clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Andrew Yang said the smartest thing about Biden at the DNC

“The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable.”

Andrew Yang speaks at the Democratic National Convention on August 20, 2020.
DNCC/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

During the Democratic primary, entrepreneur Andrew Yang built a bit of a reputation as an interesting, blunt voice on American politics. So it’s perhaps not surprising that, on the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Yang had the sharpest analysis on what makes Joe Biden an effective candidate in this year’s cycle.

“The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable,” Yang said during a roundtable discussion among former 2020 contenders. “If he comes with an ambitious template to address climate change, all of a sudden, everyone is going to follow his lead.”

During the Democratic primary, Biden was often described as the half-measures moderate in the field. But if you look beyond political labels to the meat of the policy Biden is proposing, his agenda is shockingly ambitious.

He’s proposing a significant expansion of government health care that includes a public option and has floated a climate plan that would decarbonize the US economy by 2035. Waleed Shahid, the communications director for Justice Democrats, told Vox that Biden’s policy slate is “the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in the modern history of the party.”

President Trump has tried to run with this, arguing that Biden is a “Trojan horse” for leftists like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But polls show that voters see Biden as more moderate than Trump himself.

“It’s an argument that founders since Americans just watched Biden win an extended primary campaign in which he was repeatedly assailed for failing to meet various progressive litmus tests,” my colleague Matt Yglesias writes. “Biden won the primary handily by convincingly slapping a moderate label on a policy agenda that is nonetheless far bolder than the one pursued by Barack Obama or proposed by Hillary Clinton in 2016.”

This is what Yang is pointing to. Biden is proposing an incredibly progressive policy agenda and a massive government mobilization to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

But he still seems like the safe choice, in contrast to Trumpian chaos, because he’s a familiar face with a moderate reputation — earned, in part, by more moderate votes in the Senate earlier in his career.

Will you become our 20,000th supporter? When the economy took a downturn in the spring and we started asking readers for financial contributions, we weren’t sure how it would go. Today, we’re humbled to say that nearly 20,000 people have chipped in. The reason is both lovely and surprising: Readers told us that they contribute both because they value explanation and because they value that other people can access it, too. We have always believed that explanatory journalism is vital for a functioning democracy. That’s never been more important than today, during a public health crisis, racial justice protests, a recession, and a presidential election. But our distinctive explanatory journalism is expensive, and advertising alone won’t let us keep creating it at the quality and volume this moment requires. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will help keep Vox free for all. Contribute today from as little as $3.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.