Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse hosted a book talk by Jacobin Magazine’s Investigative Research Fellow, Branko Marcetic.
His new book, Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden chronicles the early life, Senatorial career, vice presidency and campaign for U.S. President of Joe Biden.
Marcetic detailed Biden’s early political career, describing him as a young, anti-war Democratic politician who denounced big money in politics. Six years later, Marcetic stated that Biden became a fiscal conservative in favor of cutting taxes and accepting money from big donors.
“The question I’m bringing to you is, ‘Why did Joe Biden change so markedly in those six years, and what does it tell us about Democratic Party politics more broadly?’” he said.
Marcetic continued with an explanation of why he chose to write about this subject.
“The book is not just about Biden himself… but the question is also about what went wrong with the Democratic party, why it changed so, so radically from the 1970s through the 80s and today,“ he said. “Biden is a symbol and embodiment of that change. The change that Biden underwent — the change that the Democratic party underwent — formed the steps that led up to Trump’s election.”
Having presented the relevance of his work outside of the context of the 2020 election, Marcetic traced Biden’s family roots to a white middle class family that benefited from suburban expansion caused by the 1939 New Deal’s social programs.
Marcetic explained that Biden’s upbringing brought up two points that are important to critics of his campaign: Biden’s attitude toward issues of race and expanding social support programs.
Throughout his talk, Marcetic touched upon many charges that have been leveled against Biden in Democratic debates, including: Biden’s increasingly poor voting-record on public school bussing; a lack of clarity on his stance towards abortion rights in the 70s and advocating for government cuts for spending on social programs.
Marcetic stated that he saw the 80s as a turning point for Biden and the Democratic party when welfare programs were being cut.
“This really sets Biden and the rest of the party on a trajectory through the 90s… Biden’s whole conception teaches him that the only way to combat right-wing Republicanism is to play ball with it, move towards it, take on some of its agenda, enact it and hopefully try to take some of their base away from them,” he said.
From there, Marcetic touched on welfare reforms, the North American Free Trade Agreement’s negative consequences for trade unions and the “Newt Gingrich Revolution,” who some political scientists have credited for an increase in political polarization and partisanship. Marcetic argued that all of these things and the push by the government to balance the budget made way for a Trump voter base.
For several audience attendees, including MICA student Tony Bernardo, Marcetic’s systematic and thorough research into Biden’s past was exactly why they had come to the event.
“I am an avid Bernie supporter, but I have parents who are kind of Republican, but have sympathy for Biden,” he said. “I’m slowly convincing them as to why Biden might not be the best candidate to go against Trump, who they do oppose.”
Junior James O’Donnell attended the event for similar reasons.
“I attended this event because I was very interested in the subject of the book and also felt that it was a good opportunity to hear about other perspectives and get a better feel for the primary electorate,” he said.
Bernardo believes that Marcetic’s timing is ideal, as he is making a case against Biden at a pivotal moment in the 2020 election.
“As the field of candidates gets smaller and smaller, it’s important to differentiate them. Biden has been supported by liberal media for the past year, but it’s fading away, and it’s important to know why,” he said.