Republicans say Joe Biden is a socialist, or at least he’s being guided by the “socialist radical” wing in the Democratic Party. But, Democrats say there’s no socialist bone in Biden’s body.
“This election will decide whether to save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to top down our precious fate”
President Donald Trump said at the party’s national convention last month. He also called Biden “a Trojan horse of socialism.”
Biden’s supporters are rejecting the notion that he is socialist and say that any unbiased look at his record shows that the claim is absurd.
“There could be nothing further from the truth. There is no socialist bone in his body,” said Felice Gorordo, the son of a Cuban-American exile who worked in the White House under President Barack Obama, and was deeply involved in the effort to restore relations with Cuba in 2015.
Gorordo points out that Biden is deeply religious, of Catholic faith. Traditional socialism rejects belief in God, although Maduro and Castro’s regimes have tolerated religions under restrictions.
Biden defends against attacks against him
Biden himself strongly rejected the appointment in a speech in Pittsburgh last week. “Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a weakness for violent protesters? “Seriously?” he asked. “I want a safe America, safe from Covid-19, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops”, he added.
I ain’t a socialist.
I ain’t a plutocrat.
I’m a Democrat — and I’m proud of it. pic.twitter.com/c8youdmUEL
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 23, 2020
What is socialism?
Part of the problem is semantics and what people mean when they use the word socialism. By definition, socialism is about a greater degree of state control of the economy, giving greater priority to overall well-being and workers’ rights, rather than corporate profits and individual benefits.
European socialism, as practiced in Spain, France and the United Kingdom, offers a mixed economy and respect for civil rights and free and fair elections. But Trump’s campaign has sought to link Democrats to a warped version of socialism as practiced in Cuba and Venezuela, with far greater limits on the private sector and civil rights, as well as restricting democracy by banning opposition political parties.
It is true that Biden has altered its political platform to include some aspects of the Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez agenda, in particular the Green New Deal that advocates greater investment in renewable energy and efforts to combat global warming. But these are not socialist ideas and are accepted by many in the private sector of the United States, such as the electric car manufacturer, Tesla, and American farmers who produce ethanol to reduce carbon emissions in gasoline.
Biden has also strongly opposed the idea of de-financing the police, a concept that has little support in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, although it is popular with radicals and some street protesters.
Biden has also rejected proposals to abolish private health insurance, supported by Sanders and another presidential candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Instead, Biden prefers to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The abolition of private health care, which could be considered part of a socialist agenda, was also briefly supported by Kamala Harris during the primaries, but he quickly abandoned the idea in favor of Obamacare’s expansion, months before accepting the party’s nomination to the vice presidency.
“The policies advocated by Democrats; health, occupational safety, against climate change and not arm teachers. Those don’t even come close to radical socialism“, said José Javier Rodríguez, a 42-year-old Cuban-American seeking re-election as a state senator.
“Those are not the things my parents’ generation fled from in Cuba. They didn’t come here because of moderate economic proposals. They fled authoritarianism and confiscation of private property,” he added.
Cuba and Venezuela
Republicans like to highlight Trump’s tough action on Venezuela. Trump has certainly dramatically increased sanctions against the Maduro regime, but it was Obama who, in fact, began imposing sanctions against Venezuela in 2015.
Republicans say Obama should have acted earlier during his eight years in office as abuses in Venezuela increased. But Democrats point out that the intellectual author of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, Hugo Chavez, took office in 1999 and Republicans took little action during George W. Bush’s eight years. That’s even though Chavez called Bush “the devil” in a speech at the United Nations in 2006.
Either way, the debate over sanctions is a distraction from whether Biden is a socialist or not. While there is a debate about the effectiveness of sanctions against Venezuela, and Cuba in that regard, Biden has repeatedly condemned The Maduro regime and Democrats have supported the Trump administration’s use of sanctions. In the case of Cuba, Biden supported Obama’s restoration of relations with Havana, but neither Obama nor Biden have advocated the lifting of the five-decade economic embargo against Cuba.
But election experts know that in a closed race, efforts to defame opponents don’t need to alter many minds to make a difference. Florida has a history of narrow margins of victory, including the 2000 election, which was decided by just 537 votes.
“President Trump has a unique ability to mark people with campaigns,” said Matt Terrill, who led Rubio’s presidential strategy and now works for Firehouse Strategies, a corporate consulting firm in Washington DC.
“The tactic here is about perceiving and painting Joe Biden as on the sidelines of his party,” he added, adding, and said the Trump campaign seeks to counter the image presented by his candidate’s Democrats as a moderate who can attract a broad coalition of voters, just as Obama did.
“Politics isn’t just about attacking your opponent for their weaknesses. Often, it’s also about attacking your opponent for their strengths and the strength of Biden’s campaign has been to try to project, at least in his opinion, that they can reach a broad spectrum of voters.”