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If voters did give Biden a mandate, it wasn’t to pander to progressives

Joe Biden is like the kid who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. The kid didn’t get there because he was talented. He got there because he was lucky. And Biden didn’t get to where he is today — on his third time at bat, having struck out the last two times he ran for president — because voters finally came to their senses and concluded that he was a wise man with great ideas. He won because, like the clueless kid on third base, he also was lucky enough to have Donald Trump as his opponent. 

But when the New York Times, the Bible of progressive politics in America, decides to tell the president that he has no mandate to govern as a progressive, then you know it’s time for Biden (or whoever’s calling the shots in the White House) to pay attention.

“Mr. Biden did not win the presidency because he promised a progressive revolution,” but “because he promised an exhausted nation a return to sanity, decency and competence,” the Times points out in a recent editorial.

Democrats, at least the ones who count themselves as moderates, understand that there is a growing perception that the Biden administration is not up to the job. The sane wing of the party understands that Americans aren’t losing sleep fretting about what pronoun to use when addressing transgender people. Ordinary Americans cringe when women are called “birthing people.” They know progressives are not helping Biden or his party when they try to convince those ordinary Americans that math is racist.

And Biden didn’t help himself when he condemned new state voting laws as “Jim Crow 2.0.”  That’s not the kind of over-heated language that wins friends and influences people.

Instead of taking his cues from the progressive wing of his party, Biden might want to heed the words of an old-school Democrat, James Carville, who helped get Bill Clinton elected president — not once but twice.

Carville has noticed what’s going on in our culture. He’s noticed that Democrats lost in Virginia and a lot of other places this month because they’re not in tune with the culture. He has come to realize that it’s no longer only “the economy, stupid.” So he recently told Judy Woodruff on PBS, “Some of these people need to go to a ‘woke’ detox center or something. They’re expressing a language that people just don’t use, and there’s backlash and frustration at that.”

In the 2020 presidential election, voters who chose Biden thought they were voting for a moderate. Now — given the president’s dismal approval ratings in a wide swath of polls — it looks like they’re feeling as if they were duped.

But instead of leading his party back to the center, Biden is trying to appease progressives with his trillion-dollar-plus spending bills designed to “transform America,” as they like to say. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the so-called “squad” in the House may think we need to fundamentally change America, but most Americans don’t. 

Most Americans don’t want to “defund the police” or open our borders to anyone and everyone who wants to come in. Most Americans don’t think that parents who care about what their kids are being taught are racists.

And I suspect most Americans are appalled that the Biden administration is negotiating with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union to pay illegal immigrants hundreds of thousands of dollars — each — for the supposed emotional distress they suffered when they were separated from their children under former President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. 

Blaming Trump for that — and just about everything else — is something that may make Biden and his allies (including allies in the media) feel good, but as unpopular as Donald Trump is, Joe Biden may be even more unpopular — and he’s the one currently occupying the Oval Office.

The Democratic Party was moving left long before Trump came along to drive the Democrats over the cliff. They say nutty things and think we won’t notice. Biden tells us to “follow the science” but ignores it when it serves his political purposes. As Gerard Baker neatly puts it in his Wall Street Journal column, “You could get sick if you attended a football game or a biker rally, but not if you attended the right sort of political protest or looted an urban store.” 

And what has Joe Biden said about that? Nothing. Why offend progressives when you can blame Donald Trump for just about everything?

Biden is making big promises about transforming America, despite the fact that his party has a razor-thin majority in the House and is split down the middle in the Senate. Memo to President Biden from a fellow Democrat, Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, a moderate: “Nobody elected him [Biden] to be FDR. They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.”

The kid who thought he hit a triple was oblivious to the fact that he wound up on third base simply because he was lucky enough to have well-connected, wealthy parents. Who knows whether Joe Biden understands why he won, whether he has enough self-awareness to realize he’s president today because he was lucky enough to run against Donald Trump. 

But if Biden is as clueless as the kid on third base — if he actually thinks he won a mandate to transform the country — then his dismal poll numbers will simply be the canary in the coal mine.  Reality will send him a message next year. And it will look like a giant red wave.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags Abigail Spanberger Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Democrats Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Presidency of Joe Biden progressives

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