Sunday, March 14, 2021

Biden's Strategy and Singular Opportunity


A friend of mine wrote and asked me: Why didn't Biden on day 1 of his presidency do the following two things?  (1) Fire every one of Trump's appointees and replace them with as many Trump "firees" who were still healthy and willing to serve again.  (2) Fire the entire USPS Board of Directors and replace them with new members who would fire DeJoy and replace him with someone who knows and cares about the USPS.

These actions would have taken no real time or energy, just lists made by aides and letters signed by Biden.  So, WTF happened?"

Here's what I answered:

I think Biden is very smart and experienced, and I think he's doing an A+ job.  One thing he wants to do with the public is to focus attention on the good he is doing for the American people.  They don't want to see political fights, they want to see the government doing good for them.  So #1 is COVID.  This is also why he has the pros doing the COVID briefing with him offstage -- it's the business of the people.  And it's working.

But behind the scenes I think he is doing what you are calling for.  Remember, he got all the US attorney resignations - just didn't make a big deal about it.  He did appoint new commissioners of the post office to the open spots, and they will be moving on the post office in a quiet way; we'll see how long Louis lasts.  Meanwhile, in the rest of government, I'm sure what is going on is a careful reshaping of the personnel, sometimes hiring back, sometimes hiring new.  An old saying is, personnel is policy.

He doesn't want to pick fights for the sake of picking fights.  He embarrasses no one.  This relief bill is extremely impressive.  That's what he'll want to emphasize, no distractions.  Wait until people see the money in their bank accounts; wait until the other good things appear. Wait until there are more vaccines available than people, and it's all well-organized.

My view is that with this relief bill he just scored 14 points in the first half of the first quarter.  Now he wants to keep the opponents on their heels.  He needs to keep scoring before they get themselves together and counterattack.  He should want to keep scoring so the game is won early and then accelerate into the midterms.  That's a really big challenge, because the odds are against the incumbent and against the Democrats.  If he could actually not just break even and keep his majorities, which would be a really big win, but even build on them and improve, the Republicans would be so on the defensive that they could even de-Trumpify and need to completely reorganize. 

Remember, we've been in a conservative era for 50 years, few new programs of support for people, neoliberal reliance on the market, huge gains for the rich and the worst imbalance of wealth since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.  It's possible that we are now in the first acceleration to the upside of a new era just starting.  In stock market terms, we could be in a V-shaped recovery, Trump being the last severe thrust down, and Biden the countermovement to the upside.  They say that bull market movements have to climb a wall of worry.  What's the worry right now?  The filibuster - how can we get past that?  Maybe a very limited exception for the voting bill, which is essential; maybe that would work.  But if we do get past that, I would say it would be an indication that there is much more upside, and actually increasing the majorities in the midterms would be a huge buying opportunity.

Just stay healthy, Joe.  All the pieces are in place, the team is playing together, the opposition is disorganized.  Just stay healthy.

Budd Shenkin

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