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Will Joe Biden Be a Rerun of 2016 Tragedy?

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And unlikely to inspire many voters.

Lesson #1 from the 2016 catastrophe: In a time of anxiety, anger and rampant economic inequality, the candidate of status quo corporatism can be defeated by one spouting anti-elite populism, even a con artist like Trump.

Lesson #2: Without bold campaign proposals aimed at unrigging "the rigged economy," a Democratic candidate will lose white working-class voters -- and, more importantly, will fail to energize the base: voters of color and youth. For proof, check out Clinton's low voter-turnout in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee, and the number of young voters who stayed home or went third-party.

It's no surprise that Neil Bluhm, one of Biden's billionaire supporters, fears Warren and Sanders. They are the two candidates in the race with the most low-dollar donors and most energized activists, with crowds rallying behind their candidates' specific plans to address inequality, college affordability, debt, healthcare and climate ... with programs paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Higher taxes on billionaires may mean fewer Lichtenstein paintings in Mr. Bluhm's luxury condo.

As a throwback to the Clintonite 1990s, Biden says he feels the pain of victims but won't name many villains. That approach no longer works -- and actually plays into the hands of demagogues like Trump.

So do remarks like the one Biden made to the Brookings Institution last year: "I love Bernie, but I'm not Bernie Sanders. I don't think 500 billionaires are the reason why we're in trouble... The folks at the top aren't bad guys."

Let me be clear: Despite current polls showing Biden, Warren and Sanders each beating Trump in hypothetical match-ups, I can't say for certain that the progressive populism of Warren or Sanders would defeat Trump in 2020.

But I'm convinced that either Warren or Sanders would fare better against Trump than a candidate like Biden, who is easily tied to moneyed elites and a blatantly unfair status quo. We've seen that movie before and it ended in the 2016 disaster.

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Jeff Cohen was director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he was an associate professor of journalism. He founded the progressive media watch group FAIR.org in 1986.

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