While many activists and Democrats were embracing the suicidal “defund the police” slogan, Biden called for policing reforms and firmly stated he does not support defunding the police.
Then, he stuck by his guns, defending his decision on The Daily Show.
Whatever progressives mean when they invoke that ill-advised hashtag (should we take it seriously, but not literally?), most Americans will interpret it to mean actually defunding the police—that is, having no one answer the phone if their house is being broken into.
For a party that ostensibly believes Donald Trump is an existential threat, the Social Justice Warriors keep trying to push Biden into untenable positions, as if they were trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
My advice to Biden is to stand up to the activist left even more—and do even more pointed distancing. Biden, after all, became the de facto nominee by resisting this urge. This wasn’t exactly rocket science. But it took guts. Indeed, there was a blueprint: A New York Times report from April of last year documented that “Today’s Democratic Party is increasingly perceived as dominated by its ‘woke’ left wing. But the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.”
This misperception explains why Biden emerged as the presumptive nominee. But if this misperception lingers—if Americans continue to believe that Democrats are dominated by the left—there could be dire consequences. Indeed, “defund the police” risks alienating some key swing voters.
Here, it’s worth revisiting a much-buzzed-about Washington Post story on the Trump-Biden voters, demonstrating that “9 percent of Trump 2016 voters are currently planning to vote for the former vice president.” This, of course, is a big deal. It means that nearly one of every 10 people who voted Trump last time are (for now) ridin’ with Biden.
What is more, flipping votes is more valuable than merely adding new voters, because it also constitutes taking votes away from Trump. When you consider that Trump won the Electoral College by virtue of less than 78,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this could be game, set, match.
But there’s a caveat: That report was published in May, just before George Floyd was killed by the police—and just before the subsequent looting and civil unrest, calls to “defund the police,” another round of iconoclasm, the mayor of Minneapolis being heckled and humiliated by protesters, and the resurgence of “cancel culture” in media.
As a conservative, it almost feels like they’re saying to me, “You think Donald Trump is an authoritarian hothead? HOLD MY BEER!”
A closer look at these Trump-Biden folks (who, again, constitute 9 percent of Trump’s 2016 voters!) provides some clues as to why this matters: According to the Post, a solid 78 percent of them “believe that government should promote traditional family values in society,” and “By wide margins, Trump-Biden voters oppose reparations for slavery and believe that there are only two genders, male and female.”
It’s hard to argue with data, but you don’t have to be a genius to imagine how badly this culture war plays with suburban soccer moms. The other day, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota raised a practical question: “What if in the middle of the night my home is broken into. Who do I call?” (According to the left—which probably also doesn’t want her packing heat—the answer is, what, Ghostbusters?)
Minneapolis City Council president Lisa Bender’s response was to say that this sort of question “comes from a place of privilege.” If college-educated white suburbanites continue to see the Democratic party as a clear contrast to the excesses of Trump (which is to say, as a serious, moderate, and civil alternative) it’s a lot easier for them to justify voting for a Democrat.
But if these Trump-Biden voters think that you can never be woke enough to appease the left—that, sooner or later, the revolution will devour them, too—then Trump’s fear-based, tribalistic appeal could spark a backlash and a comeback.
Democrats who want to win the election can thank God that (a) Trump has done nothing to persuade new voters (and everything to alienate them), and (b) that Joe Biden is their nominee. Still, they’re tempting fate and playing with fire.
“Biden is not looking to pick a fight with progressives who should be allies against Trump, but he’s also not taking their bait. ”
In order to get around the inconvenient problem of Biden being sane and pragmatic, Trump’s team is suggesting that he will be a puppet of the left—that he isn’t strong enough to control the younger, more energetic, radicals around him.
Truth be told, there is some merit to the notion that Biden’s team and appointees will probably almost all be more progressive than he is, and even an utterly competent executive outsources all sorts of decisions to subordinates. Biden’s running mate selection—depending on who he picks—could very well reinforce this narrative as well. Because of Biden’s advanced age, there is an assumption that his veep selection is also tantamount to naming an heir apparent.
The counter to this is to suggest that a vote for Biden is a vote for order and centrism in the Democratic Party. This makes some sense, too. If you want to pre-empt a potential Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nomination in 2024, a vote for Biden probably isn’t the worst idea. For now, at least, that seems to be working. Voters do not seem to be lumping Biden in with the activist left. This is partly because Biden has wisely headed that off.
Don’t expect to see some sort of a Sister Souljah moment, which would constitute Biden publicly repudiating the extreme wing of his base. He’s not looking to pick a fight with progressives who should be allies against Trump, but he’s also not taking their bait.
He’s not intimidated by the left, nor is he getting swept up in their “defund” suicide pact. He’s just saying “no.”
And he’s winning.