Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Leading "Democrat"

Vox's Eric Kleefeld reports that pollsters for GOP firm Echelon Insights

asked 1,005 Democrats — and independents who favor Democrats’ policies — about their preferred 2020 candidates. The poll found 38 percent of respondents would vote for Biden if the primary were to be held right now. This is well in line with other polls; as Vox’s Dylan Scott reported, most polls show around 40 percent of voters saying they are backing the former vice president.

The Echelon poll found support for Bernie Sanders to be at 16 percent, and that four candidates: Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Kamala Harris were each supported by 5 percent of respondents. No other candidate was at more than 2 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

This poll went a step further, by testing Biden in head-to-head matchups against four other Democratic candidates — and showed him coming out ahead in each trial, although in each of the hypothetical contests, the majority of respondents weren’t “definitely” for either candidate.

Kleefeld believes "With numbers like these, it appears that Biden would remain the candidate to beat even if the race gets narrowed down to just one or two opponents."

For all those who hope to be aged 65 and older someday, we need to hope that Kleefeld's observation is off-target. Last month, Branko Marcetic of In These Times noted  that Senator Biden in the 1980s "called then for a spending freeze on Social Security and a higher Social Security retirement age" And when President Obama

in 2011 put forward what he called the “big deal”—$4 trillion in deficit reduction, namely through “bend[ing] the cost curve” of Medicare, Medicaid, and possibly even Social Security—Biden insisted to Republicans this approach was the best way forward on cutting spending. According to Woodward’s account, Biden later appeared to offer Boehner a deal of one dollar cut from Medicare and Medicaid for every dollar of revenue.

Months into the negotiations with recalcitrant Republicans, Biden admitted that he and the administration had given away everything in their attempt to strike the “grand bargain.”

“We've given up on revenues, we've given on dollar for dollar,” Woodward quotes Biden telling McConnell. “All the major things we're interested in we've given up. So basically you've pushed us to the limit.”

Ironically, the fact that the “grand bargain” never happened—and that the Obama administration failed to team up with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare—was a result of a stubborn GOP's refusal to give ground on just about any issue.

Earlier that year, debt negotiations with then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator John Kyl, and other Republicans were "ultimately scuttled" by Cantor. Prior to that, however, the Vice President had led the talks and his

“opening bid” was cutting $4 trillion in spending over ten years, with a 3 to 1 proportion of cuts to revenue. Biden later proposed $2 trillion in cuts to general spending, federal retirement funds, Medicare and Medicaid, and, at Cantor's urging, food stamps.

At one point, Biden suddenly called for $200 billion more in cuts that had never been discussed, which, according to Woodward, led then-Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen—also involved in the negotiations—to believe Biden had gone over to the Cantor-Kyl side. Biden again crossed Van Hollen when he offered to take revenue-raising out of the “trigger”—a combination of revenue raising and spending cuts meant to be equally unpalatable to both parties, which would automatically kick in if a deal failed to be reached.

Later in the negotiations, Biden dangled the possibility of Medicare cuts in return for more revenue—meaning higher taxes. Soon after, he suggested Democrats might be comfortable raising the eligibility age for entitlements, imposing means testing and changing the consumer price index calculation, known as CPI.

So "Middle Class Joe" has not been a reliablesupporter of earned benefits, as recently as December supporting means-testing for Medicare and Social Security. Additionally, working both sides of the street may be one of Biden's bag of tricks, for we are reminded that in October 2018 Obama's veep

took the stage at Lake Michigan College as Representative Fred Upton, a long-serving Republican from the area, faced the toughest race of his career.

But Mr. Biden was not there to denounce Mr. Upton. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. The group, a business-minded civic organization, is supported in part by an Upton family foundation.

Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.

Ironically, four months later a veteran House Democrat argued Bernie Sanders "should run as an independent. He's not a Democrat. So to me, I would not allow a Republican to run as a Democrat or for the Democratic nomination."

That was a swipe at Bernie Sanders, not at Biden, who is somehow considered a loyal Democrat and the choice of voters whose top priority is to nominate a Democrat who would beat Donald Trump.  Nor is it Bernie Sanders- or Elizabeth Warren, for that matter- who has advocated cutting Social Security and Medicare.  If Joe Biden is nominated, there is something weird happening in the Democratic Party, where "weird" is not spelled "good."

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