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Joe Biden Faces a Challenge Winning Over Progressives
                                                                           
                                                                        by Citizen Tribune

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden says he has "the most progressive record" of any Democrat running, or mulling a run, in 2020. But many progressive activists disagree.

As the former vice president inches closer to a third White House run, several moments in his long career loom as immediate political liabilities. From his vote for the Iraq war to his key role in passing a bill that made it harder for debt-ridden Americans to declare bankruptcy, Biden would have to reconcile his past with a party that's moved to the left.























Biden leads many early polls, but his handling of those issues will determine whether that support fades in a primary fight. He is aware of his critics, using a speech last week before friendly Delaware Democrats to declare himself a progressive while also describing some of his detractors as "the new left" and defending his record. But several progressive activists are urging him to do more to address doubts about his progressive credentials by owning up to past missteps and developing a forward-looking agenda that recognizes the Democratic base's center of gravity has shifted.

"For him to actually own the label of progressive, he needs to acknowledge and reconcile that prior harm — not just in words, but by putting forth a policy agenda that's really rooted in challenging white supremacy and economic exploitation," said Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the activist group Center for Popular Democracy.

As for Biden deeming his record progressive, she warned that "simply labeling yourself something doesn't make it true."

Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the activist group Indivisible, described Biden's progressive self-definition as "a confusing comment" given the number of other prominent liberals in the Democratic primary.

"He's going to need to reconcile his record on policy with where he is now and what kind of policies he's proposing as a presidential contender," Greenberg said, adding that "if he's trying to understand what animates the new left . I'd recommend that he talk to grassroots leaders on the ground."

A Biden spokesman declined to comment.

The 76-year-old Democrat has expressed some regrets for past actions. He was contrite in January about supporting a 1994 crime bill whose stiffer sentences fell disproportionately on minority offenders, telling an audience that the bill's harsher punishment was "a big mistake" that has "trapped an entire generation." He has called his vote to support the Iraq War "a mistake."

And Biden is known for pushing the rest of his party leftward on some key issues. He backed same-sex marriage in 2012 before Barack Obama did, effectively nudging the then-president into his corner on what was a politically volatile issue. He was also a lead architect of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and later used his perch as Obama's vice president to advocate for sexual assault victims, particularly on college campuses.

Sen. Chris Coons, who holds the Delaware seat Biden occupied and is a close ally, said he read Biden's "most progressive" comment as a way of championing the Obama administration's accomplishments on health care, climate change and other fronts.

"On the core issues progressives claim to care about most, Joe Biden actually has a record of leadership," Coons said in an interview. "Anybody can give a great speech on a college campus, but actually getting things done . that's something worth talking about and running on."

But progressives say he'll have more atoning to do, should he enter the 2020 race.

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