No matter whom you voted for in 2016, it was clear which presidential candidate represented the greater risk for the average voter.
Whether you liked Hillary Clinton or not, she was undeniably the “safer” choice based on her experience in the White House and Senate and as Secretary of State. You knew — almost exactly — what you would be getting with the first female president in American history.
Donald Trump? Not so much. Okay, that’s an understatement. A big one. Sure, he had all manner of huge, uniquely ambitious plans to overturn the political establishment and permanent bureaucracy increasingly reviled by the American people. He delivered an unbroken string of explosively controversial statements, any one of which would have ended the career of a typical politician. He had never even run for office before and was trying to become the leader of the Free World, for heaven’s sake. We had no idea if he could really pull off his Swamp-draining agenda, or how hard he would really try. There was much talk of the Trump candidacy being little more than a publicity stunt, that he was seeking a job he would never get, and even if he somehow did, he would lose interest after a while.
Fast forward to 2020, and who represents the bigger risk this time around? The great irony is that the man who has impaled the entrenched, encrusted establishment may well be viewed as the safer choice, while his opponent, who represents a return to D.C.-style normalcy, may for good reason be viewed as the greater risk.
Since Trump turned things on their head starting four years ago, we all now know what we can expect in a second term: a continuing agenda of job growth, economic expansion, deregulation, the border wall, constitutionally based judges, and, yes, law and order.
In stark contrast, Joe Biden made clear in the words of his acceptance speech at the DNC Convention, and throughout his lengthy political career, that he is actually at odds with his own party. He called for a return to “decency” as Democrat mayors across the nation allow spectacularly indecent behavior to continue almost unabated. He called for unity, when his progressive base wants none of it — the dialogue is over. He declared that he would be an “American president” for all the people, while his party is increasingly overrun by those who judge solely on the basis of skin color and seek to dismantle the entire structure of a “systemically racist” nation. He spoke of light and love, as his party unleashed a torrent of darkness and hate on the person of Trump. All this, as Biden and his party sit silent while gangs of savages burn down cities with little resistance from ruling Democrats and now expand their reign of terror from riot-torn cities to the peaceful suburbs.
Given the dualism of today’s Democratic Party, a historically moderate candidate fronting a party increasingly in thrall to the hard left, do we really have any idea what the former vice president would do if he takes a seat in the Oval Office?
What could Biden, a lifelong legislator, do or try to combat COVID-19 — other than a national mask mandate — that Trump the CEO president has not done or tried? Biden claims he would be tough on China but has been an apologist for the Chinese throughout most of his 47-year career. He obviously plans to raise taxes, but how much, once he feels the heat from his left? And, yes, given his limited capacity as demonstrated by a white-calendar week while Trump and the GOP present a soaring, pro-American convention, what are the chances he could even make it through a full four years? Will people really be voting for Biden for president or Kamala Harris?
Biden promises a return to normalcy, when normal on the left has become the insurrection in our streets we’ve been forced to witness — despite an elite media blackout — for lo these many weeks. To what version of normal would we be returning? The days of Obama? Not likely, as the Democrats have obviously moved on from the first black president, finding him insufficiently radical for the times. And Obama in turn has shown little interest in assuming an active role in the party.
One of the things we’ll certainly find out is whether Trump was elected president only because Hillary Clinton was such a poor candidate, as many Democrats privately claim. And one look at their radical 2020 agenda provides not a hint of belief in the ranks that they were rejected on substance four years ago. And while Biden’s personality does not present the same dilemma for voters as Hillary’s, his mental acuity is seriously in doubt, and his agenda is far to the left of Obama and the Clintons in elections stretching back 28 years, and far to the left of any set of policy positions he has held personally during his lifetime in Washington.
Biden is calling for America to go back to the future, to return to the halcyon days when he and Obama ruled the land. But he is trying to sell a return to civility while civil unrest tolerated, if not embraced, by his own party courses through the land like a pandemic of its own.
The sweep of history demonstrates that Americans are not terribly risk-averse when it comes to untested candidates seeking the highest office. Skeptics declared that John F. Kennedy could not win because he was Catholic, Obama because he was black, Clinton because he was tarred as a womanizer and draft dodger, Reagan because he was depicted as a dangerous warmonger. They were all elected — and re-elected (counting LBJ’s election in 1964 as a replacement for the martyred JFK).
The big difference this year is that the candidate who’s been in plain sight for almost half a century in Washington, and served as a senator and vice president, might well represent a far greater risk in this most improbable year than the candidate who just four years ago was the very definition of the word risky.
Read more from Tim Donner.