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Biden vs Republicans: The next 100 days and beyond

Victor Davis Hanson rips 'radical agenda,' Camille Busette predicts infrastructure push

President Joe Biden speaks about the April jobs report in the East Room of the White House on May 7.   © AP

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- U.S. President Joe Biden's first 100 days are in the books. While fighting the pandemic has been the top priority, the new American president has also undone many of predecessor Donald Trump's policies.

What will the next 100 days look like, and how will they shape the battle lines for the 2022 midterm elections?

Conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson calls the president's first three months "the most left-wing agendas" since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs after the Great Depression expanded the size and scope of the government.

Camille Busette, a leading voice on financial inclusion and racial injustice, says Biden has been surprisingly active in his first 100 days, "taking the gloves off" and charting a new path that could alter his image as a safe, consistent and conservative Democrat.

Victor Davis Hanson and Camille Busette 

Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution

Q: You have called the Biden presidency "the most radical first three months of a presidency since 1933, the most divisive and certainly the most dangerous." Can you elaborate?

A: Biden's policies of de facto open borders, blanket amnesties, cancellations of pipelines and fossil fuel leases, planned radical increases in corporate, income, and capital gains taxes, identity politics and Green New Deal rhetoric, along with his appointments and resets in the Middle East, are the most left-wing agendas since [Franklin D. Roosevelt]. Their common denominators are utopian globalism, redistributionism, criticism of America's founding, traditions, history, and values, and identity-politics tribalism.

The world looks to the U.S. to be overtly supportive of its friends and rock-solidly unfriendly to its enemies. The Biden administration instead is interested in pan-global climate change, identity politics and world governance in a way far beyond even the [European Union], and this could be quite dangerous to [Asia], where nations like China, North Korea and Russia have no such naive assumptions and constantly remind their proximate neighbors that the U.S. is in decline economically, torn apart culturally and can't be counted upon.

Q: Biden pledged in his inaugural speech to unite the country and to heal the division. Do you believe he can do it? If not, is there someone in either party who can unite the country?

A: The better question is whether he wished to unite anyone rather than simply profess ecumenicalism.

Nothing in Biden's past senatorial record, his rhetoric or his conduct gives any evidence of such outreach. His first 100 days are truer to his character: those who want voter IDs as required in most states are "Jim Crow" racists; those who after being vaccinated doubt the need for masks outdoors are "Neanderthals"; those who want legal and measured immigration are "nativists."

The left defines unity as pushing through an agenda by any means necessary. On the right, the search is on apparently for a candidate that combines Trump's popular agendas and policies, retains his combativeness against the woke political correctness of the age, but lacks his gratuitous rough edges that alienate swing and suburban female voters.

Meanwhile, Trump, banned from social media, is benefiting from both his inability to tweet and the growing anger at the Biden extremism -- and yet no one knows whether he prefers playing kingmaker in his party or running again. Much will depend on the 2022 midterm elections, and the state of the economy.

Q: How do you see the consequences of President Biden's policy approach for the future of the U.S., such as the economy, society and safety?

A: Huge increases in taxes, more regulation, curtailment of energy production, while the country reemerges from a quarantine with huge pent-up demand and nearly $5 trillion in printed money stimuli -- as the debt nears $30 trillion -- is a prescription for inflation followed by stagflation, as too many dollars chase too little supply.

The U.S. is the world's only successful multiracial democracy -- India and Brazil are far less so -- but the rekindling of tribalism and Biden's insistence on stoking racial identification as a way of polarizing the country to push through "emergency" legislation is quite dangerous.

The public does not support the left-wing agenda, and is privately tiring of the sermonizing and falsification of history and destruction of our past. At some moment someone is going to say the emperor has no clothes, and this mass hysteria, I think, will dissipate.

Ideological divisions are becoming multiplied by red state/blue state geography as millions move and self-select their new homes on ideological bases. Globalization enriched our bicoastal corridors, as elites in finance, corporations, media, law, insurance, entertainment, academia and politics were enriched by a 7 billion-person market even as the vast muscular interior saw their labor outsourced and Xeroxed abroad, and culturally were blamed and derided as if they were responsible for the rusting of the Midwest.

Q: How do you assess the future of the Republican Party and conservatism? Would "Trumpism" still be dominant in the GOP, or will Republicans find a new leader?

A: Conservatism transcends politics and race. It is innate to the human psyche given its trust in the wisdom of past centuries of experience, in the immutable nature of mankind and humans' predictable appetites, and the need to balance equality with freedom and liberty. So the future is good.

I think the left will experience another setback in 2022 like the 2010 [President Barack Obama midterm] tsunami. Remember, had the pandemic not hit, along with the lockdown and self-induced recession, Trump probably would have been reelected on the strongest economy in 50 years -- as most on the left feared and privately admitted. 

A portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt hangs largest in Biden's Oval Office. (Photo courtesy of the White House)

Camille Busette, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

Q: How does Biden compare to past presidents in terms of the amount of work done and policies put forward in his first 100 days?

A: I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this has been probably one of the most energetic 100 days in an early presidency, and certainly in the modern era. Part of it has to do with the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and that obviously has created a tremendous economic recession. So there's certainly been a lot to do, both on the health front and also on the economic side.

But we also in the U.S. are facing a very substantial racial equity set of crises that the Biden administration has had to address pretty directly. We have an immigration crisis on our southern border -- that's also been something they've had to address -- as well as a number of foreign policy issues that have really become quite critical over the last year.

Part of that has to do with restoring relationships with our allies across the world. So that would be in Asia, as well as European allies, and making some headway in the relationship particularly with China and Russia, and then also figuring out how we continue to deal with the situation in the Middle East -- issues in Syria, issues in Afghanistan, what we're going to do with Turkey, etc. All of those have been addressed at some level, and that's really a considerable amount to take on for a president.

Q: Is there anything that came out as surprising to you, or perhaps came as a surprise to voters, who might have formed an impression of him during the election? And would you call those agendas radical?

A: Much of what he's done has been surprising, and in a couple of different ways. One is, I think the level of activity has been quite surprising, particularly the level of fiscal stimulus both actual and planned, and the nature of those kinds of fiscal packages is not something you would have foreseen from Joe Biden in the Obama administration.

I wouldn't call them radical relative to other parts of the world. The U.S. economy is one of those developed economies that has a very poor social safety net. In fact, we're trying to catch up in this sense, and certainly the COVID pandemic exposed the degree to which that very slim social safety net is just not tenable as we go forward. So not radical from that perspective, but I think radical in comparison to what people thought he would do.

I think Joe Biden has always had a reputation with voters of being a very safe and consistent and even a slightly more conservative Democrat. But he certainly is taking the gloves off and has begun to chart a new path for his own image. That path, I would say, is one of pretty substantial both economic and social change.

Q: Do you see the U.S. as a more united nation, compared to before he took office?

A: I would say no. A number of certain surveys have certainly pointed to the fact that the U.S. public is still very, very polarized over a variety of different issues. And I think it would be unreasonable to expect that in 100 days everybody would find a "Kumbaya" moment. So that is something that we will have to continue to watch.

But what has been interesting is the strategy that has been employed by the Biden White House, one where they have started to talk about their policies and the impact and impression of those policies that the American public holds, as opposed to their peers in Congress.

Normally when presidents talk about getting the package approved or who's supporting it, you're talking about their allies, and the folks who oppose them in Congress. But here the Biden administration has really broadened that and said, "You know, actually this package is for the American people, and we're going to go out and find out what they think." So there's been a very large effort to promote these packages in a variety of different places throughout the U.S.

And in doing that, they're doing a couple of things. One, they're trying to put pressure on Republicans because they feel like the average American will understand that spending for some of the programs and initiatives that they're thinking about will have some appeal beyond just party appeal. So they're trying to put some pressure on Republicans to support these packages. And then they're also trying to show Americans that this is an "all-in" kind of initiative. We're not really trying to favor one particular state or certain types of voters, but the Biden administration is really trying to help all Americans. It remains to be seen whether or not that will be persuasive.

Q: Is his foreign policy an area that can cause division in Washington and among voters?

A: The Biden administration on foreign policy is actually fairly conventional in ways that are probably not offensive to Republicans. I think a lot of Republicans were concerned about the foreign policy of the previous administration, one where there was the cozying up to Russia and to North Korea in ways that I think most Republicans found offensive. Taking on trade wars -- in a way that really impacted our economy, and not necessarily the economies with whom we were having the trade wars -- and having difficult and rocky relationships with European allies were considered impolitic at the very least, and not strategically sound. And then not able to have any kind of leverage in the Middle East was also considered again unstrategic.

I think people in the Republican Party who are concerned about foreign policy probably see this as fairly middle-of-the-road, very vanilla, just rolling back to more normal relations with the rest of the world.

Q: Which area would the Biden administration have to focus on to brighten Democrats' prospects in the 2022 midterms?

A: It would really have to take off on infrastructure. The American Jobs Act is much about infrastructure and a very broad definition of infrastructure, but any monies that would be approved there would almost automatically bring economic growth, so you would get jobs generated very very quickly.

In order for the Biden administration to have the best shot of continuing to hold the House of Representatives, they would have to pass that soon and get funds flowing throughout the economy. And that, I think, will be extremely important to their party's prospects for the House of Representatives in 2022.

Q: What challenges lie ahead for them in 2022 and 2024?

A: There are very significant challenges ahead for 2022. This is pretty early on, but it looks at this point as though Democrats will lose some seats, just generally speaking because the incumbent party tends to lose seats during a midterm election. Democrats already have a thin margin -- it's just eight seats -- compared to Republicans in the House of Representatives. Then there's been a decennial census, and what has emerged from the census is that there are some states that are more Democratic leaning are actually losing seats as well, and some Republican states are gaining seats.

So all that means that it's very likely that post-November 2022, the Biden administration will be encountering a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and the Senate will probably be exactly as it is, or fairly even, which means it will be especially difficult to get legislation through. So if the administration wants to get legislation through, they have between now and April 2022 -- the election really starts then -- to get any major legislative package done.

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