When unemployment and poverty rates hit record lows in late 2019, while retirement accounts and average household incomes surged to record highs, Joe Biden understood that general-election voters would never go for Bernie Sanders’s tax-and-spend socialism or Elizabeth Warren’s command-and-control version. Mr. Biden also bet, taking longer odds, that the Democratic establishment and ultimately the Democratic primary voter, desperately wanting to retake power, would reject his primary rivals as well. So Mr. Biden offered a nicer version of the status quo. “Nobody has to be punished,” he told donors in June 2019. “No one’s…

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