Biden Should Quit: What if President Biden signed the important infrastructure bill that just passed… and then not much happens in the next 12 months? No more “better” legislation, democratic power struggles over social spending, no more giving in to Joe Manchin?
If Biden’s only focus were to regain popularity and give his party a fighting chance in next year’s midterm elections, he could simply abandon the huge green energy and welfare bill that Democrats are still trying to pass, which could cost up to $2 trillion. This tax and spending package highlights a large gap between Liberal Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the rest of the progressive wing of the party, and moderates like Manchin, the ubiquitous West Virginia senator. The divisions run so deep that Democrats may not be able to find a working majority to pass the bill, even if they have a small majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on paper.
The infrastructure law is popular, with 66% support — and 57% support among Republicans — in a recent Harris poll. Social law is not that popular. In Harris’s poll, 58% said they were against it, while only 42% say they support it. Democrats are going crazy for new policies that do not have an electoral mandate and could be counterproductive if Democrats actually manage to pass them.
What do you think? Part of that is certain arrogance as if Biden’s victory in 2020 was much more than a rejection of Donald Trump’s corrupt presidency. Democrats seem to think voters will love more federal benefits and a bigger role the government plays in the economy if they only have a chance to prove it. But this attitude, which we know best, is dangerous. Biden’s approval rating has recently dropped, although generous new benefits are coming to people’s bank accounts, such as the expanded congress on children’s tax credits passed in March. Democrats also don’t seem to notice a similar mistake Republicans made in 2017 when they thought Trump’s tax cut bill would excite voters indefinitely. Instead, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections 11 months later.
Some Democrats may also feel a moral obligation to pass laws that they believe would benefit millions of Americans, regardless of political costs. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), who leads a group of progressive Democrats, recently said that it would be worth losing control of Congress “if we improve people’s lives.” However, the mistake in this logic is that the Democrats would remit control to an opposition party that could reverse its virtuous policies. Wouldn’t a more moderate policy be better to keep the Democrats in power?
If Biden had withdrawn from the “best dismantling” legislation that the Democrats wanted to say goodbye by the end of the year, he couldn’t just say I’m throwing in the towel. The way to do that would be to go back to your original plan and take on Democrats on both ends of the spectrum who transfigure the legislation for whatever reason. Biden would be making enemies, but if it looked like he was going against liberals trying to kidnap the party, he would help him with moderate and independent voters who appeared to flee the Democratic Party in a handful of elections outside the year in early November.
Confronting liberals would mean cutting many of the social provisions of BBB legislation simply because they are the least popular. Democrats are losing the news battle with programs like the extended child tax credit, free community college, and state-paid family leave. These ideas have virtue, but they also contribute to the narrative of the nanny state with which the Republicans paved the Democrats. Universal preschool may be a more supportive priority, but Biden and others would need to explain how it would help a wide range of working families and convince voters that it is not “socialism.”
Biden’s green energy policy is also sensible, but the problem here is that voters are starting to associate it with rising gas and heating prices for home heating systems. The case for urgent action to combat global warming is strong, but political will is not. Republicans are blaming rising gas prices on Biden’s energy agenda, which is dubious but still poses a political risk to Biden.
There are also some inconsistencies in BBB legislation that make Democrats look self-beneficial and false, and that could harm the party if passed. Biden had a simple plan to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and raise the highest tax rate from 37% to 39.6%. However, Democrats have eliminated this type of tax increase in favor of a new “multi-billion dollar tax” plus a “minimum accounting tax” on some companies’ excess income. There is not enough support for simple tax increases that everyone understands, so Democrats are creating difficult niche taxes that they hope will be so tight that ordinary voters simply don’t realize it.
Worse, Democrats are so focused on reversing the cap on state and local tax deductions in the Trump Tax Cuts Act of 2017 that they seem to intend to change that in BBB legislation. In reality, that would mean a significant tax cut for predominantly wealthy people, in a bill that aims to fund social spending for workers and the middle class with higher taxes on top executives. If voters impale Democrats for this kind of hypocrisy, the Democrats deserve it.
Biden is not likely to withdraw from BBB legislation, even though he has already achieved two legislative victories in March, the American Rescue Plan Congress and the Infrastructure Act in November. It’s a pretty good record, but some Democrats, and maybe Biden themselves, think that Americans want them to do much more. They don’t, but Democrats may not find out the hard way until next November.