Presidential campaigns in this country follow a predictable pattern. The Republican candidate caters to the conservative voters most likely to vote in the primaries. Once winning the nomination, the candidate sprints to the middle in order to win in the general election. A Democratic candidate does just the opposite by appealing to liberal voters. Once the nomination is secured, he or she sprints to the center to win the general election.
That has been the pattern, but not this time. Joe Biden is doing just the opposite. During the Democratic primary, he was often perceived as the centrist candidate. Sometimes he would adopt some of the ideas of the progressive wing. But he was often seen as the one defending Obamacare and rejecting Medicare for All. He was the sensible alternative to progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Something happened on the way to the Democratic Convention. He and his campaign have embraced more and more leftwing ideas. Kevin Williamson calls it “The Biden Inversion.” Whatever it is, it is unique in modern American politics.
Running in the primaries is the time to shore up your support and energize your base. A little of that is still necessary during the general election. But most of the time, the candidate needs to reach out to the voters in the middle who aren’t convinced. A certain percentage of voters will vote for Donald Trump, no matter who opposes him in the fall. A certain percentage of voters will vote Democratic whether Joe Biden is the nominee or not. The electoral battle is in the middle. But Joe Biden seems to be sprinting to the left.
Taking strong progressive stands on issues will energize the left wing of the Democratic Party but I think it risks losing voters in the center. If Joe Biden wins in November, he will have reversed a pattern that has been in place for decades.