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writing for godot

Biden vs. Trump: Can his Back to the Future riff work for Joe?

Written by Robert Douglas   
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 04:59

Donald Trump has driven me crazy. But I’m skeptical that Joe Biden can restore my sanity.


In large part because he views Le Grand Orange as an anomaly. That he is not.


There is a straight line between Trump and George W. Bush. A line that extends back to 1981, when Ronald Reagan declared war on the way our government functions. A war his Republican Party has been waging ever since. So when Biden calls Trump an “aberration” and advocates for a return to normal, he may be conjuring up a normalcy that never was.

It’s true that Trump is a barbarian whose crude and vulgar ways offend the kabuki traditions of Washington. But if all that Biden wants is to reset the clock to the day before Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, he hasn’t been listening to younger and more progressive Democrats who want to move forward, not back. And his harkening further back to a time when the Bidens of Washington could get things done in a bipartisan way is as cynical a fiction as Make America Great Again.

Bipartisanship post-Reagan has mostly been one-sided with Democrats giving in to Republicans who are steadfast in their negativity. They have adopted Reagan’s mantra as gospel: “Government is not the solution to our problem, it is the problem.” So when elected Democrats do offer solutions, Republicans just say no. Or, at most, negotiate a compromise that’s less than robust.

Case in point, the signature accomplishment of the Obama Administration that Biden likes to tout: The Affordable Care Act.

In 2003, then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama said if he were starting from scratch, he’d press for a single-payer health-care system like they have in Canada and other First-World countries. But when he was president six years later, he settled for a patchwork approach based on a Republican concept. Even then, Obamacare was too much for Congressional Republicans. They voted more than 50 times to repeal it. And Trump has taken their fight to the Supreme Court.

Trump is as Republican as it gets

From health care to environmental regulation, nothing fundamental has changed from The Good Old Days before the “aberration” of Trump. The only difference is one of tone: He is louder and more transparent in revealing the racist, elitist and cynical core of his party. And he has been especially true to its tradition of fiduciary recklessness.

While Reaganomics was supposed to make tax cuts pay for themselves by generating more taxable economic activity, that’s never been the case. Reagan himself created the template. He cut taxes and doubled the federal deficit to a reported $175 billion. While George H. W. Bush did not cut taxes, he took it to $300 billion.

Then Democrat Bill Clinton did something Republicans like to talk about but never do: He balanced the budget. But that didn’t last. George W. Bush cut taxes again. Then he started two wars, which he paid for on credit. In the process, he ballooned the deficit to $1.2 trillion, and left Democrat Obama with a collapsing economy. Obama dug us out of The Great Recession and cut Bush’s deficit in half. Then came Trump.

Doing one for the Gipper

He broke out the Reagan playbook and cut taxes again. And he got the deficit back up into Bush territory — before the corona virus pandemic.

The public health crisis we’re in is exploding the deficit to unknown levels because we don’t know when it will end and our crippled economy can recover from its impact.

Given this uncertainty, it may be difficult for Biden to reimagine his “misty watercolor memories of the way we were” before Trump — if he does win in November.

Beyond leaving the economy in worse shape than Bush left it for Obama, Trump has weakened regulations and left the federal bureaucracy that enforces them in shambles. He’s on the brink of fulfilling the false premise of the Reagan Revolution by devolving government into something incapable of solving any problem.

Can Biden lead us back from the brink? Probably not on his own merit. In terms of both age and outlook, his time has come and gone. To his credit, however, Biden seems to acknowledge this. He’s now calling himself a transitional candidate who can bridge the divide between his generation and younger Democrats.

Bernie Sanders may have been a better choice to connect to the future. Throughout the lead-up to this primary season — and throughout the one in 2016 — his focus has always been on the potential of what’s ahead.

Having said that, I will vote against Trump. And given the reality of the binary choice we face, Biden is the beneficiary of my choice.




Robert Douglas is a former business editor for the Palm Beach Post and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , like him on on Facebook, or follow him at RBDMediaDotCom on Twitter. your social media marketing partner
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