RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Solomon writes: "Joe Biden's glaring absence from the California Democratic Party convention has thrown a national spotlight on his eagerness to detour around the party's progressive base."

Joe Biden. (photo: Getty Images)
Joe Biden. (photo: Getty Images)

Why Joe Biden Was Afraid to Face California's Democratic Party

By Norman Solomon, Reader Supported News

05 June 19


oe Biden’s glaring absence from the California Democratic Party convention has thrown a national spotlight on his eagerness to detour around the party’s progressive base. While dodging an overt clash for now, Biden is on a collision course with grassroots Democrats across the country who are learning more about his actual record and don’t like it.

Inside the statewide convention in San Francisco over the weekend, I spoke with hundreds of delegates about Biden while leafletting with information on his record. I was struck by the frequent intensity of distrust and even animosity; within seconds, after glancing at his name and photo at the top of the flyer, many delegates launched into some form of denunciation.

I often heard delegates bring up shameful milestones in Biden’s political history – especially his opposition to busing for school desegregation, treatment of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas hearings, leading role in passage of the 1994 crime bill, career-long services to corporate elites, and powerful support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It may have been a dumb tactical move for Biden to stay away from the convention. Its 3,400 delegates included core Democratic activists and leaders from around the state. Even some of the pro-Biden delegates said they were miffed that he wasn’t showing up – in contrast to the 14 presidential candidates who accepted invitations to address the convention. (Biden chose to be in Ohio instead, speaking at a Human Rights Campaign gala in support of LGBTQ rights.)

Nationwide, Biden generated headlines like this one in USA Today: “Biden Faces Stiff Criticism from Democrats for Skipping California Convention.” Interviewed for that news story, I said: “He was not going to be very popular at this convention, but his refusal to show up only reinforces the idea that he’s an elitist and he is more interested in collecting big checks in California than being in genuine touch with grassroots activists and people who care about the Democratic Party’s future.”

Yet if Biden had shown up, it’s quite likely he would have been met with a storm of protest on the convention floor. That’s because so many of the state’s Democratic delegates are vocally opposed to the root causes and effects of institutionalized racism, war, systemic assaults on the environment, and overall corporate power.

Looking ahead, Biden will strive to avoid, as much as possible, any uncontrolled situation that could disrupt his pose as an advocate for the middle class and the poor. He least needs wide circulation of accurate information about his political record.

I worked with a few other delegates to blanket the convention with a RootsAction flyer that included some revealing quotes from Biden and facts about his record. We got some pushback from people who didn’t like seeing distribution of such critical material. But many more said that they appreciated it.

Polls show that Biden has little support among young people. Many share the basic outlook of a 19-year-old Sanders supporter at the convention, Yvette Flores, who told Bloomberg News: “Everything he stands for is against the interests of the working class and young Democrats.”

While a dozen of the presidential contenders who spoke were unimpressive or worse, two were far and away the progressive standouts.

Bernie Sanders (whom I actively support) delivered a cogent and fiery speech on Sunday. “There is a debate among presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room – and those who have chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room – about the best way forward," he said. “In my view, we will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign, and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote and a reason to believe that politics is relevant to their lives.” And: “We have got to make it clear that when the future of the planet is at stake there is no middle ground.”

The other great speech came from Elizabeth Warren, who also deftly skewered Biden along the way. “Big problems call for big solutions,” she said. “And some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream, they dream small. Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses.” Warren added: “Here’s the thing. When a candidate tells you about all the things that aren't possible, about how political calculations come first ... they’re telling you something very important – they are telling you that they will not fight for you.”

Her reference to the distant Joe Biden was crystal clear.

Email This Page

Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+48 # Moxa 2019-06-05 09:53
Biden is not only not up to the problems facing the U.S. and the world, he is part of the CAUSE of those problems.

The big question is whether any of that matters to enough people to deny him the nomination and to give it instead to Bernie Sanders, the one potentially transformationa l candidate.

People will support Biden for his smile, his vice presidency under Obama, and a certain nostalgia for a seemingly calmer era. They will not look at, or care about his record. He will always be Uncle Joe to them.

Yet we must not give up! For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, we must show Biden as he is in fact, not fantasy. And we must also show that supporting Bernie's campaign is a moral imperative.

As Bernie said recently, there can be no middle ground when it comes to saving the planet, or universal healthcare or ending wars. You either do it completely or you haven't done it at all.

What is obvious to us is not obvious to many. And yet its obviousness is its strength. That is why Bernie can be so effective talking to Trump voters. The truth is so compelling, especially when you've never heard it uttered before!

Many don't WANT to hear, but many others just need to be reminded of what, deep down, they already know: We are all in this together. What helps one helps all. Peace is better than war. Love is better than hate.

We needn't fight those that oppose this, nor need we compromise with them. We must remind them it is what they want too.
+16 # Farafalla 2019-06-05 12:13
Biden just flipped on the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funds from being used in anything related to abortion rights including getting information from your doctor. He had just said he was for repealing it, now he says he will defend it. I think he just lost a swath of voters who don’t like the Hyde amendment.
+14 # lfeuille 2019-06-05 17:10
If they even hear about it. The press may not convey the message.
+39 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-06-05 10:58
Trump would trample Biden. Too much old baggage. Trump would not be able to rattle Sanders or Warren. They don't have old baggage and both of them are the "real deal".
+25 # Farafalla 2019-06-05 12:19
Also this from WaPo

In addition to asking about support for fracking, the Post asked presidential candidates the following questions:

Do you support the Green New Deal resolution?
Should we rejoin the Paris agreement?
Do you support building more nuclear power plants?
Would you support setting a price on carbon, such as with a carbon tax or cap-and-trade?
Would you ban fossil fuel exports?
Would you end leasing for fossil fuel extraction on federal lands?
Would you eliminate fossil fuel subsidies?
Are you doing something about your campaign’s carbon footprint?

Joe Biden is the only candidate that was labeled “unclear/no response” for every single question asked.
+23 # banichi 2019-06-05 12:40
There is a - largely - unacknowledged attitude on the part of the Democratic Party establishment, typified by Moxa's comment on Biden and the people who don't want to look at, or care for, Biden's record. Moxa is correct.

That attitude is a surreptitious, hidden commitment to the status quo that Elizabeth Warren spoke of when she said,“Big problems call for big solutions,” she said. “And some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream, they dream small. Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses.”

What underlies that attitude is the struggle over power, over who will direct the future of the Democratic Party. It is typified by the desperate struggle for control over who will be getting big checks from billionaires, and dole them out to candidates.

In short, when you follow the money, that's what you see. Pelosi and Schumer are typical of that Establishment. And so are a number of the Party-approved candidates who have entered the race. And just as important to the decision of who will represent the Democrats in 2020, are the large number of candidates. As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I saw clearly what happened in 2016. The effect of the cheating by the DP establishment, the Superdelegates, etc. The present number of candidates is a dead giveaway that the purpose of the elimination of the Superdelegates for only the first vote, was not a chance decision.
+11 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-06 06:37
Biden can't win without California. No democrat can. This is the beginning of the end for Biden. It is OK. This is how the Demo primary will work. The sheep will be separated from the goats. The goats will go home. Let's just hope Sander and Gabbard are left on top at the end of it all.

Things are looking good for Sanders. Maybe the media is not reporting on him but the people are responding.
+4 # JohnWeiss 2019-06-08 16:50
i'm a strong Bernie supporter. I went door to door for Bernie in 2016, and volunteered for him at the CADEM Convention.

i'm grateful that you created a summary of Biden's gaffes and positions, but your document is disappointingly weak.

"The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.”
- Bernie Sanders' agenda ISN'T to murder rich people. The problem isn't the rich people, the problem is a broken system. Biden's comment is a distraction from the broken system. Instead of redirecting the conversation to the broken system, you have allowed Biden to set the terms.

"the wealthy are as patriotic as the poor."
- one of most insidious, manipulative political attacks is to question people's "patriotism." The issue isn't anyone's patriotism-- the issue is a broken system. Again, you allowed Biden to set the terms, instead of redirecting the conversation to the broken system.

Thanks, but no thanks.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.