Thursday, May 9, 2024

Republicans defending Biden

 The Republican former lieutenant governor of Georgia is endorsing Joe Biden and Republicans don’t like it. In an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal, Geoff Duncan takes to task those Republicans who have criticized Donald Trump but pledged to “support the ‘Republican ticket.’” (If you don’t subscribe to the Journal, you can listen to Duncan’s interview on the AJC’s “Politically Georgia” podcast for free.")

Erick Erickson was one of the most coherent critics of Duncan’s article. In his response, Erickson lamented in his piece, “When Republicans Defend Joe Biden,” “I like Geoff and understand the concerns about Trump as well as anyone. As I write this, Donald Trump is in court with a pornstar testifying against him. I get it.”

“But what Geoff is missing is that he’s asking Americans to vote for a man whose policies are simply not working for the average American voter,” Erickson added. 

Photo credit: Jeremy Harwell/Wikimedia-uploaded byHarwell Photography

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He cites as examples “Instead of betting on the free market to innovate after it was clear the country was not headed towards a depression following COVID, Biden spent obscene amounts of money and created inflationary pressures that are outpacing wages and killing middle-class Americans” and that “Biden’s biggest donors fund antisemitic protests on college campuses. He also adds “Biden’s war on affordable energy, assault on reliable appliances, [and] his complete disregard for the safety and dignity of women’s sports.”

Let’s take a closer look at this list. First, I’m a critic of government overspending, but the link between recent spending and current inflation is not firmly established. The fact is that inflation came on after the pandemic and was a worldwide phenomenon

Further, much of the “obscene amounts of money” were spent by Joe Biden’s predecessor. Although Donald Trump campaigned on reducing the debt, he was the biggest spender since… well, since the president before him. The truth is that, for the past few decades, each president has outspent the last, regardless of party. Republicans had the opportunity to cut spending under Trump. Instead, they added nearly as much to the national debt in four years as Barack Obama did in eight, an increase in the debt of 40 percent. In case anyone doesn’t remember who signed off on the massive bailouts to farmers and COVID stimulus payments, Donald Trump made sure his name was on the stimulus checks. (Admittedly, he is better remembered for other checks.)

Erickson’s second point is not a Biden policy at all. Instead, he cites the actions of “Biden’s biggest donors.” Biden himself has been critical of the anti-Semitic protests and made several statements condemning anti-Semitism while maintaining support for Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Hamas despite a split in the Democratic Party over the war that has impacted his approval with his base. 

Biden’s “war on affordable energy” isn’t going well if it is a real initiative. Politiconotes that oil, natural gas, and renewable power are all setting records under Biden. Oil and electricity prices are near historic averages, internet memes touting pandemic gas prices notwithstanding. 

As Politico points out, Biden’s “all of the above” energy strategy is drawing fire from both sides. Republicans don’t like the green energy initiatives and progressives don’t like the record-breaking domestic oil production. The progressive anger has also affected his approval rating.

As far as an “assault on reliable appliances,” the Biden Administration is not “coming for” your gas stoves and old appliances, as some on the right have suggested. The truth is that the Department of Energy has proposed new efficiency standards for appliances, but this will not affect old appliances in homes or models currently on the market. It will also not eliminate new gas stoves, as some Republicans claim. 

Per the DOE press release, the changes were “congressionally mandated” and received support from a “broad coalition of appliance manufacturers and advocates for consumer protection, water and energy efficiency, and climate action,” and “align with recommendations from a diverse set of stakeholders, including manufacturers.” The release further notes that the new standards will save American households $2.2 billion annually. 

The Washington Post reports the standards closely follow the terms of a deal reached between consumer advocates and manufacturers last year. The majority of cooking products currently on the market already meet the new standards, which affect only three percent of gas stoves and 23 percent of electric stoves. Low-end models may become slightly more expensive to meet the new standards. 

“It was quite a process, but we’re very supportive of where we got with the package of standards,” said Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

It’s reasonable to criticize the new standards, but they do not appear to represent “an assault on reliable appliances” when they don’t affect most models currently on the market. An assault on the cheapest appliances, maybe. 

How about the claim that Biden is attacking the “safety and dignity of women’s sports?” I agree with the majority of Americans that biological males should not compete in women’s sports, but PBS points out that transgender athletes are not mentioned in the new rules, although there originally was a proposed rule that would have banned bans on transgender athletes. 

The rules do add protections for LGBTQMNOP students, however, as well as reversing a Trump Administration rule that raised the bar for complaints about sexual harassment and required live hearings with the opportunity to cross-examine. Republicans say that Title IX rules were not intended to protect on the basis of gender identity, a statement that I agree with, but the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock that sex discrimination under Title VII included gender identity and sexual orientation. That 2020 ruling seems pretty close to the Biden Administration's new rules and is probably pretty close to where the majority of Americans stand as well. 

The courts will have to determine what the rules actually mean, but I see no evidence that they undermine the safety or dignity of women’s sports. With regard to protection from sexual harassment, they seem to enhance the safety of female athletes. 

Moreover, I disagree with Erickson that the election will be about issues. I think it will be a referendum on Donald Trump. Even if we do have an issues election, Trump’s platform and legislative history are not great. The Former Guy’s platform for this campaign is skimpy so far but includes consists almost entirely of three things:

  1. Revenge

  2. 10 percent tax on all imports

  3. Whatever Trump wants

I can also add, as my friend Steve Berman recently noted, that Trump and MAGA have led the GOP into a long string of policy failures. In addition to losing elections, they have failed to repeal Obamacare, failed to build a border wall, failed to impeach Joe Biden, and perhaps most egregiously, failed to pass a long-awaited immigration compromise authored by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.). Part of the reason for killing the bill was that it contained aid to Ukraine (it was originally a foreign aid bill; the border money was added later due to Republican demands.) The aid passed. Trump and MAGA killed the immigration portion. 

Is MAGA tired of winning yet?

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In contrast, Biden’s platform looks almost Reaganesque. That’s especially true in a few key points. First and foremost, Biden wants to support our allies, particularly Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. President Reagan was staunchly anti-communist and a harsh critic of Russia. Reagan funded numerous groups of freedom fighters struggling against Russian and communist aggression. I’m sure that he would be a proud supporter of the defense of Ukraine. 

Second, Biden and his Fed are Reaganesque in their approach to inflation. I’ll give Jerome Powell more credit here, but the current economic leadership is taking the same approach to fighting inflation that Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker (a Carter appointee) did in the early 1980s. Raising interest rates is the key to reining in inflation, and it looks as though Biden-Powell may be able to pull of the soft landing that Reagan-Volcker could not. 

Additionally, like Reagan, Biden has a mixed record on free trade, but he is the more conservative of our two current choices on the issue. One of my big disappointments was Biden’s preservation of so many Trump-era tariffs, but David Henderson of the Hoover Institution points out that Biden’s trade advisors are more open to free trade than Trump’s. I remain hopeful that Biden will remove Trump’s trade taxes as inflation and the economy cool. 

I still believe that the election will be about Trump’s lack of character and unfitness to lead. The Former Guy is unchanged from the person who tried to steal the 2020 election. He’s not only unchanged, he’s defiant. 

Trump is too dangerous to return to power. That is THE issue of the 2024 election. 

As a conservative, I have plenty of disagreements with Joe Biden, but he’s a typical politician. He is not a radical, no matter how much Republicans try to paint him as one. In fact, Biden is the most conservative Democrat who could get elected. That still leaves him to my left, but the Republican Party is now also to my left on a lot of issues. 

That is especially true now that Trump is showing his truer colors. Trump can be most easily understood as the caricature of what a New York liberal thinks a conservative Republican is. And his portrayal is so convincing that he has won over a majority of the party. 


But not everyone. Thank goodness for a few stalwarts like Geoff Duncan who see that Trumpism a dead end. Trump has killed conservatism within the Republican Party, leaving only a trail of destroyed conservative careers and dried-out husk of a party akin to the empty shells of cicadas that currently litter the South

On the other hand, Erickson and many others decry Trump but then fall in line. I suspect that Erickson is following his previous pattern of attacking Trump for four years and then endorsing him in an election year. It’s worth remembering that Erickson and most other Republican Trump critics have opposed every attempt to rein in Trump (with the exception of the 2024 primaries), including both impeachments and the criminal indictments. Personally, I think this is disingenuous and not good for the country or the party. 

If Trump is bad, put your money where your mouth is, and don’t support him. I’d say the same to Paul Ryan and other Republicans who say they will write in a Republican rather than vote for either Trump or Biden. 

Liz Cheney put it best when she said, “We can survive bad policy, we cannot survive a president who torches the Constitution.”

That is what this election is about. That is our choice. 

Remember how you felt when you watched the MAGA mob attack the Capitol on January 6, because that is what you will be voting for if you vote Trump.

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