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Joe Biden’s appeal to voters seems to rest on three factors: One, he’d restore normalcy to the Oval Office and act like a grownup; two, he’s a political moderate; and three (related to the other two), people think the country is generally going off the rails and want to punish everyone they consider responsible for said derailment.
By November, Biden will still be Biden — a guy Americans know and more or less trust, at least by today’s standards, when politicians are unpopular. By fall, though, the country may or may not still seem like it’s going off the rails. If it doesn’t, the focus will return to Biden’s reputation for moderation. How well will that hold up?
Since wrapping up the Democratic Party nomination in March, Biden has done the opposite of what you’d think and resisted any urge to tack back toward the center on economic matters. A CNBC reporter, Robert Frank, looked into Biden’s tax hikes and noted that they dwarf Hillary Clinton’s. He put the total tax cost of Clinton’s proposals at $1.5 trillion; Biden’s, at $4 trillion. (The details are here.) Biden’s “unity task force” of economic advisers and environmental activists was staffed not to appeal to the center but to placate supporters of Bernie Sanders by including two Sanders aides and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Biden is now talking about using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to “rewrite the economy,” recalling Rahm Emanuel’s wish to “never let a crisis go to waste.”
NBC News reports that Biden’s advisory team and the Democratic Party are pushing for “far more aggressive actions on multiple fronts than many were considering at the start of the campaign.” Ocasio-Cortez polls badly. It would be unwise for Biden to allow himself to be associated with her brand of economic and environmentalist thinking. A Biden who carefully refused to commit himself to any kind of radical economic program but focused solely on offering a change of leadership style would be an attractive candidate. Instead, Biden has been saying that recent events have caused the U.S. to “need some revolutionary institutional changes.” He has praised his task force for offering a “bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country.” He said in a tweet that “we won’t just rebuild this nation — we’ll transform it.”
Americans want relief from all the drama, not for the uncertainty and turmoil to take on a different shape.