by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When asked how he’d deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic, [Bernie] Sanders used it as an opportunity to replay his greatest hits on income inequality. That’s a message many Democrats may agree with, particularly when the economy is roaring. But when it is grinding to a halt because of a public-health emergency, they probably want to hear more immediate and practical solutions, not ideological ax-grinding.
Biden didn’t seem to fully grasp this dynamic. He seemed to be under the impression that his top priority is to win over Sanders’s voters, even though his historic comeback is entirely attributable to the fact that voters see him as a viable alternative to Sanders. Biden will never get the socialist die-hards, and attempting to do so risks both losing the suburban moderates who came out for him in droves and giving President Trump the very line of attack he desperately wants.
In the past, once nominees of either party locked up the nomination, they tacked to the center. Barack Obama and Donald Trump didn’t need to do that for reasons unique to them.
But Biden isn’t them. He’s running as vanilla ice cream. Vanilla ice cream is the most popular flavor not because it’s everyone’s favorite, but because it’s the least objectionable flavor.
Letting Sanders pull him leftward, which Biden did somewhat on Sunday night on issues such as immigration and fracking, would be a huge mistake. He should have used every opportunity to turn the question to the imperative of replacing Trump, which is the unifying message for all of Biden’s potential voters.