Bob Ehrlich: 'Amtrak Joe' - Falling Behind in Dems' Race to the Left


Not so long ago, mainstream members of both parties could comfortably dismiss the rants of uber progressives. The GOP was not buying what the new left was selling, while most Democrats gave the P.C. screamers little more than lip service.

Alas, the world has changed in the blink of an eye. What used to be fringe is now mainstream; what used to be summarily dismissed is now vetted; what used to be the formula for a Democratic loss in national elections … well, that may not have changed so much.

This speed-of-light transformation and its ramifications hit home as I read about former Vice President Joe Biden’s newfound antipathy toward “white man’s culture” while lamenting his own behavior in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. (Note: The referenced speech immediately preceded this week’s “Me, too” accusations lodged against the former vice president.) Seems it took 25 years and yet another shot at the presidency for Biden to have his eyes opened regarding his self-alleged poor treatment of Hill.

This type of newfound awakening and an accompanying gender/race apology is now a mandated exercise for anyone aspiring to party leadership — especially those running for president.

For context, you may recall the following mea culpas issued by party leaders since the dawning of the new progressive consciousness:

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-As a U.S. senator from New York, Hillary Clinton opposed drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens and supported traditional marriage. After further examination and years of being raked over the coals by the progressive echo chamber, however, she realized how mistaken she had been. Her 2016 campaign hit every available progressive social chord (including a revised stance on illegal immigration) with plenty of “I have seen the light” moments along the way.

-Community activist and state senator Barack Obama was a steadfast supporter of traditional marriage — one supposes Rev. Wright’s church would have it no other way — during the course of his entire life, right up to and including his 2008 campaign for the presidency. As president, Obama “evolved” (his word) thereby accomplishing a rapid about-face in his second term. Sincere apologies issued and accepted!

-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has undergone an even more dramatic transformation during her time in public office. Her beginnings as an upstate New York pro-gun, anti-illegal immigration “blue dog” is now but an inconvenient and never discussed chapter in her public career. The rigid evolution of the junior senator accelerated in the aftermath of Bill Clinton’s most recent fall from grace.

She now wholly identifies with the “Me, too” movement, and regrets her past acquiescences to the behavior of Clinton, her former mentor. Today, she can be counted upon to adopt any prevailing flavor-of-the day position preferred by her “new” base, especially regarding the border (she supports the elimination of ICE) and guns (a grade of F from the NRA).

-Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey was formerly known for his energetic and pragmatic ways as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Indeed, the one-time Stanford football player early on established a reputation as a hands-on, pragmatic liberal with pro-police and budget-cutting bona fides to boot. Those were the days. Sen. Booker became the first sitting member to testify against a former Senate colleague (Jeff Sessions) in 2016. Presidential candidate Booker was a leader in the brutal treatment of Brett Kavanaugh and has become a champion of the “we must believe all women all the time” wing of the party.

-The annual American Israeli Public Affairs Committee conference has been a mandatory stop for presidential candidates of both parties for decades. But this year was a bit different. “” asked the leading Democratic contenders for president to skip this year’s convention, which they did (albeit some met with their home-state members in their offices).

Note this show of solidarity comes on the heels of a number of congressional Democrats declaring their support for the anti-Israel — and some argue anti-Jewish — campus-based Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement. Here, there are no apologies offered to the “occupier,” Benjamin Netanyahu, but only to the Palestinian “victims” of the Jewish State.

I could go on all day but you get the point. Apologies for previous opposition/slights to the progressive agenda are now required issue. Those who fail to grovel can kiss their Democratic party primary hopes goodbye.

Back to Joe Biden and his dilemma. The lifelong politician (36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president) is by any measure a reliable liberal.

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“Amtrak Joe” is also widely liked by some of the very deplorables who pulled the lever for Donald J. Trump. Most folks expect him to act like his old self — like the sometimes goofy but always lovable “no apologies” regular Joe the people have gotten to know over the years — but most folks are not the voters who show up at Democratic caucuses and primaries these days. These true believers come with serious litmus tests — and they do not grade on the curve!

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.