No matter who wins, 2021 may not bring smoother government

By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist
President Donald Trump speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention on Monday.  Pool Photo by David T. Foster III/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention on Monday.  Pool Photo by David T. Foster III/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- With the Democratic nominating convention over and Republicans having two days left, barring some extraordinary event, either incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence or challengers Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris will be the nation's next president and vice president.

Thus, it is not too early to consider how the next administration will cope with the tectonic disruptions caused by COVID-19, the economic meltdown, a deeply divided nation and a panoply of international challenges, crises and problems.


While the state of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy likely will require the next administration's full attention, the composition of the new Congress will not be far behind. And a hotly contested election in which mail-in voting will play a very significant role could become a political nuclear time bomb, especially if neither side concedes or determination of the winner drags on into the new year.


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Moments from the virtual Democratic National Convention

Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the Democratic Party's nomination for president Thursday on the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The nomination follows a 50-year career in politics for Biden. UPI Photo | License Photo

Democrats seem united over a single priority: Dump Trump. For Democrats, it is essential that the next president must be Biden. Should that occur, do not assume for a moment that the Democratic Party will remain unified once Biden assumes office. The (far) left Sanders-AOC wing will demand their 40 pieces of silver in return for supporting the Biden-Harris ticket. That means a Green New Deal, Medicare for all, free community college, defunding police and a wide range of progressive social programs paid for by taxing the wealthiest Americans and requiring corporations to "pay their fair share."

The president's current policies are the party. Keep tax cuts and ignore debt; obliterate regulations and rules constraining business, particularly in the energy sector; mandate law and order to stop violence such as in Portland, Ore., and Chicago; win the trade wars with China; continue America First policies to end "endless wars" but erode Washington's global leadership and influence; and push executive power to and even beyond constitutional limits.

Moments from the Republican National Convention

Fireworks explode over the Washington Monument after President Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech for the GOP nomination for his re-election on the final night of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Should Democrats win both Houses of Congress and Trump wins, expect a second impeachment, this time with articles that specify illegality and acts of actual law breaking. While the two-thirds vote to convict still would be unlikely, a Senate trial would be far more devastating to the president. Further, confirmations would become more difficult, especially for judges. A Supreme Court vacancy would favor Trump since, given age, it is likely to be a Democratic appointee. That would mean a 5-3 split in favor of Republicans; hence no incentive for Trump to forward a nomination.


Executive orders and actions would accumulate like snowflakes in a blizzard. "Acting" appointments would fill many government posts otherwise requiring confirmation. Presidential vetoes of Democratic legislation, termed "radical" or "socialist" by the White House would become commonplace. The federal government could be in paralysis.

Even with a Biden victory, Democratic control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would not mean smoother government. Unless the Senate filibuster rule requiring a "super-majority" or 60 votes was ended, a Republican minority could still block legislative action. Progressives will be forcing the party further left, a condition that many Americans will not support.

Should the Senate remain Republican and the House Democratic, a President Trump would double down on current policies, trying to isolate the House. A second impeachment is not out of the question. Politics will become sharper as any sense of Democratic unity will disappear.

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A divided Congress would force a President Biden to act as a bridge builder, as he did in the Senate. That will anger many Democrats on the Hill who have little patience to forgive or forget what are believed to be Republican transgressions. If the election is a Biden landslide, the GOP will be soul searching and the TOP -- Trump's Own Party -- could be consigned to the rubbish dump of history. Under those conditions, Republicans may be forced to reach an accommodation with Biden. Ironically, progressives could find reconciliation unpalatable and a Democratic rump party could emerge.


Is there a more optimistic scenario? With less than 11 weeks until the Nov. 3 election day, anything could happen. A cure for COVID-19 could be found. The disease could dissipate. Or, as in 1918-20, the pandemic could intensify with a vengeance in cold weather. Congress could fail to pass another relief act that would immediately anger the tens or hundreds of millions of affected Americans.

Neither convention explored these scenarios beyond making dystopian predictions if the "other side" wins. The tragedy for the United States is that the only reality emerging from the conventions was these dire forecasts. It is now up to both candidates to explain how they will reverse these grim pictures. But will they -- or can they?Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist, a senior advise at the Atlantic Council and author of the upcoming book, "The Fifth Horseman: To Be Feared, Friended or Fought in a MAD-Driven Age."

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