Monday, June 13, 2022

Simple political analysis

This is Joseph.

As a fun palate cleanser after Mark's extremely important post, I thought that discussing this tweet would be fun. But seriously, watch the video first. 

Changing a sitting president is challenging, even if the incumbent is willing to step aside. Just for the record, there is no hint that Joe Biden is interested in stepping aside. That said, if he did, these seem to be his political weak points:
  1. Age (he will be 83 when he starts a second term). I actually think this might be his biggest vulnerability if the Republicans run somebody younger (e.g., not Trump)
  2. Inflation is always politically painful
  3. Other branches of government (primarily the judiciary but also things like the filibuster threshold in the senate).
Bernie helps with none of these. He is a year older then Biden and Biden would be starting a second term and not a first. At the end of two terms, Bernie would be over 90. Biden is well aware inflation is bad and that constrains populist plans (with inflation and interest rates rising, you need to make more serious tradeoffs which makes it hard to get a major spending program going). 

What about the courts? The Trump speed run on the judiciary is real but it isn't like Biden isn't addressing it. Despite a very narrow senate majority, he even confirmed a very competent supreme court justice with a history as a public defender. The senate is a concern as it has a skew that makes it favorable for Republicans. But I am unaware of any case where Bernie running would assist greatly with the senate races. But really that'd be the only scenario that would be at all intriguing.

Speaking of the senate, Bernie is 80 years old and will be 83 at the start of a 4th senate term in a state with a Republican governor. If we are worried about the senate then getting a strong replacement in the next two years seems far more productive.

Now, I am on record as saying it would not surprise me if Joe Biden was a single term president. He returned to political life at a time that really required somebody of his talents and background, but he is also nearly 80. Nor is this without precedent:  Lyndon B. Johnson, James K. Polk, James Buchanan and Rutherford B. Hayes were all voluntarily one term presidents (and Hayes was succeeded by another Republican so party switching is hardly a certain outcome in this small sample). 

But a replacement needs to a tell a compelling story about how they would improve the fortunes of the Democratic party. Bernie has been extremely important in setting policy priorities and will end as an extremely important senator. But he addresses none of the three main vulnerabilities and I think it is hard to see who could impact #2 and #3. So you need somebody with Joe Biden's strengths but who is less susceptible to the "sleepy Joe Biden" line of attack. But keep in mind this was not a highly successful line of attack. So options are quite limited. 

But that depends on a great many tough political decisions and a lot of things that are unknowable (e.g., what Joe Biden wants). But I see no good argument. Even Trump running again doesn't move the needle -- Biden already beat Trump and that'd be compelling psychology in a rematch. 

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