Bernie Sanders backers wary of Joe Biden tested at DNC

Bernie Sanders backers wary of Joe Biden tested at DNC

Pete D’Alessandro counters with what could be called the Stalin test when liberal activists question how he justifies supporting Joseph R. Biden after being all-in for Sen. Bernard Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary.

The former Sanders campaign adviser points out that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin put aside their differences to confront the threat of Nazi aggression. Mr. D’Alessandro said politics makes for strange bedfellows and that holds true in the push to oust President Trump.

“I say, ‘Well, my purity test is, ‘Can I stop fascism when I have a chance to?’” he told The Washington Times. “I mean, we teamed up with Stalin in World War II to stop fascism.

“There is a real-life metaphor for you,” he added with a chuckle.

It is a reminder of the uncomfortable alliance between the Biden forces and the liberal activists who preferred the Vermont democratic socialist’s “political revolution.”

Those ties will be tested this week during the four-day Democratic National Convention, which Democrats hope to use as a platform to show they are unified behind Mr. Biden and against Mr. Trump.

The virtual event kicks off Monday and closes Thursday with Mr. Biden’s formal acceptance of the party’s presidential nomination from his home state of Delaware.

Democrats are eager to avoid a repeat of 2016. Just before the convention, stolen Democratic National Committee emails showing bias against Mr. Sanders were leaked.

Grassroots activists cried foul, leading to protests and pressuring then-DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to tender her resignation.

A virtual convention this year could help put a lid on intraparty squabbling and protests that typically crop up around the convention hall, and limit the chances that bad blood from the primary race spills into the public eye.

The scheduled speakers include former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama; former President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; Mr. Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates; and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Former Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, an outspoken “Never Trumper,” also has a slot.

Obama downplays party division

Mr. Obama said reports about the beef between the more centrist and liberal elements of the party are overblown. He said Mr. Biden deserves credit for reaching out to the Sanders wing of the party since becoming the presumptive nominee.

“My impression is now that people feel good about this ticket,” Mr. Obama said on a podcast with former adviser David Plouffe, “I thought that Joe did a wonderful thing, not just politically, but it was the right thing substantively to engage Bernie Sanders after the election.”

Mr. Obama highlighted the work of the Biden-Sanders unity task forces that offered 110 pages of policy recommendations.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez co-chaired the climate change group alongside 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry.

“You look at what’s contained in those documents. Those are serious, well-thought-through ideas that really, I think, potentially can make a difference,” Mr. Obama said. “So the good news is that a lot of the so-called divisions within the Democratic Party, I think are not going to be a major factor in the election.”

Wishy-washy on Harris

Others have suggested that Mr. Biden’s selection of Ms. Harris, who has compiled one of the most partisan voting records in Congress, will help ease the left’s concerns.

The Harris pick, though, hasn’t energized activists.

Mr. D’Alessandro said the decision to tap the senator from California signaled that the Biden brain trust decided its path to victory hinged more on energizing traditional Democratic voters than reaching out to the party’s left wing.

“I think their strategy wasn’t for that group of people but was directed at the ‘blue no matter who’ people,” he said.

Indeed, despite Mr. Trump’s warning that Ms. Harris is part of the “radical left,” grassroots activists gave a tepid response to the vice presidential announcement.

They celebrated the historic nature of Ms. Harris’ nomination as the first Black and Asian American woman to be a vice presidential candidate but rejected the notion that she has been a loyal warrior for their causes.

“The audience for a Kamala Harris candidacy and the audience for a Joe Biden candidacy were largely overlapping,” Briahna Joy Gray, who served as a spokeswoman for the Sanders campaign, said in the radio interview last week.

“If you want to have people truly excited, if you want to get those voters who aren’t already on board, weren’t already on board with the Joe Biden agenda, what you need is some indication from this ticket that they are open to moving left to where frankly the rest of America is,” she said.

“Medicare for All” and an overhaul of the criminal justice system should be non-negotiable, she said.

Ms. Gray, noting that just two people younger than 50 are scheduled to address the convention, said the DNC should give a bigger showcase to minorities and the next generation of party leaders. “And one of those people is Pete Buttigieg, who most people on the left do not consider to be a leftist,” she said.

Meanwhile, the buzz over a slot for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tailed off after she learned, and announced on Twitter, that she had been reserved one minute to speak.

Others questioned the timing of the Harris announcement, noting that it coincided with the primary victory of Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, stealing some of the liberal star’s thunder.

Progressive administration

Mr. Biden delivered his pitch to activists over the weekend at the annual Netroots Nation conference, which serves as a showcase for far-left leaders and activists across the country.

“We are going to need your help. Only then can we govern after the election as the most progressive administration since FDR,” Mr. Biden said in a taped message. “We are in the battle for the soul of this country, and because of you, we can win it. But I badly need you. The country needs you.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also sought to assure activists that Mr. Biden is on their side.

“There is so much opportunity for progressive victories with Joe Biden,” said Ms. Warren, citing the candidate’s support of overhauling bankruptcy laws and curbing student loan debt. “He has embraced the progressive vision.”

Mr. Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan calls for massive investments in infrastructure and clean energy and raising taxes on the rich to pay for them.

For some activists, though, Mr. Biden must do more.

They say that the coronavirus has amplified racial and social inequities that must be addressed and that the Democratic ticket isn’t offering a “bold transformational vision.”

Still, it appears as if Mr. Trump is doing most of the heavy lifting for Mr. Biden in persuading the grassroots to rally behind the former vice president.

Mondaire Jones, the Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th Congressional District this year, said if helping Mr. Biden means giving Mr. Trump the boot, then he is in.

“For many of us, in fact, I would say probably for most progressives, this nominee for the Democratic Party was not the person who was our first choice, in many instances he was not our second, third or fourth choice, but there is no threat to everything we stand for as progressives more dangerous, more powerful than Donald Trump continuing to be in the Oval Office,” Mr. Jones said.

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