Biden’s secret weapon, should he choose to use it: Bill Clinton

Greg Nash

“As an American.” Does anyone really think or speak that way in a deeply divided nation where political opinions are considered either “unchallengeable dogma” or “traitorous”?

Well, as an American who mostly lines up on the libertarian side, I still do.     

As an American who grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks,” I learned early in my career in government that the establishment elites from both major parties came from a world that I — and many other Americans — could never fully understand. They were members of a “club” — the club, in fact. These were men and women who attended Ivy League schools, possessed all the right connections and had relatives who could grant them immediate entrance, despite their lack of relevant real-world experience.

They are the “retreads” of the highest levels of government. They never really go away. Sooner or later, someone from the club will be reelected or reappointed and bring them back to once again create and enact policy for 330 million less fortunates. It can be the worst version of “Groundhog Day,” played over and over again at the expense of desperate, struggling Americans.   

Regardless of the protests and lawsuits by President Trump, his supporters and the Republican Party, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next president of the United States. But, even before that happens, the news is already filled with reports of Democratic Party retreads leaving their media, lobbying and academic positions to once again assume their roles of power in yet another administration.   

Make no mistake, this happens on the Republican side with just as much zeal. A number of George W. Bush retreads made their way into the Trump administration, much to the ultimate regret of Trump himself.

As the Democratic retreads now line up in eager anticipation of appointment to powerful government positions, official Washington still must wait out the Senate runoff elections in Georgia before the spoils of political war finally can be settled.         

If I had to predict, I would say the Republican Party will win at least one of the two Senate seats in Georgia and, by doing so, retain majority control of the chamber. That on top of the GOP’s shocking the political pontificators by picking up at least 10 seats in the House.

All of that is to say that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris may have a difficult time getting many of their policies — and possibly their nominees — through the partisan sandbox that masquerades as the U.S. Congress.

Along with the Democratic retreads being brought into the Biden administration, I suspect that, once in office, Biden will be tempted to lean on former President Obama whenever possible. And why not? Not only was he Obama’s vice president, but they became friends and know each other’s political and policy tendencies.

As an American who wants to see my nation succeed for the next four years — and beyond — I would implore Biden to also lean on another former president who was never really accepted by the club in Washington: Bill Clinton.

Because he was considered an “outsider” and had a tough, somewhat dysfunctional childhood, many of the elite insiders from both sides of the political aisle never really took to Clinton. (In my mind, Clinton should consider that a badge of honor.)

No matter what most Republicans, conservatives or even a number of Democrats may say, the fact is that Clinton was an effective and successful president. The 90 months of economic expansion, low unemployment and low inflation during his terms speak to some of that success.

Much of that success came because he understood “real Americans” and their everyday struggles. For example, Clinton understood that most Americans are ideologically comfortable somewhere in the middle of the party extremes. In 1992, the Democratic Party was considered too leftist by many middle-class voters — a perception that Biden will be assailed with in 2021 and possibly beyond — so Clinton cleverly adopted many messages of the “Reagan Revolution” for his “New Democrat” Party.     

Ironically, now 20 years since his presidency, Clinton is still younger than both Trump and Biden. And he still has much to offer if Biden wants to tap him for policy ideas. 

Our nation remains divided and seems broken on so many levels. Politically, Clinton was a pragmatic centrist who could work with both sides to get things done. He got things done even under the smothering control of a Republican Congress. 

So, as an American, I sincerely hope that, at least in private, Biden will call upon Clinton’s vast experience, wisdom and unbroken connection to the American people.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags Barack Obama Bill Clinton divided Congress Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Biden administration Kamala Harris Presidency of Bill Clinton

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