After more than a decade out of the spotlight, Joseph Epstein was back.
The liberal writer, whose punchy early novels were best known to college-educated college professors, was a surprise guest at the third annual YearlyKos Nation convention in Denver on Saturday.
In conversation with Joe Biden, Mr. Epstein told the former vice president how he had spent the last decade writing a new novel, written under the pen name Rodney Hodgson.
That novel, “Irrational Exuberance,” was essentially a takedown of the Republican Party, Mr. Epstein said. “I just spent the last few years of my life telling people why Trump won.”
That goes against the grain of past political ideology: Mr. Epstein has aligned himself with some of the left’s most bitter, ideologically extreme corners, including Gamergate, a gaming group that has centered criticism of feminists and liberals.
So, it was strange and somewhat surreal that Mr. Epstein had to face reporters after the event and explain his connection to the anti-dairy protesters. He and Mr. Biden had both agreed to pay for the protesters’ transportation to the event.
The activists were upset that Mr. Biden was participating in a farm lunch with dairy farmers, as he was part of the “Agenda 2020” tour that is designed to promote legislation in an election year. They were specifically critical of dairy farmers for not offering more money to milking operations to raise prices and encourage family farms to continue.
The protesters were also upset with Mr. Biden for supporting a bill, now in front of the Democratic-controlled Senate, that would protect customs at the borders. The protesters said this was designed to stop dairy farmers from leaving the country and going to Mexico.
Mr. Epstein and Mr. Biden soon decided to meet the group. Later, the activist told Mr. Epstein that he had hired a lawyer to negotiate with the vice president’s office over the issue.
Many in the left have criticized Mr. Biden for his close ties to corporate interests and the agribusiness sector. This session was clearly a high-profile opportunity for the protesters to have their say in terms of the anti-Dairy Bill and the Border Protection bill. “Is this where the big money begins to rule?” one protester shouted.
Before the event, Mr. Epstein had said in an interview that he did not want to see families destroyed in dairy farms.
Mr. Epstein had become a much-watched public figure in the 1980s when he wrote “Bobby Kennedy’s Other Secret War,” about Fidel Castro’s 1959 takeover in Cuba. That book, and Mr. Epstein’s decades-long fascination with Castro, brought him into legal battles with organized labor.
That continued through the rest of the ’80s, and up until 2012. In 2010, Mr. Epstein won a harassment lawsuit against Local 775, the restaurant workers union, after the union refused to join him in an effort to have children’s books in Northwest Philadelphia. The following year, Mr. Epstein sued Philadelphia, along with a business where he worked, for allegedly firing him for speaking out against conservative views.