Biden Trails, Trump’s Trials

The 13 declared candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination have formed a circular firing squad. Some won’t make it to or past the first debate in Minneapolis on August 23, others might yet enter. One candidate reckons that after the scrum among his would-be successors he will emerge with the game ball in his Mar-a-Lago trophy cabinet.

Bidenomics Buys Votes On The Nation’s Credit Card

Biden is running despite an NBC poll that shows that 70 per cent of Americans, including 51 per cent of Democrats, do not want him to run again. He will defend what Republicans derisively call Bidenomics, a label the President proudly embraces. His plan is to watch from his Delaware basement, safe from rhetorical or physical stumbles, while his surrogates defend his creation of a Left-leaning, European-style economy, emerging only when required to debate the survivor of the Republican weaning process.

Biden has a point. The nation has avoided a recession despite a rapid and significant tightening of monetary policy aimed at reining in inflation, which is clearly falling, and likely will be viewed in the rearview mirror by 2024. Experts are changing their predictions of recession from long-and-deep to short-and-shallow, and from soon to someday. The unemployment rate (3.6 per cent) hovers around historic lows, there are far more jobs available than there are job seekers, and real (inflation-adjusted) wages have begun to rise, most rapidly at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

A good deal of Bidenomics’ perceived success stems from the President’s BNPL programme: buy now, pay later. Splash the cash hither and yon, après moi, le déluge of red ink. Leave the unpaid bills and underfunded pensions for our grandchildren, to be paid by them with higher taxes, deep spending cuts or an inflationary printing of dollars that is the solution of choice for politicians. Biden’s budgets have the national debt headed to more than 200 per cent of GDP by 2046 according to the Tax Foundation (from 97 per cent after his first budget in 2022), with interest costs surpassing first Medicare and then Social Security en route to becoming the largest item in the budget by 2053.

The Piper Must Be Paid, But Not Just Yet

Democrats’ concoction of buy-now-pay-later makes it unlikely that our grandchildren will have enough extra cash to do much buying when later comes around, as some who used the relief from paying interest on student loans, using the freed-up cash to party or buy that new car, are finding out.

But data-laden demonstrations of that fact are no easy thing when dealing with voters whose attention spans are reported to have shrunk from 2-and-a-half minutes in 2004 to an average of 40 seconds now. And when Republican politicians oppose tax increases and spending cuts, their claims to the title of deficit hawk lack a certain credibility.

Republicans are also struggling because they are asking voters to replace “Bidenomics” with “to be determined”, not a rousing call to action. Most – Chris Christie is an exception – are skirting criticism of the former President while calling for his replacement on the Republican ticket. To be fair, DeSantis has a program – to convert the rest of the country to Florida, as does Trump, whose aim is to get even with his many enemies and replace key policy makers with the sort of people who landed him in the legal messes in which he finds himself.

Getting Elected Is Not The Same As Governing

Add to Republican woes the shoddy performance of Republicans who have won office. In the House, where Republicans have a slim majority, a sufficient number of members whose defection matters spend more time discomfiting their leaders than legislating. In the senate, one Republican senator is exercising a traditional power called “a hold” to prevent the entire 100-member senate from voting on the nomination of Biden’s choice of top military leaders, the promotions of 281 general and flag officers, and a pay raise for members of the military. He wants a guarantee that the military will not use its funds to reimburse women serving in the armed forces for the cost of travel to obtain abortions. Until he is placated, the Marine Corps has no permanent leader, the Naval Academy no Superintendent, the Joint Chiefs of Staff no permanent Chairman. Rather like Russia, where Vladimir Putin is having problems staffing top military positions with men both competent and loyal.

Incompetence Is Bipartisan

Meanwhile, issues that affect the everyday lives of voters, things they experience that the government does to rather than for them, the administration’s sheer incompetence, go unmentioned in the bits of time a rabidly pro-Biden media accords Republican wannabes. The  botched Afghanistan withdrawal is receding into history, and the easing of gasoline prices is taking that issue off the boil.

That should leave the Republicans with more arrows in their quiver than they seem willing to use. Biden’s regulatory agencies have created shortages of baby formula, erased our borders, pinned terrorist labels on parents seeking to wrest control of their children’s educations from the teachers’ unions, and presided over train derailments, pileups at airport security checkpoints, flight cancellations, and long delays on visa renewals. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been depleted and the President announces that our military is running out of ammunition.

Trump Can’t Campaign From A Courtroom

There is one rather large donkey in the room. In what has become a coordinated effort, prosecutions in Georgia, Florida, New York City, and Washington will be putting Trump at risk of what would be a life sentence for a man his age. This barrage ties him up preparing defenses that drain his cash and energy. Worse from Trump’s point of view, criminal defendants must be in the courtroom during their trials, which will make campaigning impossible and even an acquittal a pyrrhic victory. Trump supporters claim that prosecutors aim to minimize Trump’s chances of winning lest he pardon himself, and point to the unseemly haste with which prosecutors called for his trial in Florida. If elected, Trump could pardon himself in federal cases, but not in state or local cases such as those being brought in New York and Georgia. In the latter state, even where pardons are possible, no pardon can be granted until the convicted person has served at least five years.

Debs Is No Harbinger

Communist Eugene V. Debs campaigned for President in 1920 from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary as a self-described “candidate in seclusion”. He received 3.4 per cent of the popular vote. Trump would do better. Polls show him about 30 points ahead of DeSantis in the primary battle and the latest Harvard/CAPS-Harris poll found that if the elections were held today Trump would best Biden with 45 per cent of the votes to the incumbent’s 39 per cent. One neutral observer jokes that another indictment and Trump will be elected by acclimation.