“The Only Good Thing About Donald Trump Is All His Policies.” So proclaimed an opinion column headline in 2018. The converse might be said of apparent President-elect Joe Biden. He may be likable but he offered little vision and said nothing about policy in his victory speech a week ago— nor much during his entire campaign.
Biden, so far, is defined by who he is not: Donald Trump.
Biden’s election is notable for several things. The much-anticipated “blue wave” did not materialize; there were razor-thin margins in several battleground states that were projected to be cakewalks for Biden. The most remarkable thing was the vacuousness of Biden’s platform; his message consisted almost exclusively of a still-life image of safe sequester in a well-disclosed secure basement location.
Biden claims a mandate, but his prime raison d’etre will depart 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Jan. 20. Then what?
Organizing a coronavirus task force is not a policy, nor is mask-wearing, as prudent as that may be. The coronavirus is spiking across the entire Western world with little variation by differences in government policy. It will continue untamed until the arrival of an effective vaccine. Trump pursued a fast-track vaccine policy, Operation Warp Speed, which took a process that normally runs in sequence — first, vaccine development; then, production and deployment — and runs the two stages in parallel. The administration encouraged and funded a broad field of vaccine candidates, with Pfizer apparently successful and several others now in late-stage clinical trials. It will be impossible for Biden to attach his name to this visionary strategy.
Similarly, it will be difficult for Biden to unshackle himself from the rioting, looting and violence unleashed by his tolerating or ignoring ongoing street protests, many of which have been anything but peaceful. With Biden’s charges of systemic racism and many Democrats’ calls to “defund” the police, Biden and his party have maligned and delegitimized law enforcement, with a consequential rise in crime and homicide rates.
The problem, of course, is that violence and lawlessness beget more of the same. Maybe Biden thinks this will end with his election. Yet, the night after Election Day, protesters in Portland, Ore., carried one banner reading “The vote is over, The fight goes on,” and another, “We don’t want Biden. We want revenge,” emblazoned over the image of an AK-47. Democrat-run Portland in Democrat-run Oregon has been besieged by daily protests for more than five months. Trump offered repeatedly to send in the National Guard but was rebuffed by Oregon Democrats; Biden was silent. Now he owns this street violence and severely alienated police forces across the land who, not surprisingly, voted almost unanimously for Trump.
Biden’s economic policy consists of massive trillion-dollar tax increases to fund socialistic programs of free college, expanded government-financed health care, etc. Make no mistake, the replacement of private-sector activity with government programs is socialism, no matter how appealing to people struggling to afford college and health care. Nothing is free in life. His energy policy is opaque, with vacillating positions on fracking and only nominal opposition to the Green New Deal.
On foreign policy, we know far less about what Biden has promised to do, or will do, than we know about what Trump actually has done.
Trump confronted China and kept the world relatively at peace. There have been no disastrous interventional U.S. wars, as with George W. Bush, nor any premature troop withdrawals allowing the emergence of murderous caliphates like ISIS, as with Barack Obama — not to mention any unenforced Obama-esque “red lines” or world apology tours. Happily, neither Obama nor Trump heeded Biden’s opposition before eliminating Osama Bin Laden and Qassem Soleimani, respectively.
Trump reversed President Obama’s hope-and-change agreements with sworn enemies such as Iran. The first limit under Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal expires in just four years, most others in six years, and the remainder in just ten years. Over the last half-decade, the hoped-for change in Iran’s behavior — renouncement of its sponsorship of terrorism — never materialized.
Nor did Trump continue Obama’s participation in the Paris Accord on climate, which allows China to increase its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through 2030 — China, which produces about 28 percent of global GHGs. The U.S. produces just 15 percent and has been reducing its absolute amounts of GHG emissions for a decade, primarily by replacing coal with natural gas produced by fracking. Under the Paris Accord, the U.S. would be obligated to contribute yearly much of the $100 billion that developed nations promised to developing countries — including China, which is considered a developing country under the Accord. Biden, of course, wants to rejoin this agreement under which the U.S. would subsidize the world’s biggest polluter and our No. 1 rival on every stage.
Charitable Trump supporters will afford a President Biden a honeymoon period — not out of respect for the man but, rather, out of respect for fellow citizens who voted for him. Never mind that Democrats did not extend the same respect to Trump or his supporters, post-election or during the nearly four years of his administration. Remember “deplorables?”
But a Biden honeymoon may be short-lived. Of more consequence, Biden will govern without a mandate. Mandates go to candidates who win based upon compelling positions on important issues. Biden has expressed none.
Red Jahncke is a nationally recognized columnist, who writes about politics and policy. His columns appear in numerous national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, Issues & Insights and National Review as well as many Connecticut newspapers.