Joe Biden’s dangerous view of ‘normalcy’
President Trump and his campaign unsuccessfully spent months arguing that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would be an agent of radical Marxism. Voters are looking at the aging septuagenarian and finding that hard to believe. Biden’s central campaign theme is his pledge to return America to a place of “normalcy.” While normalcy may sound appealing to voters, given the news cycle of the last four years –including race riots, coronavirus, impeachment hearings and Trump’s tweets – it actually represents a return to the dangerous neoliberal consensus.
Biden’s vision of normalcy is as dangerous as the radical agenda offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). One only has to look at the team Biden has assembled for his transition to realize that normalcy means returning to the same corporate and cultural prescription that the governing class championed for decades. It is the continued managed decline of the working-class.
With the election only weeks away, Biden announced his transition team should he win the presidency in November. Those names included foreign policy experts, including humanitarian war hawks such as Susan Rice and Samantha Powers. They championed more significant military intervention in the Middle East during their time in the Obama administration. Corporatists and supporters of austerity, including Anita Dunn, Ted Kaufman and Jeff Zeints, will make up Biden’s domestic policy team.
Advisers guide the overall vision of an administration. The phrase “personnel is policy” may be cliché, but it’s true. George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 on “a humble foreign policy.” Still, his presidency was never going to be dovish on military intervention given the people he filled his Cabinet with, neocons such as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld.
Biden sounds more like an economic populist on the campaign trail, but the sincerity behind his words should be called into question. At an event in Michigan, Biden unveiled his “Made in America” tax policy, including a proposed tax on companies that offshored jobs out of the U.S. and a tax credit to companies that keep manufacturing in the U.S. While that may remind voters of Trump, it is almost precisely the policy touted by Obama. “I will stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America,” Obama said on August 29, 2008. He doubled down on the need to revamp that system during his debate with Mitt Romney in 2012 when he accused the Republican presidential nominee of benefitting from those tax breaks.
Those promises never amounted to a fundamental policy change, and corporations continued to ship jobs overseas, crushing many communities in the Rust Belt and elsewhere.
Biden’s shift towards economic populism seems even more calculated since it was reported by the Washington Post that in a private conversation with Wall Street bankers, Biden said those talking points are just an attempt to “make those Warren people happy, don’t read too much into it.”
The new normalcy of a Biden administration would look and feel like past center-left Democratic administrations’ old policies. The working-class would suffer economically while their children would fight and die in wars to spread Western liberalism and democracy. The coasts would continue to amass large sums of wealth while middle America’s life expectancy declines and despair rises.
Normalcy sounds appealing. Most people don’t want the stress of political and economic uncertainty. Yet lost in the last four years of constant media meltdowns and rolling crisis is the fact that the status quo didn’t work for tens of millions of Americans in past administrations, and it wouldn’t work in a Biden administration either.
Ryan Girdusky is a veteran strategist of New York City and national political campaigns and the author of “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the National Populist Revolution” (June 2020).