FOR MUCH of the past year, the broad storyline of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign has been that Democrats are united in a fierce determination to oust President Trump, but divided over how best to do so. To the "progressive" camp, the Trump presidency represents a crisis that can be halted and reversed only with the boldest, most sweeping changes in US policy. The "moderate" camp, by contrast, believes that the only way to beat Trump is with a candidate who can appeal to more than just hardcore Democrats — who can reach independents and even some centrist Republicans with a program that eschews radical excess, appeals to the sober mainstream, and holds out the promise, in a famous phrase from American presidential history, of a return to normalcy.
The nomination battle has effectively come down to a two-man race: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders occupies the progressive lane, and former Vice President Joe Biden is running in the moderate lane. No one doubts Sanders's leftist credentials. But is Biden really a moderate?
To hear some leftists tell it, Biden is not only moderate, but intolerably so. When, at one progressive conference, he was described as seeking "middle ground" on climate policy, Democratic firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was contemptuous: "I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act come back today and say we need a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives."
Biden may seem hopelessly accommodationist to those on the Democratic Party's leftmost fringe. But in reality, he is running on a platform far more progressive — i.e., far less moderate — than any Democratic presidential nominee in history. . . . .