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Joe Biden rejects Green New Deal and other progressive policies in debate, irking activists

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 9/30/2020 Lisa Kashinsky
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © Provided by Boston Herald Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Joe Biden broke with his party’s left wing on several key issues in his first debate against President Trump, frustrating some progressives whose votes he needs to win the White House.

“When you’re doubling down and saying ‘I’m not supporting the issues’ that have created a surge of new Democratic voters in the last four years, that is an affront,” Boston-based Democratic strategist Wilnelia Rivera said. “What Biden needs to do is speak from a place that drives all of us out.”

Biden disavowed the Green New Deal in Tuesday’s debate and rejected “Medicare for All.” He refused to answer when moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked if he would support some Democrats’ calls to end the Senate filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.

The former vice president then doubled down on his lack of support for Medicare for All and touted his own climate change proposal, the “Biden Green Deal,” while speaking to reporters Wednesday in Alliance, Ohio.

“I’ve said to the left and the right and the center exactly where I am on each of these issues,” Biden said. “So I’m not worried about losing the left, right, center of the party. This is a big party.”

The nominee’s vehemence irked progressives who say they’re prepared to stay the course with Biden to avoid the alternative, but wish he would further embrace their ideas in an election in which Democrats fear voters will stay home or cast third-party ballots and Trump tries to splinter the party’s left and center.

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“To dig in your heels in such a divided environment doesn’t make any sense to me,” Rivera said. “It feeds into the conservative trap of how they describe who we are.”

Trump is working hard to paint Biden as a vessel of the Democrats’ left wing, crowing at one point in the debate, as Biden spoke against the Green New Deal, “You just lost the radical left.”

Green New Deal co-authors U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey rushed to Biden’s defense afterward, with Markey tweeting, “We’re going to elect Joe Biden and fight to pass the aggressive climate action which we need.”

But Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said that “excitement takes a hit when, through poor choice of words, progressives are unnecessarily thrown under the bus.”

Still, Jonathan Cohn of Progressive Massachusetts argued that progressive activists “understand the stakes of the election” and will stick by Biden.

“Nobody went into the debate expecting Joe Biden was supporting these things,” he said, adding that Biden “has over the course of his years in office moved forward on many issues, and it will be up to activists and allied legislators to help keep pushing if or when he’s elected.”

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