Surprise: Racist Guardians Praised Trump and Call Biden Names

“We will expose Joe Biden as a hapless tool of the extreme left and contrast his failures with the undeniable successes of President Trump.”

Expect to hear a lot more over the next 100 days or so about Biden, the former US vice-president, being “a hapless tool of the extreme left”. It is a classic Republican argument that seeks to peel off moderates and independents by linking Democrats to high taxes and big government socialism. With other attack lines against Biden failing to stick, the Trump campaign appears to have concluded that this is their best shot.
It comes as Biden builds a coalition that spans military generals and Black Lives Matter activists, disenchanted Republicans and democratic socialists. His platform has been described as the most progressive of any presidential candidate in history, unfolding in a year that has seen the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against racial injustice smash old certainties.
Should Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, America could experience a paradigm shift in what is defined as the left, right and centre ground.

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, 29 February 2020.
Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

One of the last gasps of the pre-pandemic era was the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the National Harbor near Washington in February. Its official theme was “America v socialism” and the agenda included sessions such as “Socialism: Wrecker of Nations and Destroyer of Societies” and “Prescription for Failure: The Ills of Socialised Medicine”. Trump, the star speaker, warned darkly of Democrats as “radical-left socialists”.
Much has happened since then and Trump has struggled to respond with an election strategy. In late April, he went for xenophobia with an immigration ban; in May, he brushed aside the coronavirus pandemic to focus on rebuilding the economy and pushed a conspiracy theory about Biden’s role in the Russia investigation; in June, he responded to Black Lives Matter protests by promising a law and order crackdown; and in July, he embraced a culture war over Confederate symbols from the civil war.
Each time, Trump has been reacting to events and playing catch-up, and opinion polls suggest that none of it has worked, culminating in Wednesday’s demotion of the campaign manager Brad Parscale. His successor, Stepien, is a more traditional Republican operator who looks set to revert to a more traditional Republican game plan. In 2008, the party derided Barack Obama for suggesting it’s good to “spread the wealth around”; now it will attempt to define Biden in similar terms.
Lanhee Chen, the former policy director for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said: “It is the best possible strategy they can employ given the fact that the far left has been such an ascendent part of the progressive coalition and given how vocal they have been about a number of policy proposals, which I think most Americans find completely distasteful.”
Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution thinktank at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, added: “The idea of trying to portray Joe Biden as somebody who is either an empty vessel for the left or in cahoots with the far left makes a lot of sense to me. We’ll have to see how effective the attack is, but I think it is the best available play in the playbook.”
The play is under way. On Tuesday Trump held a 63-minute press conference that proved a thinly disguised campaign rally in the White House rose garden. Ostensibly about China and Hong Kong, the president’s rambling speechmentioned Biden almost 30 times.

Bernie Sanders speaks alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a press conference to introduce college affordability legislation outside the US Capitol, 24 June 2019.
Bernie Sanders speaks alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a press conference to introduce college affordability legislation outside the US Capitol last year. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

These included: “Joe Biden’s entire career has been a gift to the Chinese Communist Party”; “Today, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said that the core of his economic agenda is a hard-left crusade against American energy”; “Biden has gone radical left”; and “The Biden-Sanders agenda is the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history” – a reference to Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who finished second to Biden in the Democratic primary.
It was backed up by a fusillade from the Trump campaign across various platforms. The “Trump War Room” tweeted: “Bernie Sanders admits he forced Joe Biden to move ‘a whole lot’ to the left on healthcare.” A campaign email noted how Biden has praised leftwing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, adding: “Biden is too weak to stand up to the radical left, so he’s completely surrendered to them..”
A TV ad claimed: “The radical leftwing mob’s agenda? Take over our cities. Defund the police. Pressure more towns to follow. And Joe Biden stands with them.” And the vice-president, Mike Pence, speaking in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday, described Biden as a “Trojan horse for a radical agenda”, adding: “I thought Joe Biden won the Democratic primaries but, looking at their unity agenda, it looks to me like Bernie won.”
Such attacks contend that Biden will be soft on immigration, sacrifice hundreds of thousands of blue-collar energy jobs, raise taxes on middle-class families, shut down charter schools and cut funding for police. The Biden campaign dismisses such criticisms as false and desperate scaremongering.
Indeed, Biden is an improbable target for a red scare. Obama’s former vice-president spent much of the Democratic primary fending off challenges from the left over everything from his links to the financial services industry to his incremental healthcare plan to his past shortcomings on racial equality. He ultimately won a comprehensive victory over Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the left’s standard bearers.
Yet so far he has seemed able to bring the left with him. Biden’s six policy task forces – on climate, healthcare, immigration, education, the economy and criminal-justice reform – have shown a humility that critics say Hillary Clinton lacked in 2016, giving Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives a seat at the table.

Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit on 9 March 2020.
Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit in March. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP

Last week Biden launched a $700bn plan to revive American industry and tackle inequality, part of an ambitious economic restructuring that has earned comparisons with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. This week he added a proposal to invest $2tn in clean energy infrastructure and climate solutions.
María Urbina, the national political director of the progressive grassroots group Indivisible, said: “In terms of how is he doing in engaging and consolidating support from progressive communities, I got to say he’s doing a really good job. When you look at his rollout this week of his climate plan, not only is he getting praised by grassroots communities who have spent a lot of time organising around changes to these bold new standards, but you’re also seeing key leaders expressing support, from Jay Inslee to Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren.”
But could such a unity platform create an opening for Trump to exploit with his “vote Biden, get Sanders” attacks? Urbina thinks not. “It just doesn’t add up. If you look at where Trump is starting to lose support and where Biden is gaining it, Biden is creating a continuum of support that is deep and wide as you can imagine in the kind of voting blocs you’d want to bring in. It’s a distraction. Joe Biden has support from Angela Davis and he has support from Republicans, so that’s not landing.
A party notorious for infighting, and for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, appears to have a struck a truce between centrists and progressives, uniting against the existential threat of Trump, at least for now. Al From, the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council and the man who in 1989 chose Bill Clinton to lead the party’s revival with “third way” politics, agreed that Trump’s effort to cast Biden as a handmaiden to socialism will fall flat.
“They’re slinging mud wherever they can and the problem is it sticks to the president’s hand and always winds up hitting him back in his own face,” From said. “Joe Biden has a long record. It’s pretty clear he’s not Bernie Sanders. People know what he stands for. He’s a good, decent, honest, empathetic man and people are looking for that.
“This election is a referendum on Trump. He’s running against himself and he’s doing a really good job of beating himself.”

Anti-Trump activists burn a US flag near the White House, 4 July 2020 in Washington DC.
Anti-Trump activists burn a US flag near the White House, 4 July 2020 in Washington DC. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The seismic events of 2020 have shaken the political kaleidoscope. The jobless rate stood at 3.6% when Biden launched his campaign in April last year; now it is well above 10% in the thick of a pandemic that has claimed 140,000 lives. The police killing of George Floyd provoked the biggest mass protests for racial justice in half a century and sweeping transformation from corporate boardrooms to public squares.
What have been multiple crises for Trump could be multiple opportunities for his successor, especially if Democrats regain control of the Senate and thereby avoid Republican obstruction. Could Biden do something big and historic?
From, who has known him for about 50 years, said: “Biden is going to have a good centre-left New Democrat New Labour agenda that’s modernised to meet today’s challenges. I think the whole political spectrum is going to change. Both parties probably will see big changes. There will be a realignment. I can’t tell you now what it’s going to be like.”
Neil Sroka, a spokesperson for Democracy for America, a political action committee that endorsed Sanders in the Democratic primary, said: “The realigning of the left and centre has actually already happened. Joe Biden, if he wins in November, will be elected on the most progressive agenda a Democrat has ever been elected on in the history of the country. Period. End of story.

Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 8 March 2020.
Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan in March. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

“The movement behind Senator Sanders in 2016 and the response to Trump and the movement that grew behind Senator Sanders again in 2020 has fundamentally altered the trajectory of the Democratic party in a way that’s hard to really grasp looking at it from where we were in January 2015.”
America has a worldwide reputation as a conservative nation that values private enterprise above public services, with Democrats well to the right of Britain’s Labour party and little prospect of European-style universal healthcare. But it may also have been awoken to new imperatives and possibilities by a historic convergence of health, economic and racial crises.

Sroka added: “While Joe Biden and perhaps his primary supporters might have thought we needed to go slower, outside events are showing that can change. Progressives are there to ensure that we get change that is big enough and delivered fast enough to respond to the needs that Americans are quickly recognising.”

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