“Mega MAGA trickle-down” Republicans will crash the economy, Joe Biden has said. He told Democrats at a Pennsylvania reception that the congressional GOP was going to cut Social Security and Medicare, they’re going to shut down the government and let America default on its debt.” He has suggested that Republicans will deliberately damage the economy to inflict further losses at the ballot box on Democrats.
But Biden’s focus isn’t just on the economy. He also noted the horrific attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband inside their own home. “You know, it’s reported that the same chant was used by this guy they have in custody that was used on January 6th in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
“Let’s be clear: This election is not a referendum,” Joe Biden said in what has become a common refrain in his speeches. “It’s a choice. A choice between two vastly different visions of America.”
These lines may help drag a few vulnerable Democrats across the finish line on Nov. 8 and they are being uttered in a last-minute push to save the party’s fragile majorities. But they also betray a subtle shift toward battling the incoming Republican congressional majorities with an eye on 2024.
Taken together, the latest Biden messaging is a repeat of the arguments Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made after crushing losses in the midterm elections on their way to comeback reelection victories. Clinton campaigned as a defender of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, contending that Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolutionaries in 1995 attempted to cut Medicare by $270 billion to pay for a $245 billion tax cut. He also blamed Republicans and their allies in then-ascendant conservative talk radio for political extremism, including the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh.
Obama also argued that Republicans were hurting the economy and blocking his legislative agenda because they wanted to make him a one-term president, citing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He said they were going to force the country to default on its debt and had multiple debt ceiling showdowns with GOP lawmakers seeking spending cuts. Both he and Clinton cast Republicans as the party of government shutdowns.
In fact, Obama likened his Republican interlocutors to hostage-takers. It’s rhetoric Biden is already using. “Think about it: Republicans are determined to hold the economy hostage,” he said at a Democratic National Committee event. “Either give in to their demands on Social Security and Medicare, which millions of Americans rely on and earned and paid for, or Republicans are going to crash the economy.”
Biden himself acknowledges that Democrats always say Republicans are going to cut Social Security and Medicare. “And then they’re coming after Social Security,” he said in Syracuse. “Now it sounds like, you know, ‘What’s — there’s Biden. That’s a typical Democrat saying Republicans are after Social Security.” He then cites stray proposals by individual lawmakers and adds, “This is the one thing they’ve said out loud. They’ve written it down on pieces of paper.”
Yes, these are issues for this year’s election. But they will loom even larger in 2024.
Joe Biden won’t publicly concede the midterm elections before the final votes are cast. But make no mistake: he knows what’s coming, and it’s not likely to be a big Democratic win. He will face a Republican majority in at least one house of Congress, perhaps both of them.
At that point, it could be the end of Biden’s presidency or the beginning of a comeback as it was for Clinton or Obama. The attention will immediately shift to the presidential race as soon as control of Congress is decided.
With Joe Biden, who will turn 80 after the midterms, there is less certainty about a reelection bid. Many Democrats do not want him to run again, according to polls, a number that could rise further if the midterms go as poorly now looks likely.
But some Democrat will be the nominee in 2024. And Joe Biden, who has been running for president since 1987, would surely like it to be him.
That’s why his closing argument for the midterm elections sounds awfully like his opening argument for the next presidential race.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, James Antle III is the Washington Examiner’s politics editor. He was previously managing editor of the Daily Caller, associate editor of the American Spectator, and Editor of the American Conservative. He is the author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?