Finley: Biden speaks to Forgotten Democrats

In this April 5, 2019, file photo, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the IBEW Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington.

(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

Joe Biden’s surge since officially entering the presidential race should be instructive to the score of other Democrats competing for the party’s nomination.

Biden broke from the pack by turning away from the Big Government, Big Giveaway platform dominating the early campaign and focusing instead on the Forgotten Democrats.

They’re a subset of the Forgotten Americans that carried Donald Trump to victory in 2016, when Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party deemed them irrelevant.

These blue-collar, union workers were once the spine of the Democratic Party. They kept the party true to pocketbook issues — jobs, fair working conditions, decent wages, opportunity for their kids.

They were swept away by the Berners who flooded Democratic ranks in 2016, drawn in by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders socialist promises. They did to the Democrats what the tea partiers did to Republicans — pushed them to the fringe.

The passion of the newly vocal activists explains why the host of Democratic White House seekers are taking progressivism to the extreme. Free child care. Free college. Medicare for all. Guaranteed income. Tax the rich and tax them some more.

Working- and middle-class Democrats are more rooted in reality than the party’s ideological elitists. They didn’t take a whole lot of college classes on the evils of America. For the most part, they love their country, and don’t want to tear it down.

The just want it to work better for them. And that’s why Joe Biden is reaching them with a message of better and more secure jobs.

Notice that Biden didn’t enter the fray as so many other candidates did, talking about the urgency to combat climate change by any means necessary. These voters have seen what green politics do to blue-collar jobs.

And while health care is top of mind, that doesn’t mean they want Medicare for all and the huge taxes it requires. They want what they had, ironically, before Barack Obama and Biden messed it up — employer-provided health insurance they can afford to use.

Biden’s burst to well-out-in-front status suggests that the party’s base isn’t as far out in left field as we might think from its new faces. The constant coverage of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar etc. casts an image of a radically reshaped Democratic Party.

But Biden is widely viewed as a moderate, and his early popularity — he’s at 39 percent in the polls, with the other 21 candidates splitting the rest of the vote — is an indication the new Democratic spokespersons aren’t speaking as broadly as it seems.

Something else is at work, too. Unlike the tea party-inspired Republicans, who would rather be philosophically pure than win an election, Democrats want to defeat Trump above all else. And they see Biden as the one who has the best chance of prevailing in the general election.

That’s why they’ll forgive him a past that is an affront to the intolerant values of today’s Democratic Party.

If Biden can win back the Forgotten Democrats, he has a shot of securing the Forgotten Americans who want what the attention Trump has given them, but with a lot less drama.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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