Governing as Democrats, Not Ersatz Independents

A while ago, in the Before Times, some asshole with a blog had a simple request:

Regardless of how the Georgia Senate runoffs play out, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Democrats to ‘reach across the aisle’–especially if Democrats do win the two runoffs. This would be a huge mistake.

I don’t expect Democrats to be leftists–the leftist candidate didn’t win the primary–but the coalition that elected Biden didn’t vote for Republicans. It’s pretty clear, especially when you look downballot, that the NeverTrumpers didn’t deliver.

But Democrats, ranging from Sen. Joe Manchin to Ocasio-Cortez, need to adopt an agenda and stick to it. Obviously, it will be a compromise within the party, but working out the proposals shouldn’t involve Republicans. They didn’t deliver, and most of them supported the authoritarian anyway, so fuck ’em. This time around, don’t ‘pre-compromise.’

I didn’t expect, nor do I expect, Democrats to govern as if they were Bernie Sanders–I would like that, but he didn’t win! But I do expect them to govern as Democrats. Not as bipartisan fetishists or as ‘moderates’ pretending they’re not Democrats–which, of course, is exactly what Senator Joe Manchin, Manic Pixie Dream Senator Sinema, and in the House, Gottheimer and His Merry Band of Assholes are doing (boldface mine):

The important point is that this package is the consensus position, supported by virtually everyone. It is after all the President’s agenda. Literally. And, as much as these labels confound more than they clarify, President Biden isn’t from AOC’s wing of the party.

The reality is that this package is the consensus position supported overwhelmingly, close to universally, among congressional Democrats with the exception of two senators and maybe a dozen members in the House.

…having the President’s whole agenda go down in flames is a good way to make that much more likely. Who goes down in a wave election? Not the folks in safe seats. It’s the “moderates,” the folks from the marginal districts. We know this. But this gets us to a paradox about “moderate” positioning.

If the public decides the Democrats’ agenda is too extreme or if the Democrats decide it’s too extreme and the whole agenda blows up the first to the electoral slaughterhouse are the “moderates.” So spending months telling people the agenda is too extreme or too costly or is driving inflation is pretty counterproductive. It’s a really good way to convince people those things are true. And while there are many factors driving the President’s declining popularity, I guarantee you that is a big factor.

…In the current intra-party debate, very few of the qualms from the “moderates” have been based on policy. It’s been about positioning. They wouldn’t concede that point of course. But the details of the debates themselves tell the story. To the great frustration of the White House, the Manchiner mini-faction hasn’t been willing to put out any counter-proposals. Their explanations of what they oppose or why they oppose it changes almost daily. That’s because it’s not about policy. Manchin and Sinema and Gottheimer are trying to get distance from the party’s proposals in order to define themselves as “moderates.” The explanations change because they’re mostly just rhetorical backfill to explain the need to say no to a bunch of stuff. It’s not about particular policies in most cases, it’s a positioning strategy. Indeed, most of the policies are quite popular. It’s about positioning. It’s about saying no to half the stuff, pretty much whatever the stuff is, because that defines you as a “moderate.”

I think there are several factors at work here. First, Manchin and Sinema are narcissists. In addition, Manchin has adopted the mantle of The Last Good Man in the Senate whose job is to Preserve the Hallowed Traditions of the Senate–which plays right into his narcissism.

Add to that, these two Senators’ and the House Asshole Caucus’ electoral strategy is to raise a ton of money and spend it on television ads: that’s expensive and there are promises to be kept! The inchoate demands stem from a need to deliver for their donors–they don’t want the bill to pass, and if they say explicit what they want, it will blow up in their faces.

After watching Democratic politics for decades, it gets really tiring being told all the time that to pass decent legislation, Democrats need n+x Senate or House members, where n is the current number of Democrats and x is always positive (note that x can vary according to the need of the Democratic apologist making the apology). Even when we do get a partial win, it just always feels so shitty thanks to these assholes. What’s worse is, as Marshall notes, it’s bad politics.

So frustrating.

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1 Response to Governing as Democrats, Not Ersatz Independents

  1. js says:

    And then add to the fact that n + x may be very near impossible due to how the dice are loaded in favor of small Republican states in the Senate. They argue for this but is it even possible?

    It often seems like people are arguing: in order to pass anything we need 70% or 80% of the country to vote for Dems. First off one vote in Wyoming is equivalent to multiples of that in California, and then even if Dems get a majority they don’t govern as if they have one, we need a super-majority, but given how small Republican state votes are already weighted far more than Dem votes … we really need a supermajority of a supermajority.

    Well okay good luck with that. And they wonder why people don’t vote and sensible people talk about taking to the streets as the answer.

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