Apparently the Sanders revolution within the Democratic Party has petered out, at least for the time being.
Sanders has not withdrawn but the most recent round of voting in the Democratic primaries appears to have doomed him and dashed the hopes of his many supporters. That is a godsend for the army of Republican NeverTrumpers who have sworn to vote for any Democrat because of their disdain for Donald Trump. At least they won’t have to vote for an avowed socialist—indeed a long-time champion of Communist dictatorships from the Soviet Union to Cuba and socialist authoritarian states such as Venezuela.
I have many NeverTrumper friends. Most of them are foreign policy and defense experts who reject Trump because of his character flaws and the threat he seems to pose to the business-as-usual foreign policies that these folks prefer.
As Sanders surged, I could sense panic among my NeverTrump Republican friends because voting for anyone but Trump might mean voting for Sanders. So concerned were they that many began to offer advice to the Democrats, a practice that was mocked by liberal commentators far and wide.
So there has been a collective sigh of relief on their part as Joe Biden seems to have beaten back the Sanders threat. He is what they are: a liberal internationalist. But their sense of relief may be premature. On the one hand, the distance between Biden and Sanders is not nearly as great as the NeverTrump Republicans would have us believe. On the other, a Biden candidacy might very well contribute to low Democratic turnout in the general election.
First, Biden’s credentials as a “moderate” Democrat are belied by his actions over the course of the Democratic primaries. When he first entered the Senate in 1973, he appeared to be a John Kennedy style Democrat. Indeed, many of the policy positions he took as a Senator have come back to haunt him. Accordingly, he has moved to the left along with the rest of the Democratic Party. Evidently, only a NeverTrumpr Republican would fall for his faux “moderation.” Winston Churchill’s description of Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 fits Biden to a tee: the “Boneless Wonder.”
Byron York catalogs a few of Biden’s course changes over the past few weeks.
So Biden’s positions on three big issues—immigration, college education and bankruptcy—changed virtually overnight to fit the political requirements of the late stages of the 2020 Democratic primary. And all involved a move to the left. For months, Biden dominated the so-called “centrist” or “moderate” lane of the Democratic race. But now there is no longer a Democratic race. Even as commentators touted his centrism, Biden strategically moved left to consolidate the support he needed for the nomination.
So this is what my Republican NeverTrump friends have signed up for.
Of course, Biden is “moderate” only in the context of today’s Democratic Party. My Republican NeverTrump friends seem to forget how radical many of Obama’s policies were or how radical those of Hillary Clinton would have been. Consider just two examples: Trump has reformed the federal judiciary. Think of what it would look like if Clinton were president. Trump has also made inroads against the administrative state, the unconstitutional fourth branch of the government that violates the principle of the separation of powers.
Perhaps much of the Republican NeverTrump resistance to the president is due to the fact that although they claim to be conservatives, they themselves are denizens of the administrative state. Indeed, a group of former national security “experts” calling themselves the Steady State (as opposed to the “Deep State.” Get it?) has issued a letter endorsing Biden.
Back in 2008, the late Tony Blankley coined the term “Me-too Republicans,” a species that had emerged during the New Deal (and having nothing to do with the current iteration of #MeToo), continued until the election of Ronald Reagan, and has re-emerged recently in the form of the laughably named Lincoln Project. The irony in all of this is that as the Republican NeverTrumpers forge ahead in support of Biden, they may very well contribute to his defeat in a general election.
The fact is that Sanders supporters loathe Biden nearly as much as they despise Trump. They may very well sit out the 2020 election. One wonders if a handful of smug, self-righteous Me-too Republicans can offset the loss of Sanders supporters in a contest against Trump.