Biden's challenge: Appeasing the far left without turning off moderates, independents

'There is a far left element of the Democratic Party talking about things like defunding the police, which is legitimately crazy talk,' says A.B. Stoddard. 'It's a great slogan for the Trump campaign to send out on their fundraising materials.'

Updated: June 12, 2020 - 11:47am

We know that Joe Biden will be taking on President Trump in this November’s general election. But that’s not the only battle on his hands. Beyond battling his own gaffes, he has another problem that could very well derail his hopes of capturing the White House: the far left of his own party.

“It will be a balancing act,” RealClearPolitics Associate Editor A.B. Stoddard tells Just The News. “There is a far left element of the Democratic Party talking about things like defunding the police, which is legitimately crazy talk … It's a great slogan for the Trump campaign to send out on their fundraising materials.”

Joe Biden has tried to distance himself from the far left wing of his party, noticeably by quickly rejecting the call to defund the police.

“He can't come out for abolishing the police, although that's what the main force in the Democrat Party wants these days," says David Horowitz, author of the new book "BLITZ: Trump Will Smash the Left and Win."

He says sensible Democrats still understand a basic need that the government must provide. “They want to be safe and they want to be able to call 911 and get a cop there quickly.”

Biden is talking about reforming the police instead, an instinct that seems wise considering a new Yahoo News/YouGov Poll shows that 65% of Americans are against slashing police funding. Moreover, only 16% of Democrats support it.

“I think Joe Biden’s position represents where most mainstream Democrats are,” says Mo Elleithee, former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “The reforms he’s calling for address many of the concerns of the far left, while also being seen as common sense by many suburban independents.”

Donna Brazile, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, thinks Biden has struck the right balance as well. She tells Just The News that the narrative that all Democrats are sympathetic with the very loud far-left ideas coming from their party is not true. Rather, she says it is time for a serious middle ground discussion about the future of policing in America.

“Reimagine what a 21st century police force would look like that works with the community and not against the people they are hired to protect and serve,” she suggests.

But while Democrats figure out the reimagining part of this equation, President Trump and his campaign now have a politically juicy opportunity to paint Biden and the Democrats as a party that has embraced talk of far-left ideas. Beyond defunding the police, the party as a whole has also supported controversial policies and concepts like Green New Deal, Medicare for All, abortion at any stage, and decriminalizing illegal border crossings.

“The number one job of government is the safety of Americans,” says Horowitz. "[The Democrats] want open borders through which cartels, sex traffickers, criminals, viruses, terrorists can penetrate easily. That's what the Democratic Party stands for now.”

On the topic of immigration, the far left in the party also wants to see Immigration and Customs Enforcement abolished, but consistent polling shows that a majority of Americans are against the idea, including even 34% of Democrats. 

It is no surprise that the Democrat Party has gotten to this point of reckoning with the ideological future. The party has grown much more liberal since the 1970’s, with the percentage of Democrats identifying that way more than doubling from 25% to 51%. Meanwhile, the moderate strain of the party has declined over the last 50 years or so, from 48% to 31%.

The big unanswered question is will the overall increased progressivism sink Biden’s chances in the fall? A Hill-HarrisX poll has some sobering news on that front: 48% of key Independent Voters think the Democrat Party has swung too far left.

Douglas Schoen, a political consultant for past Democrats like President Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, offered a warning in a recent editorial. “For suburban white moderates, a key bloc for both parties in 2020, a threat of Democrats moving too far left along with policy initiatives such as defunding the police could certainly make this a much closer election between Biden and Trump than it might seem to be at this moment.”

This conundrum leaves Biden in a political pickle: He desperately needs the energy of the far left to defeat Trump, so he can’t afford to alienate them. But if he goes too far left, he’ll lose key moderates in the party and independents, which will be an alternative death knell.

“He's not going to back revolutionary change,” A.B Stoddard says. However, she says one key olive branch to the left may be coming soon, especially since the George Floyd protests have changed the country: “He is likely to pick a black woman to be his vice presidential running mate, and that will be a nod to the passion in the party about diversity and representation.”

Ultimately, Donald Trump may simply be the tie that binds. Democrats of all stripes are so desperate to get him out of office that the far left may simply realize that while their ideas may not be fully embraced by Joe Biden, he’s far better than the alternative. Additionally, there is recognition that Biden’s center-left approach would have a wider electoral appeal in a general election.

“The party really is more united than they are divided, and that is in their effort to beat Donald Trump,” says Stoddard.