To date, this is the most naïve, extreme statement made in this Democratic primary.
There is no proposal yet made that is more detached from reality than “I alone can fix Republicans.” Not any of Bernie Sanders' socialist-ish policies. Not any of Elizabeth Warren's intricate battle plans against monopolies. Not Pete Buttigieg's so-called policy wonkery that leads him to conclude that policy is overrated. This kind of quote is really what I was getting at in my column asserting that Biden is a liberal version of Trump. The former Vice President is basically calling on America to be great again, and he is using as his model an idyllic image of history that simply never existed. The difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden's MAGA universe is based on the religion of “bipartisanship”—where processes and optics matter more than outcomes.
The problem with “bipartisanship” is that the only true “bipartisan” actions in our nation's capital conveniently aid those with tons of power already. There really is no such thing as bipartisanship for the little guy in America, because one party has always believed that the little guy deserved to be in the hardship that they were in. You simply cannot pass “common sense legislation” with someone who has a fundamentally different worldview from you, because the nature of their diametrically opposite worldview destroys even the possibility of middle ground existing. To pass seriously beneficial legislation in America means that you must defeat your political opponent in the ideological and grassroots battle that is politics—you don't just bet on them having “an epiphany” once one of their favorite presidents ever leaves office.
This is the lesson of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That fight was so incredibly not bipartisan that it fractured the Democratic Party in half and sent a generation (at least) of voters over to the GOP. Medicare and the New Deal were shoved down an intransigent minority's throat, and now Medicare and the New Deal's Social Security are the two most popular government programs in America. This is the kind of incrementalism that defines politics—long struggles punctuated by bursts of progress when that struggle finally results in obtaining real power.
Not only does Joe Biden demonstrate a dramatic misunderstanding of American politics in this “epiphany” exchange, he also proved that he's a cagey liar.
Biden is right. He’s never said “middle of the road,” but according to a Reuters exclusive with Heather Zichal, who is advising Biden on climate change, and “a former energy department official advising Biden’s campaign who asked not to be named,” Biden is crafting a “middle ground” climate change policy that “he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump.”
I’ll get to the false choice proposed there shortly, but first, it’s helpful to know what Heather Zichal’s “middle ground” climate change policy may look like. Per Sludge:
Former Obama adviser Heather Zichal, who recently occupied a lucrative seat on the board of the Texas-based liquified natural gas (LNG) company Cheniere Energy, is now an “informal adviser” on climate change policy to the Biden campaign. The company has profited in recent years as the U.S. has increased its liquified natural gas production, something the Obama and Trump administrations have encouraged.
In 2013, while a climate and energy staffer in Obama’s White House, Zichal met with Cheniere officials twice, according to DeSmog. The year before, Cheniere became the first company to receive an LNG export permit from the Obama administration—and the first to receive such a permit in 50 years. She joined the Cheniere board in 2014. According to investigative reporter Nick Surgey, Zichal earned a total of nearly $1.1 million from compensation and stock while a Cheniere board member from 2014-18.
The Biden campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Some additional helpful context as to whether this report actually means anything lies in Biden’s first day after officially launching his presidential campaign. He crossed a picket line to meet with health insurance executives, then met with a bunch of GOP donors and Comcast. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, well…you know.
Circling back to the false choice presented by Biden on climate change: Trump voters are not only extremely open to progressive policies like the Green New Deal, but many are going to have their lives completely uprooted by climate change—like the farmers covering the Midwest who broke heavily for Trump in 2016. Because capitalism has sucked the wealth out to major cities and the coasts (and tax havens around the world), the little wealth that does exist in many of these areas is the farmland that’s been handed down from generation to generation.
Much of this wealth will be destroyed by climate change, and it is the job of the government to help pick these families back up. Just because these are Republican voters doesn’t mean that Republican policies will help them, or that these voters will necessarily even want a pro-fracking policy devised by a D.C. energy swamp creature. They largely understand the threat that climate change poses to their livelihood. We don’t need to treat them like children who blindly vote with whatever the big orange daddy wants.
Joe Biden is a radical. If he honestly believes that simply returning to a period where “bipartisanship” helped the common man, then he is openly stating that he would fail a U.S. History 101 class. Portraying Trump as some sort of fever which has overtaken a party where 91% support Trump is equal parts naïve, cynical and startlingly irrational. The only logical conclusions one can arrive at given Biden’s pledge to induce “an epiphany” among the GOP is that he is either: lying, more naïve than a small child, or he simply plans to pass legislation that Republicans would be excited to join him in passing.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.