What will the Democratic establishment do if Biden falters?

One of the ways that the political establishment (that includes the mainstream media) keeps progressive policies in check is to take as self-evidently true that the Democratic party must appeal to Trump voters if they are to win. Another way to say essentially the same thing is to assert that they must avoid alienating the party ‘moderates’ by adopting policies that are seen as too far to the left. It is only in the progressive media that one finds the argument being made that appealing to Trump voters is a futile strategy and that one would be far better off trying to reach disenchanted voters by pushing a more progressive message.

This is why party leaders and the media were quick to seize on the Joe Biden candidacy, just as they were for Hillary Clinton in 2016. So it must be a source of concern to them that the message of ‘moderation’ is not catching on, as can be seen in this article from the main source of establishment politics thinking, the New York Times.

The Democratic debates this past week provided the clearest evidence yet that many of the leading presidential candidates are breaking with the incremental politics of the Clinton and Obama eras, and are embracing sweeping liberal policy changes on some of the most charged public issues in American life, even at the risk of political backlash,”

Vowing to eliminate private health insurance, decriminalize illegal immigration and provide government health care benefits to undocumented migrants, high-profile contenders like Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are wagering that they can energize voters eager to dismantle President Trump’s hard-line policies.

But with moderate Democrats repeatedly drowned out or on the defensive in the debates, the sprint to the left has deeply unnerved establishment Democrats, who have largely picked the party nominees in recent decades.

So what will the establishment do if the overtly establishment Biden’s candidacy collapses entirely? They will look for an Obama type, someone who is able to project a progressive veneer to attract voters for the election but can be counted on to support the status quo once elected. Of the candidates who are currently leading, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are out of the question because they seem to actually believe in the policies they are advocating. At this point, the establishment’s best bets seem to be Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who are both friendly to the establishment, Wall Street, and the war machine. Pete Buttigieg seems a bit of an unknown at this point and they are unlikely to risk it with him, unless he surges ahead of Harris and Booker, at which point they will try to co-opt him as the counterweight to Sanders and Warren.


  1. says

    None of the candidates aren’t already coopted. Bernie’s already flipped to the establishment when it chose Obama over him and Warren was part of the congressional oversight committee on banking during the 2008 financial crisis. Mayor Pete has already telegraphed that he knows politics is about compromise and a former prosecutor doesn’t even need to telegraph that.

    Biden, though. I’ll sit this one out if they run him. I managed to vote for Hillary (“veni vidi war crime”) because she is a woman and it was her turn. It’s not Biden’s turn. If the dems run Biden they may as well offer Trump a crown.

  2. John Morales says


    None of the candidates aren’t already coopted.

    Extemporaneous, I reckon, because “All candidates are already coopted” is a simpler expresssion.

    On-topic, this is a parochial subject upon which I have nothing substantial to offer.

  3. Holms says

    Bernie’s already flipped to the establishment when it chose Obama over him

    What issue did he change his stance on?

  4. mnb0 says

    Frankly that “establishment” thing doesn’t interest me at all. Donald the Clown drew the anti-establishment card. The good news is that unlike his predecessors he’s too stupid to start a war.
    I rather have an establishment candidate who stops the war crimes by drone in Yemen ao and implements a progressive social-economical policy than a non-establishment candidate who doesn’t. So if Sanders and perhaps Warren (I’m not sure yet about her) belong to that establishment indeed it’s a non-argument to me.

  5. says

    It’s weird how no matter how far to the right the Republicans go they aren’t being lectured to on how they have to appeal to moderates.

    Also, nobody who voted for the Hamberdler is a moderate. Many of them however do make a dash for the nearest fainting couch if they are in anyway hinted at being just a wee bit racist.

    For Biden, if I were American the most disqualifying thing to me wouldn’t be his record (it’s atrocious but he’s not Orange Yeller), it’s that he spent eight years as Obama’s VP and somehow still thinks a Democrat could work with Republicans. The Affordable Care Act was based on Romneycare that came from the freakin’ Heritage Foundation and the Repubs freaked out about it being “socialism”. Democrats can’t even implement ideas born from conservative think tanks without Republicans ginning up outrage.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    If Biden falters I wouldn’t put it past them running bloody Clinton again.

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