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Is Joe Biden 'woke' enough to woo the left?

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

With his Twitter blast at former Vice President Joe Biden's entry into the 2020 presidential race, President Donald Trump paid him the high compliment of an insult tweet.

"Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe," Trump tweeted after Biden's Thursday morning announcement. "I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign."

Actually, it is Trump himself whose rude and crude bully-boy approach to politics and governance has given the biggest boost to Biden's viability at age 76 and after failed attempts to win the nomination in 1988 and 2008.

Yet whether he intended it or not, Trump's "Sleepy Joe" nickname alludes to one of the biggest questions facing Biden's aspirations in today's Democratic Party: In the language of today's young progressives -- which makes my millennial son roll his eyes every time he hears me try to use it -- is Biden "woke" enough to deserve their vote?

Biden's biggest political strength has not been in wokeness. It has been in his political roots and popularity among working-class and middle-class moderates, particularly those in the industrial Upper Midwest who voted for Barack Obama, then switched to Trump.

But after two other centrist Democratic presidents, Obama and Bill Clinton, the party's progressives are rising with new vigor in far-left lanes, and pushing for youth, gender diversity and wokeness to the left-progressive agenda.

 

For example, Biden's announcement was decidedly dissed by the Justice Democrats, a 2-year-old progressive group that grew out of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign and is best known for backing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she looked like a long shot.

"While we're going to support the Democratic nominee," the Justice Democrats tweeted Thursday after Biden's announcement, "we can't let a so-called 'centrist' like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of 'No, we can't.'"

At least they still say, "we're going to support the Democratic nominee." But how enthusiastically? Hillary Clinton lost partly because she failed to hold on to enough Sanders supporters after he lost the nomination.

But even Sanders, who helped turn "Medicare for All" from a fringe slogan to a mainstream issue, has run into questions of wokeness, particularly in regard to women and voters of color. On the day before Biden's announcement, the Vermont independent was booed at a presidential candidates forum sponsored by She the People, a group that aims to boost voter participation among women of color.

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(c) 2019 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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