It’s been a long two years since the 2020 election got underway. Now the light is at the end of the tunnel. Absent truly unforeseen events, a new President will have been elected a week from now. The outcome may not yet be certified, but it looks like the blue wave some of us have been hoping for and others dreading is about to crest.
Pollsters tell us that nearly everyone who will vote has either already voted or chosen a candidate, in some cases months ago. I am in both categories. I am so over Trump that if Biden shot someone on Fifth Avenue, I might still vote for him. Call it Trump Denial Syndrome (TDS) if you like, but I don’t owe Trump another chance to be a President that I can respect. I do owe it to my fellow citizens to help escort Trump and his family out of the White House.
But this column is not about why Trump is bad or why Biden is good. It’s about the future. Truth be told, while a Trump loss is good, it may be a mistake to celebrate too soon. What a Biden-Harris administration will look like isn’t clear. Many things, some good and some bad, might lie ahead.
With that thought, here are a few things on my mind.
Will Biden be a centrist President? I hope he will. If he attempts to implement the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren agenda, he could start to lose support pretty quickly. How many people do you know who supported Biden to move the country radically left? In my case, it’s a minority. Many, many Biden supporters are simply anti-Trump. And some of those actually support Trump’s tax, trade, and regulatory policies. They just concluded he was crazy and unfit to be President.
I will be watching Biden’s early actions closely. Who will he appoint to the cabinet and other top posts? What will be in his coronavirus relief bill?
Will Democrats try to pack the Supreme Court? I hope not. Doing so would create a terrible precedent and make the Court a political appendage of Congress rather than a co-equal third branch of government. The expedited confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t justify undermining the Constitution. Two wrongs don’t make a right. If the Democrats end up with the Presidency, the House and the Senate, that is enough.
Will Biden spend the country into a period of inflation or something worse? The Biden transition team is already working on another trillion-dollar stimulus bill. The legislation is likely to be enacted within a month or so after Biden takes office. That will be a good thing. The country is in economic crisis. But will that spending, combined with the likely spending on some of Biden’s domestic policy agenda—things like part of the Green New Deal, health care reform, and education (including student loan forgiveness)—create inflation? I hope not, but I don’t know. I’ve been reading The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton. The book is about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). The author suggests that the government can engage in massive spending without inflation if that spending supports economic activity. Interesting, while I support a strong response to today’s economic crisis, I hope Biden and the Democrats don’t go overboard. I also have a lot to learn about MMT.
How much worse will the pandemic get before it gets better? Note that I didn’t ask whether the pandemic would get worse. We already know that infections are rising across the country. The new President will hopefully do a better job than Trump. (It would be difficult to do worse.) I expect Dr. Fauci to play a prominent leadership role going forward. That is a good thing. I also expect Biden to continue to urge people to practice social distancing and mask-wearing. There will be fewer infections, deaths, and additional economic disruption under Biden than there would have been under Trump.
Will we see the nation’s first virtual inauguration? I would say probably. Biden will not want to start his Presidency with a Superspreader event. Smart. I plan on attending.
How will Biden hold up over four years? Biden is 77 years old. Recall those pictures of Presidents on their first inauguration day and on the day they leave office. For most Presidents, the job is a difficult, stressful one. Most Presidents don’t have time for hundreds of rounds of golf. Trump’s record will be safe during the Biden years. But the real issue here is how a President as old as Biden will do given the demands of the job. Will he simply delegate away a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities? If so, to whom? And, as much as none of us want to think about it, what if his health declines? Recall that Ronald Reagan evidenced early signs of dementia in his second term. I’m worried about this issue. I don’t think its unpatriotic to think about it. I hope that Biden and the team he is assembling are thinking about it.
Who is Kamala Harris? We are learning a lot about Senator Harris fast. She is considered to be the most liberal Senator. That disturbs me a bit, but she has only been in the Senate four years. Notably, Harris endorsed the Biden platform painlessly. That suggests she may be more of a pragmatist than she is given credit for. If she sees the whole country as her constituency as vice president, rather than California, that will be the case.
What is the future of the Republican party? I am among those who believe that Trump has killed the Republican party. Anytime the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Republican” is “racist” or “criminal,” the GOP is in trouble. What type of party will emerge from the mess Trump created? Will we see a return of the “country club Republicans” associated with Gerald Ford and Eisenhower? Will the right-wing of the party take over entirely? I don’t know. If the right wing takes over, it’s time for moderates to start figuring out how to form a new party, one built around civility, free trade, civil rights, reasonable regulation, and other “traditional Republican values.”
Will Trump, his family and his allies be prosecuted? Importantly, the decision on whether Donald Trump gets prosecuted for things like tax and insurance fraud is not entirely in the hands of Joe Biden. More than one State Attorney General is likely to indict him. Personally, I hope Trump is treated like anyone else. If he committed the crimes he has been accused of, he deserves to be prosecuted. I expect Biden feels the same way. We already know that State prosecutors are waiting in the wings. Trump could be under indictment in New York before the end of Spring.
We are on the cusp of a new era of government—the Biden-Harris era. It will be more civil, somewhat boring, and, hopefully, largely tweet-free. I’m ready for it.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.