There was a school of thought that said former Vice President Joe Biden would begin to sink in the polls the moment he announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Biden’s first day in the race, the thinking went, would be his best day.
In fact, the opposite has happened. Since formally becoming a candidate on April 25, Biden has shot up in the polls. On announcement day, Biden held a 6.3-point lead over second-place Sen. Bernie Sanders in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Today, that lead is 23.5 points. That is a big change.
Polls do not tell us who will win an election months from now. But they do tell us what is happening at this moment. And at this moment, Democratic voters, who are sometimes said to be moving left and itching to transform the United States with a “Green New Deal,” “Medicare for All,” and through-the-roof taxes on the rich, are in fact responding to a decidedly more centrist appeal.
That appeal, from Biden, is a promise not to fundamentally remake American society but to restore things to the way they used to be. And “the way they used to be” means before President Trump.
Obviously, Democratic voters want to replace a Republican president with a Democratic president. But they are especially dismayed by Trump — and some, driven by increasingly strident news coverage, seem to have gone nearly ’round the bend about him.
But for some center-left Democrats, the solution to the Trump Problem — that is, the fact that Trump is president — might not be the “Green New Deal” or “Medicare for All.” It is to restore the pre-2017 order in American politics. And Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017, is the physical embodiment of that old order.
That is what Biden promises. Nearly every day, he repeats some version of his core campaign pledge: “I want to restore the soul of this country.”
What Trump has done is expose how corrupt and inbred the establishment is, and how willing it has been to jettison all its supposed virtues to protect its power and — especially — its sense of self-importance. Biden can’t fix that, whether you call it “soul” or . . . something else.