The Corner

Elections

But What Happens in January?

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden waves next to Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Wilmington, Del., August 19, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Kamala Harris’s lies about fracking, taxes, and the Green New Deal, along with her refusal to answer whether she would try to destroy the Supreme Court, are designed to help the Biden-Harris ticket win the election by downplaying the radical and unpopular parts of its agenda. It may work.

But then what?

American presidents who openly campaign for change usually struggle to pass most of their agenda items. How, I wonder, do Biden and Harris believe that they are going to fare in office if they won’t admit what they want to do at all. Joe Biden has said many times in public that he wants to ban fracking. Now, having realized that this position is a liability in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, he has changed his mind — to the point at which he now denies ever having said it at all. By its own terms, the ticket’s tax plan, which would not “raise taxes on anybody making 400,000 or less per year,” is flatly incompatible with the promise to completely repeal the 2017 tax reform law. Biden’s website praises the Green New Deal, but when asked about that, he and Harris pretend this isn’t true. And neither will even talk about whether they hope to embark upon what would be the greatest act of constitutional vandalism in a century. Certainly, this helps the campaign look more moderate to swing voters. But it doesn’t help them after November. If these plans are too radical for the electorate now, they’ll be too radical for the electorate in January.

President Trump has provided us with a good example of this. Trump was unusually open about the sort of judges he would put on the Court, and, having won, has managed to follow through on his promises in that realm. By contrast, Trump was incoherent, inconsistent, and often dishonest on the question of health care (and still is), and, as a result, he has failed to do anything in that area beyond create an electoral liability for himself in 2020. It is irritating how often Democrats are helped along during campaign season by a media that is all too happy to let them lie brazenly whenever someone brings up a fact that might hurt their chances at public office. But, in the long run, this hurts the party too, when, after all the votes have been counted, the same voters think back to those moments of indignant deception and say, “wait a moment, but you said . . .”

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