Media mislabel Joe Biden’s ideology

Media mislabel Joe Biden’s ideology
Joe Biden (Image: Yahoo News screen grab)

Democratic presidents have become steadily more progressive since Jimmy Carter. That’s because Democratic voters have shifted to the left over the last 30 years, in a trend that has accelerated over the last five years, according to surveys.

Yet, Democratic candidates like Joe Biden are erroneously depicted as moderate by “conservatives” who work for progressive newspapers and call for defeat of all Republicans; and self-described “lifelong Republicans” who have actually voted against Republicans for years.

Joe Biden’s openly progressive supporters admit that he is further to the left than past Democratic presidential nominees. As the progressive Peter Beinart put it in The Atlantic, “Despite embracing an agenda that is further to the left than that of any Democratic nominee in decades, [Biden has] avoided the specific policy proposals and catchphrases that Republicans find easiest to attack. As a result, he appears more centrist than he actually is.”

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Biden has proposed vastly more spending than any past Democratic nominee. He supports $3 trillion in new taxes, and $11 trillion in new spending, according to Reason Magazine, which is endorsing neither Biden nor Trump. That is much less centrist than Hillary Clinton, who supported only $1.4 trillion in new spending in 2016, or Barack Obama, who falsely claimed in 2008 that he would implement a “net spending cut.”

As Newsweek notes, “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was in favor of paying slavery reparations to African Americans and Native Americans if studies found direct cash payments to be a viable option.” No past Democratic presidential nominee has ever supported reparations. Joe Biden has supported California’s AB5, which curbed freelance work and eliminated the positions of thousands of independent contractors. He wants to implement it nationally. No past Democratic president has supported such legislation.

Joe Biden supports the BE HEARD Act, which would subject even the smallest employers to lawsuits seeking unlimited punitive damages, liability to lawyers who sue them, the possibility of being sued over years-old allegations, and a definition of “harassment” that requires them to restrict speech even outside the workplace. Obama never supported anything like that.

Biden recently said that the filibuster should be abolished if it stands in the way of “systemic change” sought by progressives. Abolishing the filibuster would lead to a flood of controversial progressive legislation becoming law.

Biden also supports tens of billions of dollars in new government spending on racial preferences and set-asides, which the current Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, views as constitutionally suspect. A future, more progressive Supreme Court would likely uphold those racial set-asides, as a more liberal Supreme Court did in the past.

Biden also supports giving states a financial incentive to reduce prison populations, which could increase the crime rate over what it would otherwise be.

Yet, the media often conceals the far-reaching changes sought by Joe Biden. He has been depicted in the progressive Washington Post, which has never endorsed a Republican for president, as being “moderate.” The Post uses ersatz “conservatives” to make this claim, such as the author of its supposedly conservative “Right Turn” column. That “conservative” writer is actually an angry progressive: She has supported “massive spending increases,” “expressed rage” at pro-lifers, opposed repealing ObamaCare, denounced proposals to cut welfare, and celebrated spending increases that raised the budget deficit to over $1 trillion.

There is a long history of this kind of deception, by progressives masquerading as “conservatives” and “Republicans.” In 2008, I was told by a “lifelong Republican” to vote for Barack Obama because he pledged to implement a “net spending cut.” Obama’s net spending cut never happened, yet the “lifelong Republican” became an outspoken progressive who worked on Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. The “lifelong Republican” later admitted to me that he hadn’t voted for a Republican since the 1990s. Many so-called “lifelong Republicans” cited in the press actually have not voted Republican in many years.

Rather than implementing the “net spending cut” he promised, President Obama greatly increased government spending, especially before Republicans took over the House of Representatives in the November 2010 election. Federal domestic spending increased by a record 16 percent in 2010.  In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.”

Democratic presidents invariably turn out to be more progressive than past Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter. Carter was so moderate that he opposed government funding for abortion (which Biden supports), and Carter deregulated airlines, trucking, and railroads. Yet Carter somehow gets depicted as a “liberal,” while later Democrats who are far more progressive than Carter get depicted by the press as “moderate.”

The commentators who falsely depict Democratic candidates as moderate — or more moderate than past Democratic presidents — never admit error after a Democratic president ends up being to the left of his predecessors. Instead, many of them keep making the same erroneous claims in future elections. And yet, they get taken seriously by people who are not familiar with their past claims.

In a politically-polarized age, the media should not pretend that candidates are centrist when they are not. The media rightly does not pretend that Donald Trump is a centrist. It should not pretend that Joe Biden is one, either.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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