Former Vice President Joe Biden attempted to assure voters on Monday that Republican efforts to paint him as a “radical socialist” were inaccurate, but may have inadvertently taken a swipe at his vanquished progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Biden, who has struggled to make inroads with his party’s left wing, was asked during an interview with a local Fox affiliate in Wisconsin if he was concerned about recent claims President Donald Trump made alleging the Democrat ticket is a “trojan horse” for more radical elements of the progressive movement.
“I beat the socialist,” Biden responded. “That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career, my whole career. I am not a socialist.”
The former vice president’s comments immediately struck some on the left as alienating, given the partisan divides that were exhibited during the Democrat primaries.
Good way to alienate your fmr opponent's supporters after that opponent has spent months trying to get them to back you.https://t.co/oohglV04Bk
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) September 22, 2020
Biden’s comments underscore the predicament the nominee finds himself in as he tries to lead a unified Democrat Party to victory this November. The former vice president campaigned for his party’s nomination as an unabashed moderate, often willing to attack Sanders and other progressive rivals as pushing an unrealistic agenda.
Most notably, this was the case with Medicare for All, the signature healthcare policy of the Sanders campaign, which was adopted by most of the other progressives running. Throughout the primaries, Biden railed against the proposal, accusing proponents of lying about its financial cost.
Given such attacks, Biden has struggled since winning the nomination to bring the most ardent of Sanders supporters into his camp, despite the Vermont senator’s endorsement. Efforts at unity have also been made all the more difficult by the attacks leveled at Biden by Trump and Republicans, especially as Biden is attempting to win over moderate suburbanites. Since polling shows such voters skeptical of the progressive agenda, the former vice president risks hurting his standing among suburbanites by not forcefully rebuking Trump’s attacks. On the other side, however, doing so impacts the already lackluster levels of enthusiasm progressives have shown for his candidacy.