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Opinion |  What Bidenism owes to Trumpism

Because he’s a Democrat, there is no anti-tax promise to be wrong, so he can do all of this while explicitly promising to raise taxes for the rich. But he’s also ditched the deficit anxieties of the old Democratic administrations, he has a full-employment Federal Reserve behind him, and following Trump’s lead, he’s just going to run deficits until inflation finally bites.

You can tell these moves are well suited to the political moment because Republicans don’t know how to counter them. They’re stuck in between, unable to fully revert to their pre-Trump positioning as deficit hawks (who would believe them more?) And don’t know how to counter Biden when he just seems to be keeping Trump’s promises.

So you get Republican attacks on the infrastructure proposal for including too much non-infrastructure spending or Conservative attacks on family benefits to undermine incentives to work. These are detail-oriented, and sometimes reasonable, critiques – but they do give Biden’s general view a lot of ground instead of creating a sharp ideological contrast.

Are there limits to this approach to keeping Trump’s promises? The immediate thing is in immigration policy, where Biden’s coalition will not allow him to co-opt Trump’s warmongering or even revert to Obama-era policies. It is therefore the Biden White House that is caught between the approaches, trying to offer both a humanitarian welcome and sufficient security at the borders to keep the flow of migrants manageable.

Biden’s bet seems to be that you can have a version of economic nationalism without its usual anti-immigration component – that protectionism through tariffs and industrial policy can go hand in hand with a looser immigration policy. If unemployment rates are low enough, that might be fair. But plausible liberal nationalism still probably requires a sense of grassroots order and border stability, which Biden’s team has missed for now.

Then the longer term problem with Bidenism as Trumpism 2.0 is that, as the Democratic Party increasingly represents the winners of globalization, from the wealthy suburbs to the elites of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, a policy that forces these interests to sacrifice themselves in the name of redistribution will eventually create cracks within his coalition.

Yes, Biden can probably get a small corporate tax hike and a higher tax rate on the highest earners. But his party’s eagerness to restore the state and the local tax breaks that Trump has curbed tells you something important about the place of power in liberal politics and the Democrats’ lack of appetite for tax increases. taxes that really bite the upper middle class.

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