Ladies and Gentlemen: the Next President of the United States
It might not be who you think it will be
As a sovereign voter, I cast my lot with Joe Biden in the 2020 election. I did so thinking I was voting for the 21st century version of Gerald Ford, someone who would calm the waters, turn down the volume and, most important, get the basics right. I fully expected Biden to preside over a “Pothole Presidency” (which I wrote about here), that would be grounded in common sense and competency.
We deserved it. While the preceding four years had seen some significant successes emanating from the White House — a stronger border, more competitive corporate taxes, record low unemployment, energy independence, among others — it was all overshadowed by four years of cultural and political chaos. Where we should have had leadership, we had bickering. Some of it was understandable. The Russia conspiracy hoax perpetrated by Adam Schiff and complicit media had its intended effect, turning Trump into a character resembling Capt. Queeg on the USS Caine. But true leadership requires patience, strength and rectitude. We had none of that. Thus, the outcome of the 2020 election.
It was an energetic election with record turnout and Biden won decisively and fairly, despite what you might hear otherwise. But he won not because he was Joe Biden (after all, he ran for president in 1988 and 2008 and lost both times), but because he wasn’t Trump. As Brit Hume tweeted last week: “I don’t believe Joe Biden got those 81 million votes. I believe Donald Trump got him all those votes. Without voters determined to oust Trump, Biden would not have gotten nearly that number.”
But then something happened. Biden mistook a turning-away for a coming-to. After years of being the butt of late-night talk show jokes and a Senate career distinguished by longevity more than anything else, his first reaction was similar to Sally Fields at the Oscars.
And then as he assembled his administration, you can be sure that his team began using words like “mandate” and “generational opportunity” and “historical.” And of course, the big one, “meeting the moment.” I think the turning point came when Biden invited a group of historians into the White House to discuss his emerging presidency and people like Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin suggested he had the opportunity to become an FDR (New Deal) or LBJ (Great Society). He started leaning way over the tips of his skis and stayed there.
Here’s the thing, as Biden likes to say: we are a centrist country. In fact, according to Gallup, 44 percent of Americans identify as Independents, with much smaller percentages of Democrats and Republicans flanking them on either side.
Independents, by and large, tend to be pragmatic and incremental, rooted in American tradition but enthusiastic about innovation and progress. And Independents, by and large, enabled Biden’s victory. But the common sense and competency that Independents thought they would be getting in a Biden presidency are in short supply. As a friend recently texted, “I was thinking about Biden’s approval rating this morning. I’m surprised it’s not even lower. If there was ever a case of ‘not dancin’ with the one who brung ya,’ Biden may be the poster child.”
Here are two charts that should be pasted on the white boards in the White House Situation Room.
The simple inference from these charts is clear. Independents don’t like where Biden is taking the country, nor do Latinos. And the reason why Latinos matter almost as much as Independents in this political equation is because they are, to a great extent, the demographic future of this country. As of 2020, Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population; but more important, Latinos were responsible for 50 percent of the growth in the U.S. population over the last 10 years. Follow that trajectory and see where it leads you. Demographics are destiny.
Based on these two charts, and my take on the zeitgeist, here’s what the next President of the U.S. should look like: Independent (or close to center), Latino or Latina (sorry, no Latinx here), young, pragmatic, and focused on making the important things work well — education, free markets, secure borders and communities, the energy transition and a rising quality of life.
These things are not “transformational” (well maybe the energy transition is, but it’s necessary and well underway) — they’re basic. In a little more detail, the next President’s agenda might look something like this:
Actively support and advocate for well-funded, professional police departments across the country
Support innovation and competition in public education
Build a border wall with a big, welcoming front door (and do not extend the rights of citizenship to people who entered this country illegally)
Reward work and risk-taking
Decarbonize the economy as quickly as possible by incenting the power of private markets, not by regulatory fiat
Insist that every American be treated with dignity, respect and equality and be given the opportunity to succeed on their own merits
The next President would spend four years focused on these six domestic objectives, knowing that if you try to achieve too much, you usually wind up achieving nothing.
The next President of the U.S. will appeal to every American’s innate sense of freedom and personal responsibility, not the creation of a new welfare state.
They will remind us of the best parts of our heritage — hard work, risk-taking, and benevolence — and not demonize America for its historical failures.
They will set a big table to which everyone is welcome. And they will do so selflessly, with no thought of legacy, reputation or “meeting the moment.”
They will do so because they love this country, not just for what it has accomplished, but for what it has yet to accomplish.