The old joke: “I must get to the front of the mob — because I am their leader!” applies to President Joe Biden’s relationship to Democratic activists. Biden is nominally the Democratic Party’s leader, and yet he is, in fact, a follower.
Biden is the exact opposite of a profile in courage — and yet followers can enjoy long political careers. And few have lasted longer than Biden. First elected to public office in 1970, he has followed trends, not led them. From the 1970s to the 1990s, when the Democratic Party still had a substantial Southern conservative element, the younger Biden was an eager protege of old segregationists, exulting in their praise for him.
The greatest example of Biden’s ability to follow the whims of his party is abortion. Early in his career, citing his Catholic faith, Biden was distinctly pro-life; as recently as 1982, he was voting alongside uber-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms on abortion legislation — and against uber-liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The Democratic Party moved left on abortion, so did Biden. Today, his Catholicism notwithstanding, he shares the Democratic view that all abortions, at any time, should be be legal (and, of course, if need be, taxpayer-funded).
As an aside, we can note that if a politician moves in the direction favored by corporate media, it will look kindly upon it and dub it an “evolution.” So yes, on this issue, Biden is enjoying the proverbial “strange new respect.”
Of course, not everyone admires Biden’s “evolution.” One critic, Sen. Tom Cotton, was harsh when he tweeted on June 30, “Biden started his career pro-life, he recently supported Hyde, but now he wants to destroy the Senate to codify Roe. This flipping shouldn’t be a surprise. Biden has always been an empty suit with no principles, reversing his ‘core beliefs’ whenever convenient.”
So now, looking ahead, what can we expect from Biden? To ask that question is to ask, “What can we expect from a weathervane?” And the answer, of course, is that it will point whichever way the strongest wind is blowing.
For the past year-and-a-half, the strongest wind, if that’s the right word, has come from within the Biden administration. That is, from the mostly woke appointees who have so far made the Biden presidency a collage of statements and announcements about LGBT+ and climate change.
Some might say that such wokeness does not reflect the real Joe Biden, and yet as Sen. Cotton says, there is no real Joe Biden.
We can further say that the real gale force in this country is the American people. Their power was felt in November 2021, when Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governorship of Virginia. And yet the full blast of vox populi won’t really be heard until November 2022, when the midterm elections give the folks a chance to register a half-time judgement on the 46th president.
Already Democrats are battening down their hatches. As veteran pol James Carville said on July 4 of the prospect ahead, “I am petrified…I am not optimistic.”
So if Democrats are, in fact, blown away in November, what will Biden do?
If history is a guide, he and his more mature advisers will recognize the shift and seek to tack back to the middle. That’s what Sen. Biden did in 1994, when he followed the conservative trend of the time, enacting a conservative anti-crime bill that helped him win re-election in 1996.
Can Biden do all that again? Can he “triangulate” back to the middle in time for 2024? If Biden were 30 years younger, it might be easy for him to pivot, just as he did in ‘94. But Biden will be over 80, and at that age, nimbleness comes hard.
In a fierce storm, a young sapling can bend with the wind and snap back. But an old tree is brittle: when it breaks, it falls — and it can’t get up.
James P. Pinkerton, a former White House domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, has been a Fox News contributor since 1996.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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