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VICTOR JOECKS: How a Biden presidency threatens political institutions and norms

The biggest falsehood of the 2020 campaign is that Joe Biden is the great protector of American political institutions.

Biden has built his presidential campaign around this theme. “The job of a president,” Biden said during his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech, is “to represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment.”

Previewing the Biden campaign in 2019, Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, summed it up like this, “Joe Biden’s promise: A return to normalcy.”

For the past 18 months, Biden has been promising to make politics boring again. Politically, it was an ingenious pitch. A key segment of voters is tired of the drama Trump creates by constantly making himself the center of attention. With Trump’s eager assistance, Biden made this election a referendum on the president, whose approval ratings are consistently below 50 percent.

“Sleepy Joe” wasn’t a devastating putdown, but a vague reassurance that a Biden presidency would be uneventful and inconsequential.

Don’t be fooled. A Biden presidency threatens to fundamentally change the very institutions he, Democrats and the national mainstream media claim to care so much about.

Start with court packing. For more than 150 years, there have been nine justices on the Supreme Court. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to expand the court after the Supreme Court ruled against parts of his New Deal agenda. Even congressional Democrats opposed the plan.

The reason is obvious. If the party in power expands the number of justices, the Supreme Court will potentially turn into an organ of that political party. It would be an independent branch of government in name only.

Yet, Biden won’t reject the idea. First, he wouldn’t answer the question because he didn’t want people to talk about his opinion. Imagine the media’s response if a Republican tried that excuse. Then he punted, saying he would appoint a commission to study judicial reforms. Vote for Biden so other people can tell him what to do. Inspiring stuff.

This isn’t the only radical change to American government that Biden is flirting with. He’s expressed a willingness to eliminate the Senate filibuster. The filibuster gives the minority party great leverage to stop legislation because it requires 60 senators to allow bills to move forward. It’s been a part of the Senate for more than 200 years, although there have been changes over time.

There are currently 50 states. But that might increase if Biden gets elected. He supports statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. not out of principle, of course, but because the addition would likely give Democrats four new seats in the Senate, which could cement their control of that body for years to come.

For years, the mainstream media and Democrats, but I repeat myself, have portrayed Trump as little more than a wannabe dictator. If that had been an accurate critique, Trump would have used the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and exercise unprecedented authority. Just look at what King Steve Sisolak did here in Nevada. But Trump restrained himself and respected federalism. He didn’t impose a national response plan. He left that up to governors.

Biden, on the other hand, has said he may embrace a national lockdown and would institute a national mask mandate. That’s despite previously acknowledging that he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to order people to wear masks.

There is a candidate on the ballot whose policy preferences threaten U.S. political institutions and long-standing norms. But that candidate is Joe Biden, not Donald Trump.

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com

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