It’s official. Joe Biden is no longer the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential candidate. And this week, Donald J. Trump became the Republicans’ official nominee, too.
We’ve been enduring these campaigns for nearly two years now. Most democracies seem capable of selecting leaders in about six weeks. These next and blessedly final 70 days of campaign division and derision may seem endless.
They’ll be distorted in the media, both social and political. They will be closely watched at home and abroad. But they will somehow produce a winner.
And in 148 days, that winner will take the oath of office, facing a myriad of complex problems and simple opportunities. What will happen? What might we expect from a new Biden administration or a second Trump term?
The honest answer is, no one knows for sure. But amid all the noise and phony promises, we have some preliminary sense of where these men might lead the country.
Despite numerous opportunities in recent months, the incumbent president, who’s never buried himself in policy minutiae anyway, has not outlined any specific policy goals, other than possibly ending the payroll tax, continuing wall construction and appointing additional conservative judges, none of which would occur with a Democratic Congress.
Trump’s campaign has a laundry list online and assures now he will be more specific during his Thursday night acceptance speech. So far, the incumbent has focused on denigrating his opponent as “sleepy Joe” and describing the awful economy a Biden election would augur.
Until most aspects of U.S. life were stricken by a virus invasion this year, Trump was presiding over a booming economy that burgeoned under his tax cuts and deregulation. Now, a new campaign slogan would have to be “Make America Great Again, Again.” In fact, Trump’s made the argument that he’s just the man to do it again and that Biden, who as vice president was assigned to implement the 2010 $1 trillion stimulus package of “shovel-ready” jobs, failed.
Last week’s virtual Democratic convention was heavy on empathy, emoting and evicting Trump — and notably short on policy specifics.
However, we can draw some tentative conclusions about what these men will do based on platforms, speeches and even those promises, though they can become pretty flexible vows after Election Day.
The future also depends on unknowables such as the pandemic’s longevity and the makeup of the next Congress. Republicans currently hold 198 House seats, Democrats claim 232 with four vacancies and one Libertarian. The GOP seems unlikely to hold every seat and gain enough for a 218-member majority.
Republicans currently control the Senate 53-47. But they are defending 23 of the 35 seats at stake. That’s a tall task, especially if there’s a Biden wave. Voters were so enthusiastic about the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008, they gave both chambers and the White House to Democrats, a lopsided outcome immediately corrected in the historic 2010 midterm turnaround that Democrats have yet to fully recover from at state and local levels.
If 2008 repeats itself, that would give the 77-year-old Biden, 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 69-year-old Sen. Chuck Schumer carte blanche to enact a vast panoply of promises and programs, at least for two years.
You heard very little about policies during Biden’s political coronation. The main point was, “I’m not Trump,” which appeals to the 58% of Biden voters who say they’re actually voting against Trump more than for Biden.
President Biden is going to need a 48-hour first day on the job, given the countless things he’s promised to do on day one.
Among other tasks for Jan. 21, he’s promised to issue a universal mask mandate, completely end Trump’s income tax cuts, rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, reassure each of the 28 NATO allies “we’re back,” end the Muslim travel ban and start new hate-crime legislation, launch a task force to end homelessness, restore the rights of federal workers to unionize, restore transgender student rights in bathrooms and locker rooms according to their own gender identity, issue new ethics standards, repeal liability protections for gunmakers and stiffen background checks. Oh, and begin building a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants called amnesty.
Biden also says he intends to create a national job corps and lower the age of Medicare eligibility. His 37 progressive tax proposals include hiking corporate taxes by one-third to 28%, taxing capital gains as ordinary income and boosting the top individual rate from 37% to just under 40. His plans would raise up to $3.67 trillion in new revenues during their first decade, all for new government programs, in addition to savings from reduced defense spending.
His $2 trillion energy plan sets new mileage standards, halts both new fracking and off-shore drilling and would eliminate all carbon emissions from electrical production by 2035, when Biden would be 93.
And then, after lunch…..
Of course despite Biden’s liberal rhetoric, not all of his plans would happen on one day, in one term or even ever, if the GOP retains Senate control. Remember Obama’s endlessly-promised day one vow to close the Guantanamo Detention Facility? He didn’t actually get around to that executive order until day two. Obama didn’t mention it in his convention remarks, but that prison is still open.