On three important issues recently in the news, Vice President Biden is sounding a lot like Donald Trump.
The hottest one is the violent protests or riots triggered by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police. The politically correct message on the left has been to condemn police brutality while ignoring the violent looting of some of the protesters.
In statement issued on May 31, however, Biden denounced the rioting and property damage.
"Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not," Biden said.
Biden warned that such rioting would be counterproductive. "The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance," he said.
It was an echo of Trump, who, the day before, had said, "My administration will always stand against violence, mayhem, and disorder.” Trump had also warned that the rioters "are harming businesses (especially African American small businesses)."
A second issue where Biden and Trump are sounding similar is defending Hong Kong against Communist China. On this one, Biden is accentuating the differences, trying to portray himself as being even tougher against China that Trump has been.
A May 27 statement from the Biden campaign’s senior foreign policy adviser, Antony Blinken, praised Secretary of State Pompeo but faulted Trump for being too soft on China. “President Trump has talked tough on China, but he has failed to take any meaningful stand against the Chinese government — look no further than his continuous praise of Xi Jinping's 'transparency' during the outbreak that he claimed China was handling ‘really well,'" the Blinken-Biden statement said.
The Blinken-Biden statement said, "President Trump has enabled Xi Jinping’s sense of impunity when it comes to stifling freedom."
While Biden tries to portray himself as a China hawk, what voters will hear will probably be some version of the reality, which is that both Biden and Trump are troubled by China’s actions both on the coronavirus and in Hong Kong, but that both are also constrained in dealing with Beijing by the fact that, at least for now, China manufactures a lot of goods that America needs.
The third issue is Amazon.
The online retailer and web-services giant, led by owner of The Washinton Post, Jeff Bezos, was the target of a May 22 Biden tweet, "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No company pulling in billions of dollars in profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. It's time for Amazon to pay its fair share."
Amazon’s public policy Twitter account pushed back, "We pay every cent owed. You spent 3 decades in the Senate & know that Congress wrote these tax laws to encourage companies to invest in the US economy. We have. 500k jobs w/ a min wage of $15/hr across 40 states. Assume your complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon."
This, too was an echo of Trump, who has feuded with Bezos about what Trump calls the "Amazon Washington Post" and the rates charged by the U.S. Postal Service for Amazon deliveries. "Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!" Trump tweeted in March 2018.
My point here is not to minimize the differences between Trump and Biden or between the policies of a second-term Trump administration and a first-term Biden presidency.
The conventional wisdom is that whatever Biden says and does between now and the election won’t matter much, because the re-election is essentially a referendum on the incumbent.
There’s a lot of truth in that.
Biden’s recent statements, though, suggest he believes he can position himself to make it easier to get some significant number of those who voted Obama-Biden in 2012 and Trump-Pence in 2016 to switch back to Biden in 2020.
Trump needs to hold onto those voters, who live in places like Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
These voters don’t like looting, they don’t like Communist China, and they aren’t huge fans of giant tech companies that appear to have low corporate tax rates, either (though they may be satisfied customers).
If Biden’s goal is to win back over voters who backed Trump in 2016, running against Xi Jinping, Jeff Bezos, and urban rioters is pretty smart politics. If Biden can manage to convince those voters he’ll be tougher on those three than Trump, Biden will probably win.
But that’s a big "if."
Ira Stoll is author of "JFK, Conservative," and "Samuel Adams: A Life." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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