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NOLAN FINLEY

Finley: Trump shaped his party; Biden shaped by his

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Donald Trump and Joe Biden couldn't be more different as partisan political leaders.

Trump has shaped the Republican Party to his own populist image, while Biden has shape-shifted to fit the Democratic Party's new progressive mold.

Trump sets the agenda of the GOP. He broomed many of the core conservative values that traditionally guided the party, and along with them many of the Old Guard conservatives.

A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine a Republican president standing on the platform Trump will speak from tonight as he closes the Republican National Convention.

Trump's aggressive curtailment of free trade would seem better designed to appeal to Big Labor bosses than a party of supposed free marketeers. He has choked off the supply of immigrant labor American industry demands to keep its engines running.

President Donald J. Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden.

He's disrespected federalism by meddling in local school decisions and sending U.S. forces uninvited into American cities. 

He's held true on lowering taxes, but without the essential fiscal discipline necessary to assure future prosperity. Trump has spent like a sober Democrat these past four years.

Rather than conserving the values and traditions that make America unique, Trump has given them a sound shaking. The libertarian streak that runs through conservatism has found no friend in Trump, who attempts to use his power to control individual decision making.

These were his ideas, his priorities. No one forced them on him.

In fact, those traditional conservatives who've challenged his populism and urged a return to Republican values have been shamed out of the party. 

Trump is no conservative.

And Joe Biden is no liberal, although he's playing one on the campaign trail.

A man who spent his political career on the center left came out of retirement willing to reinvent himself as a neo-socialist to fulfill what he believes is his presidential destiny.

He is the party's standard bearer, but not its leader.

Progressives who control the Democratic Party opposed Biden for his past sins, but in the end permitted his nomination because they agreed he could beat Trump, but with the understanding that he would carry forward their agenda.

That's why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was able to write her Green New Deal into the Democratic platform. Why Biden told rabid Second Amendment foe Beto O'Rourke he would be in charge of rounding up America's guns. Why Bernie Sanders could promise PBS News Hour that Biden would be "the most progressive president since FDR." 

And why, at a staged publicity event, when rapper Cardi B demanded, along with an end to racism, free Medicare and free college, Biden replied, "There’s no reason why we can’t have all of that." 

No reason except we can't afford it without confiscatory taxes and a huge government expansion that would turn America into a European-style welfare state.

Biden knows better. But those who are trying to convince us he's just been saying what he needed to say to get the nomination, and now will return to being good ol'  mainstream Joe, know better than that, too.

Democrats everywhere are running on this platform. They won't abandon it once elected. And having had little influence in setting the party's agenda, Biden will not be able to face them down.

Biden's meekness before his party's radicals and Trump's radicalization of his party are why so many Americans are saying, "I used to be a Democrat," or "I used to be a Republican."

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