.

Life gets away from you fast.

Last week, the Biden-Sanders unity task forces released their policy proposals – the moderate wing’s stranglehold on the party is as firmly in place as ever; there will be no “surrendering control” or compromise. That’s the kind of luxury afforded to challengers facing an opponent like Donald Trump – already in over his head with a trifecta of national crises and polling worse than any incumbent candidate in recent history.

The biggest news platforms are championing the slate of proposals as proof that Joe Biden has moved left – and can be pushed further in the future. This is strategic.

The truth is, the democratic socialists won nothing. Political strategists calculated the bare minimum the campaign would need to promise (or flaccidly signal towards) Sanders’s supporters without costing party donors anything or losing a significant number to third-party candidates or – God forbid – Trump.

What this amounted to was a laundry list of half-measures and empty platitudes meant to appease a small percentage of the left who don’t pay much attention and will happily play along if it means getting to celebrate a “win.” For everyone else, it’s just enough to be mildly more palatable than Donald Trump.

In 2020, — and in an election that’s nothing more than a referendum on the current President – it’s looking as if that’s the right play, from Team Biden’s perspective. However, we saw in 2016, how glaringly scorning the progressives can backfire if one’s not careful.

After reading through the Bernie-Biden policy proposals, it looks like the corporatist Democrats could be taking the left for granted again.

Will it cost them a significant number of ballots again? Does it even matter this time?

Health Care

The most surprising element of this pandemic for me is just how little the so-called leaders in this country seem to care. For as over-the-top cynical as I am – expectations utterly decimated from too many hours perusing conspiracy forums – it shouldn’t be possible to impress me with displays of blatant apathy, but here we are.

Amidst a global pandemic that all-but-requires a citizenry willing – and who can afford – to self-report and seek testing/treatment after any possible infection or symptom, single-payer health care is a non-starter.

So, people wait too long to find out if they’re sick and continue showing up to work – because “essential workers” rarely get sick time or it’s not worth risking being laid off (thus losing whatever health insurance they may have) — and the virus spreads forever.

If Medicare for All can’t make the DNC candidate’s policy proposals under those conditions, it’s never going to happen.

Instead, the Biden campaign is offering a so-called public option, as an extension of the Affordable Care Act.

Side Note:

Which – as a freelance worker, I can tell you is anything but “affordable.” Who knew letting health insurance companies write legislation forcing everyone to buy their product or be fined ever-escalating amounts would turn out this way?!

The task force describes a government-operated insurance option that Americans can weigh against the other plans available during the open enrollment period, which will be priced on a sliding scale based on income. The proposal also recommends some caps on specific prescription medicines, considers expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision and would drop the eligibility age from 65 to 60 (only five years older than Hillary’s big overture to the left in 2016!).

Medicare for All was Bernie’s central policy proposal this election cycle, and the electorate has never been more in favor of such a program. Sanders supporters often explain that they were voting for the policies, not the man – and as such, they will not cast a ballot for anyone who doesn’t offer health care as a human right like so many other developed nations.

At the same time, Joe Biden has been extremely upfront and honest in his refusal to consider Medicare for All from the very beginning – and he won the primary. The Democrats’ plan to target suburban moderates on both sides of the aisle – even at the expense of the working-class and people of color – is working. The alliance between Bush-era Republicans and centrist Dems is stronger than ever.

Will eschewing Medicare for All in favor of a hollowed-out public option cost Biden progressive voters this Fall? Undoubtedly.

But perhaps not as many of the Republicans they would have lost adopting Bernie Sanders’s original health care policy.

Criminal Justice

Biden did make a few compromises on criminal justice reform. The task force’s proposals have received some criticisms for failing to fully legalize marijuana as Bernie’s campaign supported, but several other meaningful measures would have a lasting impact if passed.

The recommendations include:

  • Eliminating private prisons
  • Eliminating mandatory minimums in sentencing
  • Decriminalization of marijuana
  • Legalizing marijuana for medical use
  • Ending cash bail
  • Creating a national database of police officers who commit misconduct

While these proposals fall slightly short of Sanders’s, I can’t imagine there will be too many complaints from progressives about the criminal justice portions of the Democratic policy proposals. Getting the Biden administration to follow through might be another story altogether – but we won’t know that until after November, so it doesn’t matter to politics bettors.

Climate Change

You know the climate change task force fell well short of progressives’ expectations because even the New York Times gave up on trying to spin the results. For most of the proposals, the paper’s writers do an admirable job selling the promise of the “great leftward shift,” but not this time.

Here’s what the Times had to say about Alexandria Occasion-Cortez and John Kerry’s joint effort:

The recommendations make no mention of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other supporters of Mr. Sanders have championed.

There is also no mention of a national ban on fracking, which Mr. Biden has avoided calling for, despite pressure from young climate activists. But there are other signs that progressives on the task force were able to push Mr. Biden to the left.

Specifically, critics of Mr. Biden’s plan to invest $1.7 trillion in order to achieve net-zero emissions before 2050 had complained that his platform included few details on how it would achieve that faraway goal. The recommendations set a number of specific near-term benchmarks that Democrats would promise to reach. They include moving all electric power off fossil fuels by 2035; achieving carbon-neutrality in all new buildings by 2030; and installing 500 million solar panels in the next five years.

The positive, for Democrats, is that the Republicans are even more egregious when it comes to ignoring climate change, so this shouldn’t cost them much. A small percentage of leftist voters will turn to the Green Party in response to no Green New Deal, but the damage should be negligible.

The Economy

“Attack the opponent’s strengths,” they say.

Joe Biden is doing just that with his recent bout of economic policy proposals. While Trump flounders spectacularly, yelling into the ether about statues and Antifa, the Democrats have released their task force proposals and the candidate’s “Buy American” plan.

As expected, the recommendations suggest “a comprehensive agenda for communities of color with ambition that matches the scale of the challenge and with recognition that race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities.”

What stuck out most to me was the large-scale federal infrastructure proposal with an employment guarantee. I’ve been writing about the necessity of such a program since the pandemic hit; it’s comforting to see such an idea outlined formally.

Once again, the measures being recommended by the task forces fall short of what progressives hoped coming into the election cycle, but weren’t so egregiously conservative as to offend.

Might Not Matter

“Though the end result is not what I or my supporters would have written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country,” Bernie Sanders said in a statement, as the unity task force’s 110-page proposal was made public.

Ultimately, Bernie got what he had the leverage to negotiate for.

It might not be much, but if ever there were an election where it didn’t matter, it’s this one. Donald Trump and the pandemic has done the Democrat’s job for them. All they have to be is “Not Trump,” which has given the establishment core quite a bit of wiggle room when it comes to dealing with the left.

Still, there are a few ideas in there worth some progressive excitement. Enough to pacify a decent percentage of Bernie supporters – and that was the idea of the task forces in the first place.

Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.

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