Ready to Lose Again: Joe Biden, the Democrats, and the November 2020 Election

Perhaps unsurprisingly, maybe even inevitably, it happened.

“It” as in former us president Barack Obama calling in favors which, in effect (and perhaps intentionally, albeit in a barely concealed way), propped up Joe Biden on Super Tuesday. Conveniently, and no doubt for plausible deniability, he fell just short of endorsing Biden. Even so, Obama helped consolidate Biden’s position as the Democrats’ nominee for the November 2020 presidential election.1 One by one, the Democratic contenders dutifully lined up for Biden: Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, and Tulsi Gabbard.2 Elizabeth Warren has yet to declare her support for either Biden or Sanders.3

For now, the “New” Democrats won out over the fairly moderate, even conservative, social democrat Bernie Sanders, flanked by up-and-coming latter-day New Deal Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ro Khanna, Ayana Pressley, Ilhan Omar, et al.

Key words: For now.

As for the very near future, not even the long term, the Clinton-Obama-Biden fraction of the Democrats may have sealed the party’s fate. Biden’s candidacy, which appears likely, is the same tired approach of running “Republican lite” against an actual Republican.

That is to say: The “New” Democrat, as “Republican lite,” losing to the gop. A time-honored strategy of defeat.

In brief, the Democratic Party signed its death certificate and started building its own coffin.

Biden, a Republican in all but name, is no match for Donald Trump. To be cynical, one might as well stick with Trump.

None of the above, of course, is news for the left, the far left, the ultra-left, etc., but still worth noting given the ever rightward shift of the Beltway and the Democrats’ growing obsolescence. Concrete and ongoing political conditions matter, after all.

As for the results and prospects? Understandably and certainly not wrongly, demands for a leftist third party abound again. Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant is already leading such an effort.4 However, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim of The Intercept hold out hope for a Biden-Sanders ticket.5

That “progressives” are calling for these approaches, whatever the limitations, is understandable. Given the existing framework, why would they not make such demands? Nevertheless, this raises questions as to whether the Democratic Party apparatus is truly salvageable and whether attempts to “take over” and “steer” that party into a somewhat center-left direction are realistic. Here, the objective of establishing a leftist third party that can ably and substantially challenge the us duopoly comes off as more sensible.

These questions are important when one considers the history of the party: only the “New Deal” and “Great Society” eras amounted to the Democrats’ mildly pro-“social democratic” moments. Otherwise, historically and currently, they have been a right-wing party—a stronghold for Confederates, Dixiecrats, and…“New” Democrats.

Hardly a party “of the left.”

Not that this says anything, either, about the Republican Party—the quintessential party of the right and far right as well as Trump’s personality cult. A far cry, truly and tragically, from the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary role that the Radical Republicans crucially took on during the Reconstruction.6

As for 2020? It will be a 2016 redux—a replay of the presidential election from four years ago with Biden in Hillary Clinton’s place. Although Trump is a right-wing populist demagogue who encouraged neo-fascists, served ruling class interests via tax cuts, enabled corruption and cronyism, and nearly took the United States to war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran (and backed Israeli apartheid to the hilt), Biden offers nothing more than opposition from the right wing of the us political spectrum. Granted, he may, like Obama and Clinton, promote ever-so-slightly “progressive” policy positions. That is only because of pressure from the Sanders campaign.

Of course, nothing is completely settled. Biden is not yet the official nominee. Rumors as to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, possibly running for the presidency are also in the air. This is so given Cuomo’s stalwart attitude and approach to the current coronavirus crisis.7 To Democrats, Cuomo projects an aura of determination which may translate into actual leadership.

Indeed, James Larocca, a Democrat, echoes such a sentiment in Newsday: “If extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and they do, then this is the time for the Democratic Party to nominate Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for president.”8 Leaving aside practical considerations like weathering out the pandemic and starting on the campaign trail just several months before the election, maybe Cuomo can use his experience during the covid-19 outbreak as leverage for a future presidential run—perhaps for 2024. There is still the question as to whether he will be any more “progressive” than the Clintons, the Obamas, O’Rourke, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, Biden, etc.

Probably not, as Jesse McKinley and Shane Goldmacher note in The New York Times:

The governor has a history, of course, of working with Republicans: until 2019, the New York Legislature had largely been split by virtue of the Republicans’ long hold on the State Senate, a situation which some progressive groups accused Mr. Cuomo of encouraging, as a way to thwart policies he felt were too liberal or impractical.9

Should there be a President Cuomo with a gop-controlled Congress (or at least the Senate), one can imagine a similar scenario playing out at a national level.

Cuomo aside, Biden’s record speaks for itself.10

He worked with Dixiecrat segregationists and opposed school integration.11 Biden, as president, is willing to veto a “Medicare for All” bill, thus preventing the implementation of single-payer healthcare.12 His support for the us invasion and occupation of Iraq is, needless to say, a sign of his advocacy for us imperialism and militarism.13

This is the “New” Democrats’ idea of opposing the far right, the Republicans, and Trump: By tacking as usual to the right.

The takeaway for leftists of all sorts? The Democrats are choosing, and moving towards, their self-destruction. That Obama even had to pull strings indicates the party’s corrupt and irredeemable nature. At least with the Democratic Party’s demise (granted, not a “given” yet), left-wing political organizations can try to fill the void. There is also ample space for proletarian uprisings from below.

Sanders definitely made a good-faith effort in moving the party into a social-democratic direction and, along the way, shifting the public discourse. For this, he deserves credit in a country that, to this day, still lacks the most basic social-democratic institutions. Shifting the “Overton window” in such a way, at least to the center-left, is nothing to scoff at. It is worth, and it means, much more than campaigning on “hope” and “change,” as was the case with a certain “New” Democrat in 2007 and 2008.

All the same, Obama’s stymying of Sanders’s campaign, no doubt with the Clintons’ approval and undoubtedly to Biden’s benefit, exposes a basic truth: Only the working class can free itself.


  1. Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Josh Lederman and Amanda Golden, “Looking for Obama’s hidden hand in candidates coalescing around Biden,” NBC News, March 2, 2020.↩︎
  2. See these sources: David Edwards, “Obama phone call encourages Buttigieg to use his ‘considerable leverage’ amid rumors of Biden endorsement: report,” Raw Story, March 2, 2020.

    Dave Goldiner, “Barack Obama praises Joe Biden in robocalls for Super Tuesday but no endorsement,” New York Daily News, March 3, 2020.

    Caitlin Oprysko and Erin Durkin, “Bloomberg drops out of presidential race, endorses Biden,” Politico, March 4, 2020.

    Kyle Kulinski, “The Empire strikes back on Super Tuesday and Bloomberg drops out,” Secular Talk, March 4, 2020.

    Rishika Dugyala, “Beto O’Rourke endorses Biden,” Politico, March 2, 2020.

    Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow, and Alexandra Jaffe (all with Associated Press), “Klobuchar, Buttigieg endorse Biden on eve of Super Tuesday,” PBS Newshour, March 2, 2020.

    Kyle Kulinski, “Andrew Yang endorses Joe Biden,” Secular Talk, March 12, 2020.

    David Edwards, “Obama phone call encourages Buttigieg to use his ‘considerable leverage’ amid rumors of Biden endorsement: report,” Raw Story, March 2, 2020.

    Jimmy Dore, “Tough Questions For Tulsi Over Biden Support,” The Jimmy Dore Show, March 22, 2020.↩︎

  3. MJ Lee, Gregory Krieg, Daniella Diaz, and Kate Sullivan. “Elizabeth Warren ends her presidential campaign,” CNN, March 5, 2020.↩︎
  4. Kshama Sawant, “#DemExit: Time to launch a new party of, by, and for working people,” Socialist Alternative, March 11, 2020.↩︎
  5. Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim. “A Biden-Sanders ticket: The unthinkable may be the only path forward,” The Intercept, March 15, 2020.↩︎
  6. See these sources: Sam Seder, “Old school Radical Republicans would have impeached Trump,” The Majority Report with Sam Seder, November 24, 2019.

    M.A. Iasilli, “The left-wing history of the Republican Party,” Medium, January 3, 2019.

    Gary Gerstle, “The radicalization of the Republican Party,” Zeit Online, April 5, 2017.↩︎

  7. See these sources: Charles P. Pierce. “With two words, Andrew Cuomo established himself as the leader this country needs now,” Esquire, March 20, 2020.

    Kevin Breuninger, “Cuomo says Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus bill would be ‘terrible’ for New York,” CNBC, March 25, 2020.

    Alexandra Villarreal, “New York: Cuomo says early signs show coronavirus distancing may be working,” The Guardian, March 25, 2020.↩︎

  8. James Larocca, “DNC should go with Cuomo for president,” Newsday, March 26, 2020.↩︎
  9. Jesse McKinley and Shane Goldmacher, “How Cuomo, once on sidelines, became the politician of the moment,” The New York Times, March 24, 2020.↩︎
  10. See these sources: Nathan J. Robinson, “Democrats, you really do not want to nominate Joe Biden,” Current Affairs, March 7, 2020.

    Eli Massey and Nathan J. Robinson, “Why Joe Biden would be a horrible president,” Current Affairs, March 23, 2019.

    Branko Marcetic, “Joe Biden has a long history of giving Republicans exactly what they want,” Jacobin, February 29, 2020.

    Katie Glueck, “The ‘But I Would Vote for Joe Biden’ Republicans,” The New York Times, December 25, 2019, (updated January 2, 2020).

    Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and James Carden, “Joe Biden, same old wars, same old interventionism: Ex-State Dept. adviser warns of VP’s hawkishness,” Moderate Rebels, March 4, 2020.↩︎

  11. Janell Ross, “Joe Biden didn’t just compromise with segregationists. He fought for their cause in schools, experts say.” NBC News, June 25, 2019.↩︎
  12. Kyle Kulinski, “Biden would veto Medicare for All even if it passes Congress,” Secular Talk, March 14, 2020.↩︎
  13. See the sources: Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan, “Joe Biden’s vote for war,” The New York Times, January 12, 2020.

    Mark Weisbrot, “Joe Biden championed the Iraq war. Will that come back to haunt him now?The Guardian, February 17, 2020.↩︎

Comments

2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Stephen Cheng,

    As a follow-up to my own essay, here’s a Intercept piece on how Andrew Cuomo is working with Silicon Valley oligarchs to further “neoliberal”-ize the economy: https://theintercept.com/2020/05/08/andrew-cuomo-eric-schmidt-coronavirus-tech-shock-doctrine/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=The%20Intercept%20Newsletter

    Talk about real and formal subsumption of capital operating together in the present.

    Some of the information in this op-ed is somewhat dated, so I’ll have to comment further.

  2. Stephen Cheng,

    Looks like Biden *may* have a chance at beating Trump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_mlUMw1IZ4

    Still not a choice–it’s a matter of replacing one right-winger with another.

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