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Biden is labeled a moderate. But his agenda is far more liberal than Hillary Clinton's

Alex Roarty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Many Democrats see Joe Biden as a voice of ideological restraint in a party rapidly moving to the left.

But the 2020 Democratic front-runner's emerging policy agenda is anything but moderate -- at least compared to the party's last presidential nominee.

From health care to climate change to criminal justice, Biden has proposed ideas more ambitious and liberal than policies supported by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign, a McClatchy review of the candidates' platforms found.

Taken as a whole, Biden's policy platform represents a significant shift from Clinton's. On nearly every major issue, Biden has either exponentially increased the scope of what Clinton proposed or advocated for new ideas that most Democrats would have up until recently considered fringe.

The former vice president's embrace of an unabashedly liberal agenda cuts against some perceptions of him, both from progressives who criticize Biden as insufficiently bold and center-left allies who argue he can appeal to voters in the middle against in an election against Donald Trump.

But for a candidate who has generally kept within his party's mainstream during his five-decade career, it also underlines just how much -- and how rapidly -- the Democratic Party has changed in the three years since Clinton was its standard bearer.

 

"There's no doubt people like Joe Biden are moving with the times in our party, and our party has moved to the left," said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the center-left think tank Third Way. "You'd have to be insane to deny it."

A candidate's policy agenda is far from the only way to assess their ideological views. Biden, for instance, has faced criticism for more conservative positions he took in the past on issues like abortion rights and criminal justice.

And whether voters view a candidate as "liberal" also depends on how they compare to their opponents. In most cases, Biden's agenda isn't as far to the left as Bernie Sanders' or Elizabeth Warren's, and is roughly comparable to other opponents' plans like Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.

Still, Biden's current set of policy prescriptions would likely be considered radical if they had been proposed in any previous Democratic presidential primary. That's especially clear in comparison to Clinton's 2016 platform.

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