This discussion is one segment of a multi-part series centered around the 2020 Presidential Election.
Interviews have been transcribed from a digital roundtable that took place on 11/19 that included panelists, Democratic pollsters, and WINS team members Bernard Whitman and Matt McDermott. The roundtable was moderated by Scott Kotchko.
SCOTT: Joe Biden won the election. He will be the next President of the United States of America. And there’s a high likelihood that that the Senate will remain in Republican control which means our government won’t really function as intended. The pandemic is raging, and is going to get worse than it has ever been in this country before it gets better. The outgoing administration stopped actually doing any work months ago, and are preparing to salt the earth to make the Biden’s team transition as difficult as possible.
On the flip-side, Joe Biden is likely to preside over a mass-vaccination program that will defeat the coronavirus – something Donald Trump failed at. As the economy gets back on track its possible that Joe Biden may oversee the biggest GDP increase in the last 100 years.
Those are a lot of rollercoasters. Given all of this, what are your best guesses for what a Biden presidency looks like and accomplishes?
MATT: The incoming Biden administration will benefit because the Trump administration, without question, has expanded the powers of the presidency in a way that no previous President ever has.
In that regard, and on certain issues it’s frankly irrelevant who controls Congress, because the Biden Administration, I think, has pretty broad leniency in what they can do from an executive action point of view. Especially on things like immigration, climate change, student loan reform. And they seem rather willing to exercise that executive power to get a lot of things done.
And, by the way, it is exactly what they should do given what we’ve lived through the past four years and the need to use the powers of the federal government to lift this country out of crisis.
The last piece of this is that if Joe Biden doesn’t utilize executive powers to help fix the country, and Democrats don’t control both branches of Congress, what exactly are we going to run on in 2022? You’d like to be running on the fact that Joe Biden, the Democratic President, just lifted the country out of the worst health and economic crisis in modern American history – quite literally saving American lives in the process.
BERNARD: I agree with all of that. But I’m also an eternal optimist, and consider myself to be more center-left than left. But I actually do believe there could be maybe possibly some small hope, wish, prayer, that a return to some semblance of bipartisanship, of centricity, of moderation, actually can get stuff done in Washington.
It’s not that I want a victory for the middle. I want a victory for actually getting stuff done.
I think that with a slim majority in the House and possibly a slim majority in the senate, we’ll be able to identify a handful of senators like Ben Sasse, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney and possibly others, to actually get stuff done, in healthcare, and immigration, climate change, and infrastructure.
And I think, hopefully, Biden can actually leverage his years in the senate, his experience there in doing so.
The tough thing, of course, , is the incumbent party typically loses seats in the mid-terms. And Democrats really can’t afford to lose any more. But with the potential of making really serious and fundamental gains in the economy and other things, as Scott & Matt have mentioned, maybe Democrats can buck that trend in 2022.
SCOTT: Injecting my own perspective here, I’m going to split the difference between Matt and Bernard. I think Joe Biden will use unilateral executive power to do stuff that is unquestionably centrist and ends up being inherently compromised.
BERNARD: Is that a fear?
SCOTT: No, I think it just is. I think it’s reality. You talk about the expansion of the unilateral executive under Donald Trump, but I think one of the things we’re going to see if and when Biden tries to use that power, is that it’ll be challenged in the court system, which is owned by the GOP.
BERNARD: The court system is not a good place for Democrats.
SCOTT: It isn’t. But at the same time, it is a very slow and deliberate process to challenge executive power through the courts, as we learned during the Trump administration. So a lot of the things that will be challenged will probably take years to actually play out. So maybe that gets us through the midterms – assuming the executive actions Biden takes are substantial enough to make a difference in people’s lives.