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Jacobin - January 22, 2020

"TheBiden family’s propensityfor engaging in money-making ventures that — gee whiz, justsomehowseem to constantly overlap with Biden’s political career — will make him a perfect foil to Trump. Whether it’s Biden’s son, Hunter, being hired as a lobbyist for a Delaware credit card company whose favored legislation Biden was voting for; Biden’s brother mysteriously getting hired by a mid-size construction firm shortly before it received a $1.5 billion government contract; or Hunter, again, joining the board of a corruption-tainted Ukrainian gas producer while Biden spearheaded US policy on Ukraine."

In 2008, Democratic nomination contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tore each other to shreds. Some of it was political and substantive while some of it was personal and slimy. But none of it would be considered “civil” by the standards now being applied to today’s Democratic primary.

It’s not a coincidence that the right flank of the party started finger-wagging about divisiveness, incivility, and disunity precisely when the left flank began to seriously threaten its dominance. As the left wing gains momentum, the party establishment’s tolerance for legitimate criticism wears thinner, and the range of topics considered off-limits or below-the-belt expands. New behavioral norms have appeared out of thin air: suddenly political criticisms of opponents, no matter how legitimate by traditional standards, are a bridge too far, and are even alleged to help Donald Trump. At least, if the criticisms are flying from left to right.

It should be obvious that all the scolding about divisiveness is merely a reflexive defense mechanism, an easier task for centrists than defending their politics on its merits. It deserves little more consideration than that. But if we do decide to subject to closer scrutiny the idea that criticism in a primary imperils the winner’s prospects in the general election, we find that it quickly falls apart.

To make informed decisions about who to nominate for the general election, the electorate should be able to get a good look at the candidates, warts and all. While there’s little value in personal smears and ugly innuendo, vetting candidates’ records and histories is indispensable. General elections are gloves-off affairs: vicious attacks are guaranteed. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re asking millions of people to defend a candidate against a charge that everyone knows deep down is indefensible. Therefore, it’s best to air dirty laundry during the primary and let voters decide what they can tolerate in a general election.

That’s why Bernie Sanders had nothing to apologize for this week when his senior campaign adviser David Sirota sent an email to campaign supporters promoting an op-ed written by campaign surrogate Zephyr Teachout. The op-ed was titled, “‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden has a corruption problem — it makes him a weak candidate.”

Law professor Teachout has made her name running for office against self-interested politicians, and is the author of the book Corruption in America. This is her wheelhouse. Biden, she wrote, has

perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans. Converting campaign contributions into legislative favors and policy positions isn’t being “moderate”. It is the kind of transactional politics Americans have come to loathe.

Biden and his campaign took umbrage at Sirota’s promotion of the op-ed and promptly launched into the unity-and-civility routine. Various liberal pundits piled on, calling it “a bad look” for Sanders. To the dismay of many of his supporters, Sanders apologized to Biden. It turned out the apology may have been a bait and switch — later that evening, the Sanders campaign published an ad eviscerating Biden’s record on Social Security. ...
Read full report at Jacobin