IF the four-year term of President Donald Trump was rocky, it looks like that of President-elect Joe Biden will be just as rocky. In fact, it could even be rockier.
First of all, Biden will have to deal with a Trump out for vengeance and a Republican Party wanting to keep control of the Senate and regain control of the White House and the House of Representatives.
They have a choice between making sure Biden fails so that he won’t win a second term and they can regain power, or they could tactically cooperate with him on programs and policies for which they could claim credit. Or they could do what every politician professes to be committed to do, which is to promote the welfare of the nation and its citizens – but skeptics think that might be expecting too much of politicians.
What is ironic is that Biden will also have to deal with the members of his own party, many of whom do not share his centrist posture. There are Democrats whose agenda and ideology tend to be left of center. “Left” really refers to a populist – even a markedly socialist – ideology that envisions a society where all citizens equally enjoy the benefits provided by the State.
In a country built by pioneers and self-made entrepreneurs, “equality” is not necessarily appealing. They recoil at the idea of achieving equality by making those who have much, much more carry a bigger part of the social cost to compensate for those who have much, much less.
This appears to be the emerging view among the “new Democrats,” epitomized by New York’s young congresswoman, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, as well as by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who has twice vied for and nearly won the party’s presidential nomination, ran on a platform of universal health care and free college education for all, as well as other free social benefits.
And how will these be paid for? By levying a heavier tax on the small percentage of the population who control a large percentage of the nation’s wealth.
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders differ mainly on the extent to which they envision the “super rich” to carry the social cost. In her proposed Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez would impose a tax of up to 70 on the very rich.
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez both appear to be using the socialist templates of several Nordic countries, as well as of Canada and New Zealand. On the other hand, their detractors identify them with Cuba and China. The term “Socialist,” in this context, has been portrayed as synonymous to Communism.
While the freebies provided to their citizens by the socialist governments may be appealing on the surface, the fact is that there is a price that they have to pay for the benefits.
Denmark, said to be one of the most successful socialist countries, also levies the heaviest taxes on the citizens. It is said that in Canada, people are not motivated to hold down a second job because the extra earnings will be eaten up by taxes.
Even the free health care is not as ideal as it seems. People have to wait in line – long lines – to get medical treatment.
These harsh realities may have bothered a significant percentage of the Democratic voter base, such that they gravitated to the centrist candidate, Biden.
Trump had gone to great lengths in portraying socialism in the worst possible light. In fact, it is said that Florida voted for Trump over Biden because Cuban-Americans, haunted by their travails under Fidel Castro, would have nothing of socialism, as depicted by Trump and the Republicans.
Biden appeared to have a better chance of winning against Trump, than the other Democratic presidential contenders with their progressive, albeit radical, platforms.
It was a choice between a second term for Trump and the centrist ideology of Biden. The latter was the more palatable option. Even Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, perceived to be “progressive but not progressive enough” was considered a better option than the others (in addition to Harris’ expected appeal to African-Americans and other minority blocs).
In sum, the choice of Biden was a compromise. It was as if the ideologues in the Democratic Party reasoned that they had a better chance of infusing a Biden administration with their platforms than a Trump second term.
Now, that Biden is about to assume the presidency, the piper must be paid. The question is, will Biden be willing to dance to the tune of the “new Democratic Party”?
During the campaign, Biden denied endorsing Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal and when asked to what extent his administration would adopt the platform of Sanders, Biden replied that he – and not Sanders – was the Democratic standard bearer.
Another sticking point still has not been resolved – control of the Senate. But even if the Democrats win the run-off in Georgia, things will not necessarily be easier for Biden if the progressives have a louder voice in the party.
Of course, that could still be better than Biden having to deal with a GOP-controlled Senate.
That would seem to place Biden between a rock and a hard place. But then, this would be nothing new for a former Vice-President who served under President Barack Obama who, during his two terms, never had full control of the Legislature.
It is said that Biden’s most important role in the Obama White House was to serve as a bridge with the Republicans on Capitol Hill. In such a case, Biden not only had a lot of battlefront experience, he also survived and managed pretty well.
Indeed, Biden has not been in Capitol Hill politics for almost five decades for nothing. My guess is that Biden will seek an “alliance of convenience” with the Republicans.
One other perspective is Biden’s age. He will be 78 in 2021, the oldest person to serve as president. That makes Harris’ position a very pivotal one. She could find herself suddenly thrust into the presidency or even be as chosen Democratic Party standard bearer in 2024, with the support of a retiring President Biden.
The implications are that Harris will want to show off her best presidential qualities while waiting in the wings.
Biden, on the other hand, may want to leave a heroic legacy in the final stage of his public service career. He may want to provide a stark contrast to Trump’s chaotic tenure.
He may, in fact, decide to live up to the classic – but oft-broken – commitment of every politician to place the country’s interests above self-interest.
But then, he will have to contend with the politicians of both parties and those with centrist, leftist and extremist agenda.
And that could mean a rocky presidency.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.