March 16, 2020

Biden vs. Bernie

On Sunday evening, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden debated on CNN. CNN

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Biden had a successful debate and urges him to continue working to unite the Democratic party.

“There is only one issue in front of American voters… That issue is not about past votes in the Senate, who supported the war in Iraq, or how to unite the Democratic party. It’s about how to survive the health and financial disaster that lies ahead… [Sanders] did a fine job of pinning Biden down on his past readiness to include social security in budget debates, and on his lack of details about how he would address the climate crisis. But scoring points doesn’t count for much when the economy is in freefall and America’s cities are shutting down to slow the pandemic’s spread.”
Richard Wolffe, The Guardian

Biden was about as sharp as he’s been throughout the entire primary… He projected confidence and competence on the coronavirus pandemic, arguably beating Bernie on points when it came to Medicare-for-all’s relevance to the crisis. He got in some solid hits on Sanders’s record, particularly on guns and immigration, and offered up one of the night’s most memorable lines about the primary during an exchange on campaign finance: ‘I didn’t have any money and I still won’… [This] should quiet at least some of worrying about whether he can withstand the rigors of a campaign and the presidency.”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

“Biden is very much a politician’s politician (even Bernie Sanders likes him) and his restorationist, pro-system attitude reflects more than simple nostalgia. The former vice president, after all, acknowledges that there are real problems with the status quo. His complaint with Medicare-for-all is the practical politician’s complaint — it’s a nonstarter… Sanders has never produced a detailed financing plan or theory of exactly how his vision for single-payer should work. His team thinks organizing is prior to wonkery, and the point is to lay down a principle…

“[By contrast] Biden says he has a health care plan focused on an expansion with a public option that could really pass if Democrats win in 2020, thus helping people with their health care problems. He never actually says his proposal represents some kind of moral ideal. Indeed, it’s not at all clear what Biden thinks an ideal health care system would look like. It’s simply not the kind of question that interests him. Biden is doing politics. Bernie has been a politician a long time (and quietly knows how to do it pretty well) but fundamentally has the persona of a prophet… Democrats’ choice is clearer than ever: Fight Trump or fight for revolution.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Biden tried to extend olive branches to Sanders and his supporters Sunday night -- though his rival wasn't ready to bridge their ideological divides. The former vice president pointed to his moves within the previous two days to embrace free public university tuition for those whose families make less than $125,000 per year and to embrace Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to undo much of a bankruptcy bill they'd fought over 15 years earlier. ‘I agree with Bernie,’ Biden said as they discussed surging help to hospitals facing the coronavirus pandemic. ‘I agreed with Bernie,’ he said later when noting they both believed those on Wall Street responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should have gone to jail.”
Eric Bradner and Dan Merica, CNN

“A word of advice to Joe Biden after Sunday night’s debate: Call AOC… The politician who has shown the most lucid understanding of the importance of Democratic unity in the face of Donald Trump is Sanders’ most obvious successor: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez… She has urged the Democratic establishment to begin a conversation with younger Democrats. Rather than dwell on Sanders’ likely defeat, she has already set her sights on obtaining concessions from Biden…

“Only 5 percent of young Latinos voted for Biden in California. The national picture is just as worrisome… As a proficient Spanish speaker who relates directly to the issues that have made progressive politics so relevant within the Latino community, Ocasio-Cortez could quickly upend that narrative. Granted, there isn’t much competition, but no Hispanic politician can match her charisma… if she manages to navigate the tightrope [between the Democratic party’s progressive and moderate wings], Ocasio-Cortez could become Joe Biden’s most important ally, a future presidential contender in her own right and Bernie Sanders’ rightful heir as the voice of the progressive movement.”
León Krauze, Slate

From the Right

The right argues that Biden had a successful debate but that some of his efforts to appease the left will harm him in the general election.

The right argues that Biden had a successful debate but that some of his efforts to appease the left will harm him in the general election.

“Heading into tonight, the majority of Democrats appeared set on nominating Joe Biden. Nothing that happened tonight changed the current trajectory… Quite a few of the debates this cycle felt like frustrating wastes of time, but this one felt particularly moot. The second hour was the non-coronavirus section, and the back-and-forth exchanges about climate change, fracking bans, immigration enforcement, and abortion access felt like a historical relic. Kids may not go back to school before autumn, and the economy is about to get pummeled, which makes the issue of the temperature in a hundred years seem particularly insignificant in the here and now.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Bernie is, in practical terms, finished, and he plainly knows it. His clear goal in this debate, in the vein of issue and movement candidates since time immemorial, was to push his agenda on the party. Biden, though he came onstage wearing a red tie, took the bait. He bragged about his shifts to the left on abortion and immigration. He promised ‘no new fracking,’ committed to crackdowns on oil drilling, and pledged himself to the ‘New Green Deal.’ Some of those lines were delivered in gift-wrapped sound bites for the Trump campaign. All of which is why Biden, though he looked better than usual in this format, probably won’t want to debate Bernie Sanders again.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

“Biden’s new position on immigration is that if he is elected, no one will be deported in his first 100 days as president. And he said a person who enters the U.S. illegally won’t be deported even if the person has a criminal record in any foreign country, unless the immigrant is convicted of a felony in the U.S. That position on deportations is an extreme one that could cost Biden votes even in Hispanic communities among people who fear that new neighbors who have committed crimes elsewhere might commit crimes again in the U.S…

“Then Biden sought to appease the environmental community by pledging that there would be ‘no new fracking’ if he becomes president, and also said he would ban drilling for fossil fuels on public lands. Given the importance of fracking to the economies of key electoral states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and even Colorado, Biden is opening himself up to relentless attacks by Trump in the fall that he is anti-jobs and that he would make America dependent on imported oil and natural gas.”
John Fund, Fox News

“Sanders argues that if we had socialized health insurance right now, nobody would have to pay for testing or treatment for the coronavirus. That’s true, and if the only alternative were a total laissez-faire healthcare system, most of the population might side with Sanders…

“Sanders wants to expand the argument from people with the coronavirus shouldn't have to pay for treatment, to people with illness or injury shouldn't have to pay for treatment. But here’s the thing: It’s very sensible to have targeted government-guaranteed coverage for the coronavirus and not for broken bones. For one, the coronavirus looks like a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Second, it’s incredibly contagious, and thus there are large externalities, and that's the problem here. In other words, there’s a strong case for government action in this specific case — it’s a lot simpler than a revolution.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

Some argue that “Bernie Sanders gave his best debate performance of the 2020 presidential campaign. For the first time since these exchanges began last June, the Vermont senator got angry. He also got specific. On issue after issue, from immigration to health care to student debt to foreign policy, he challenged Joe Biden’s record. The former vice president rolled his eyes, quibbled, and at times simply denied his own past votes…

“Sanders' best and last pitch was his most effective, one that he should have been making explicitly for the last nine months, namely, that Biden’s campaign will not inspire the country. He will have the support of the Democratic establishment and many of the party’s most reliable voters. He will also likely enjoy the support of some traditional Republican voters in wealthy suburbs across the United States. But that will not necessarily translate into the only thing that really matters: taking back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all three of which will likely be necessary for Democrats to win in November.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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