Scientists try to reconstruct past climate conditions by looking at fossilized tree rings, lake sediments or stalactites. Political scientists can trace the history of a former mainstream party (the Democrats) by studying the living fossils in their midst.
Soviet apologist and wealthy anti-capitalist, Bernie Sanders represents the communist left that was once largely suppressed and defeated within the Democratic Party. People forget that Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey were part of the old mainstream Democratic Party that drove out the openly socialist, USSR-loving elements that threatened to take control of the party in Minnesota and elsewhere in the 1940s and 1950s. Or that Harry Truman was the choice of patriotic, free-market, culturally conservative Democrats as the VP nominee in 1944 against the openly leftist (commie stooge?) Henry Wallace. Or that there was once a pro-defense, robust anti-communist wing in the party typified by Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson.
Despite Bernie’s rise, the most diagnostic living fossil is Joe Biden. His career is a complete map to the changes in the party over the last half-century. For example, few people know that in the 1980s Biden signed a pledge with the Ad Hoc Committee for Right to Life to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. By 1988, when it was clear the party would never again nominate a pro-lifer, Biden declared that he had always been pro-choice.
Biden openly opposed forced busing for school integration and racial quotas in hiring and admissions. For most of his career, Biden called for vigorous enforcement of immigration laws (the position of the AFL-CIO) until very recently.
The “evolution” of Joe Biden tracks the changes in his party almost perfectly. The party used to envision the average American as their target audience and on whose behalf they claimed to act. Now that same average American is the enemy. Media-intensive rich white liberals, program-dependent voters, illegal voters and the sexually non-traditional are the new constituency.
Joe Biden will again try to evolve and adapt his deeply held personal principles to whatever needs to be presented to Democratic voters but the pace of change has accelerated. Biden has changed positions effortlessly over a period of more than four decades but the new pace of ideological change may be too much even for him. Hypocrisy is more obvious the more recent and more frequent the flip-flops become. It is also much harder to convince regular voters that the product is still directed at them in familiar ways and in their interests when connections to the past are so completely severed and with such contempt. AOC and her ilk are not the new mammals replacing the dinosaurs such much as they are the asteroid destroying an old order.
In most years, Democrats could fake a connection to their cultural and policy past (Bill Clinton did so brilliantly) but they have accelerated the drift (rot?) to the point where everybody will notice. It is starting to look like 2020 may be the year that the frog will notice the water temperature rising and simply hop out of the pot before it is too late.Published in