How Liberal Democrats Can Get What They Want
A couple of moderate Democrats, West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, are blocking a massive spending bill that would transform the welfare system and fuel green energy. The Liberal Democrats, whom the Washington Post recently dubbed their party’s “mainstream”, refuse to vote for a popular infrastructure bill until they get $ 3.5 trillion in additional spending on a progressive priority list. Forget the regular bickering between Republicans and Democrats; the escalation of civil war within the Democratic Party is the political drama of the year.
The Liberals think they finally have the numbers to institute the big government activism they have been offering voters for years: more federal help for child care, health care and family support, more benefits for low-income Americans, expanded rights for parents, and higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy to pay for it. With all Republicans opposed, all Democrats must embrace this one-party platform that every member of their party votes for.
Manchin and Sinema say they won’t, unless the price drops. This infuriates Liberal Democrats, who insist their priorities are “popular, necessary and urgent.” Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the most liberal member of the Senate, recently told the Wall Street Journal that it is “unfair and undemocratic for two people to say it’s my way or the highway.” Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, who heads a group of House progressives, tweeted on October 9, “We don’t have to leave out some of these popular things. We can do it all.
If the Liberal Democrats are so sure voters are firmly in their corner, they have another option but to intimidate Manchin and Sinema: wait until after the 2022 midterm elections, when the popularity of the progressive platform will propel. undoubtedly many more Democrats in Congress. The reason moderates like Manchin and Sinema have a de facto veto over progressive priorities is the slim Democratic majority in both chambers, especially in the Senate. Democrats wouldn’t even control the chamber, except for an epic Republican failure that knocked off both Georgia Senate seats to Democrats earlier this year. If Republicans had only held one of those seats, the entire progressive program would have died in the water.
The progressive premise is that voters will love any new perks to come, voting even more progressives in power, which in turn will allow for an even more progressive government. If that was the case, then Manchin and Sinema would become irrelevant. If Democrats got three Senate seats, they would have enough votes to pass legislation even if Manchin and Sinema and a third moderate, Jon Tester of Montana, voted against. They just need to keep control of the House, and add a few seats to their 4-seat majority, as a safety buffer.
The window closes on the great legislation
The problem, of course, is that Democrats are more likely to lose control of Congress than to increase their majority in 2022. A new president’s party typically loses seats in Congress in the first midterm election. , especially if the president’s approval rating is below 50%, like Biden’s is now. Democrats lost control of Congress in President Obama’s first midterm election, in 2010. Republicans lost Congress in President Trump’s only midterm, in 2018. Voters typically express a sort of buyer’s remorse during the mid-terms and regain some political weight to the president. There is no reason to think 2022 will be an exception. “The smart money, at this point, stays with the president’s party losing control of Congress next year,” predicts data site fivethirtyeight.
This exposes a logical disconnect in progressives’ demand for moderate Democrats to lean in and embrace their platform. If progressives are so sure voters will like a big new spending plan, they could use it as an argument for voters ahead of next year’s midterms. When voters say “Damn yeah!” and broaden congressional majorities, progressives might be able to fit even more into their spending plan. Elector’s mandate, and all.
This is not what they do. What happens instead is a battle to save as much of the progressive agenda as possible, given that it will inevitably have to shrink and might not even pass. Democrats recognize that the window is closing on their chance to pass big legislation, as the opportunity has passed next year. That’s because the momentum that carries a new president to power usually wanes within a year, and after that, with a middle ground looming, Congress accomplishes little. As for the likely outcome of the 2022 midterms, Progressives are so furious that Manchin and Sinema stand in their way now precisely because they know they could be back on the sidelines in 2023.
Voters, for their part, are in favor of increased government support for family obligations, health care and housing. And they don’t mind if taxes go up on the rich. But they are also wary of growing government handouts and are receptive to the Republican accusation of “socialist spending frenzy.” If voters really wanted a progressive revolution, they would have elected Bernie Sanders president, rather than Joe Biden. Still, Biden and his pragmatic call crushed Sanders in the Democratic primary.
If Manchin gets his way and the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill drops to $ 2000 billion or less, progressives will complain about how he sabotaged a once-in-a-lifetime blah blah blah opportunity. But if voters like the $ 2 trillion, they’ll send more Democrats to both chambers next year, and progressives will have another shot at revolution in 2023. That’s what voters want, isn’t isn’t it?
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Go From Failure To Success.»Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. You can also send confidential advice, and click here to receive Rick’s stories by email.
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