Joe Biden: An American Mitterrand?
Francois Mitterrand’s career has puzzled many biographers. As a political chameleon, he was known for his rise from an official of Vichy France and at least one alleged recipient of his highest honor, Francis, to a popular front with the Communist Party in the early 1980s and then halfway back with an Orthodox monetary and fiscal policy. His career was full of accomplishments: the co-optation and practically the extinction of the French Communist Party, a generally successful economic and social policy of recent times, the maintenance of France’s position in Africa and as an independent nuclear power, important decentralization reforms and the binding of Germany to Western Europe through being Insistence on the euro as the price of French approval of German reunification.
President Joe Biden, while lacking Mitterrand’s intellectual aptitude and abstaining from his successful practice of de facto bigamy, has certainly displayed similar chameleon-like qualities. He was a strong proponent of the drug war and contributed to its draconian punishments for black “crack” dealers and relative indulgence towards dealers with the more upscale cocaine powder. He trumpeted about his ecclesiastical school background while helping with Judge Robert Bork’s nomination massacre for not getting used to the fashionable “privacy” doctrine. He agreed to the resumption of the scandalous hearings on the Clarence Thomas nomination, but quietly let it be known that he did not believe Anita Hill.
He ran as a moderate in the Democratic presidential election, but quickly filled his administration’s civil rights services with the most extreme individuals available, pledging to lift the judiciary and Trump administration’s protection from cross-examination rights for accused college students, and suddenly emerged as Transgender rights advocate. Once a law and order advocate, he has begun populating federal courts with former public defenders, many of them countercultural people who are sure to explode as time bombs in the future, to the embarrassment of the Democratic Party. Typical of this species is an Obama-appointed judicial officer, Justice James Bredar of Baltimore, who, without allowing the Trump Justice Department to be heard, rushed to approve a police assent that resulted in an approximate doubling of the murder rate in Baltimore. This culture war “liberalism” recalls the efforts of Mitterrand’s first prime minister, Pierre Mauroy, to restrict the role of Catholic private schools. Mauroy had to resign after a street demonstration with a million people, considered one of the largest in the history of France.
In the economic field, the Mitterrand-Mauroy government initially proposed nationalization of the banks and an inflationary economic program. When the flight of capital and increasing unemployment occurred, Mitterrand pushed the communists out of his cabinet and found new prime ministers. Biden’s program unexpectedly proposes a drastic expansion of federal regulation in preschool education and day care, college funding and elderly care, as well as a drastic and sudden increase in capital gains tax, which will almost certainly result in both capital flight and a reduction in the volume of capital transactions.
The volume of new proposals in the trillions, the COVID-induced rise in national debt, the aging of the population with their demands on the public finances and the reluctance of the Republicans and some Democrats to raise taxes are likely to cause a crisis of confidence and further capital flight, if not abroad, in Land, gold and collectibles, and possible monetary inflation or even hyperinflation. Nobody really knows how much national debt is too much national debt. Both the United States and Britain had post-war debts that exceeded GDP, but both had powerful treasury departments at the time, whose commitment to the necessary austerity measures was not questioned even under left-wing governments. Today’s economists view economics as a discipline similar to mathematics, but history and social psychology play an unpredictable role.
The Biden government appears to be making a disorderly retreat in some of its tax and immigration policies. The weakness of her internal cabinet will not help her in this; as with Carter, Clinton, and Obama, identity politics played too much of a role in their construction. Contrary to the proposals of Roosevelt’s cabinet, which included people the size of Ickes, Wallace, Hopkins, Perkins, and Jesse Jones, Biden’s proposals were not carefully worked out. Biden is also not supported by his embarrassing congressional leaders in either house, a condition he has not yet attempted to correct. A Senate chairman who runs the Supreme Court and a House representative who calls for the election of 16-year-olds are not what the nation yearns for.
Biden’s main political trust is based on the Republican Party’s weakness – “don’t kill a man who commits suicide”. In Trump, he confronted a three-time loser whose Ukrainian antics lost the House of Representatives, whose misconduct in the initial debate with the appeal to paramilitary groups lost the presidency, and whose contesting the integrity of Georgian electoral officials lost the Senate. There are signs that fewer Republicans are still listening to the thundering dud. “Enough!”, Once a common refrain in New York’s County of Kings, seems to be making its way into his native County of Queens as well. But there wasn’t much constructive Republican leadership apart from Senator Scott of South Carolina and the Senators from Utah, who think in terms of a functioning government rather than ideological poses.
A policy reversal by Biden may have started and is still possible. Posing on social issues, in its alienation from Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon voters, can be irrevocable and lose any chance of re-enacting the Roosevelt coalition. But a program based on an increased minimum wage with income tax breaks for young workers; a permanent tax credit for extended families, fair for single earners as well as for two-earner families; a serious Roosevelt-like youth employment program, including a revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps; and a serious program to assimilate former illegal immigrants while discouraging future ones, through long waiting times, high Australian-style application fees, and serious scrutiny by local authorities such as the Selective Service System, would have greater popularity than the current antics of the Democrats. They will not maintain or expand their power by occupying the Senate and the Supreme Court; Abolition of secret voting, voter identification and electoral college; and subjecting state legislation to federal bureaucratic scrutiny – the stuff of her current dreams.
President Biden, it is believed, knows that. He is not as skilled as Mitterrand and has the difficulty that “personnel is politics”. Without a thorough housecleaning, there isn’t much room for hope. Unfortunately, the likely outcome is political stagnation, stagflation, and heightened political and ethnic animosities.
George Liebmann is president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar and author of works on law and history, most recently America’s Political Inventor: The Lost Aryan of Legislation and Vox Clamantis in Deserto: An Iconoclast Contemplates Four Failed Governments Administration.
Joe Biden: An American Mitterrand? first appeared on The American Conservative.