- - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

First of two parts

Given the course of the presidential campaign, it is not too early to arm oneself emotionally or intellectually for the possibility of a Biden administration.

Apart from the obvious and Homeric tax increase that awaits, there are a few features that would form and frame that administration.

First, the simmering and subterranean conflicts within the Democratic Party would emerge into open warfare. Just as Republicans have spent years figuring out how to engage, assimilate or defeat tea partiers, so too would Democrats need to determine how best to live with one another. That process likely would begin Nov. 4, the day after Election Day, and it would complicate efforts to pass the large, complex, society-changing legislation that the Biden crew has been pimping.

This internal warfare would, unfortunately, be made worse by the presence of a president without the physical or mental vitality necessary to lead a party through such a moment.

Second, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has run an invisible campaign. His primary (and perhaps sufficient) pitch to the voters has been that he is not President Trump. While that has the virtue of being true, it has the disadvantage of leaving him, in the event of victory, unable to claim a mandate for any particular thing.

The campaign will not translate into meaningful political momentum. That would be a big problem as Mr. Biden’s first and only term wears on. Voters tend to resist change for which they did not vote and of which they do not approve.

Third, Congress would likely be an unreliable partner. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised last time around that she and her crew would be transitional figures (think Kerensky). Now, as in 1917, those on the left side of the caucus are likely to insist on a change in leadership. It seems probable that in January we may have arrived at a fin-de-siecle moment for the House Democrats and their superannuated leadership.

The Senate will pose its own challenges. If the Democrats preside over the Senate in 2021 (which is possible, although not yet probable), it would be because relatively “moderate” Democrats — John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Steve Bullock in Montana, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina — won their races. Fold in Sens. Joseph Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (and occasionally Jon Tester), and it becomes easy to imagine that 51 or 52 Democratic senators may be insufficient to assure acquiescence to all demands from the left.

Also, it seems unlikely that the Senate will get rid of the 60-vote threshold entirely. They may chip away at it in various ways, but senators have a powerful incentive to maintain the threshold: It maximizes an individual senator’s leverage over his or her own leadership, colleagues and the process. To diminish it would be to diminish their own power.

Finally, it appears Mr. Biden would be unable to resist starting the show with the largest tax increase in the history of the world. His tax plan calls for raising $4.1 trillion, in part by raising nominal and effective tax rates on both companies and individuals making more than $400,000.

Predictably, Mr. Biden already has plans to spend most of the cash from this $4.1 trillion tax increase, which means that he would need more to close a budget deficit that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated will total about $11 trillion from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2025.

That means the increases in taxes would be expanded to include taxpayers and working people of just about all income levels. It also means a painful and regressive energy tax, which would serve to make everything manufactured, processed or transported more expensive.

These tax increases — again, the largest in history — would take an enormous amount of effort (especially in light of the certainty of the intense lobbying against them). By commencing his single term with it, Mr. Biden would exhaust his limited political and intellectual reserves, expose Democrats everywhere to very strong headwinds and damage the economy.

In short, if there is a President Biden, expect mayhem, confusion, internecine conflict, the largest tax increase in the history of the world and (consequently) a deteriorating economy.

Stay tuned.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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