Are Democrats better at complaining about those in charge than actually being in charge?
“Biden’s only been in office for a couple of weeks,” his defenders and supporters of the Democratic Party have been known to say over the past several days, or words to that effect.
The implication is that Biden and his team need to be given some time, they need to be given a chance, in other words, to get the important things accomplished that a record number of voters cast ballots for them to get accomplished.
Things like pandemic relief that really helps real people, and making quality healthcare something that more than just the wealthy and fortunate have reasonable and feasible access to. And raising this nation’s criminally low minimum wage. Things like meaningfully addressing climate change. Things like putting more Americans back to work. Things like investing in our ailing infrastructure. And getting rid of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that multinational corporations are just people like you and me.
But this is why columns like this are written only a few short weeks after a Democratic administration comes into power. It’s because the initiatives mentioned over the past couple of paragraphs either aren’t a top priority – to be fair, pandemic relief is clearly a Biden and Democratic priority, even the components of the relief package that Democrats appear to be willing to debate Republicans over only further cements the Dems as the party of the perpetually wishy-washy – or they get shoved to the side in favor of issues that are not only distracting and divisive, they’re far less important. (Until the pandemic finally passes, can we please put a moratorium on arguing over team mascots or who schools are named after or who deserves a statue?)
If Democrats when they’re holding the keys would only stick to the things that a strong majority of Americans support, they’d be on easy street. But they repeatedly show us that they seem to be incapable of such common-sense focus, which is why, in the wake of the 2022 midterm election, Democrats from the White House to Congress will in all likelihood be back to doing what they do better than anything else: Complaining about Republicans when voters give control of the Senate and House back to the GOP.
Vice President Kamala Harris, as leader of the Senate, cast her first tie-breaking vote in that chamber last week, after 50 Democrats voted in favor of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and 50 Republicans voted against it. Even with her mask on, you could tell that Harris couldn’t suppress at least a quick smile as she cast the vote, and why not? It was a big moment for the Biden administration, and it was a big moment to watch our nation’s first female vice president be in a position to take an action carrying such tremendous significance.
There seemed to be a feeling in the air, post Nov. 3 and leading up to the two critical Georgia senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, that Harris will find herself in that same position many more times to come, but are we sure about that? While the Republicans reliably in lockstep will be counted on to always vote party before country – stray for even a moment and you’ll get “primaried,” i.e. your Trumpist party leaders will scrape up a far right fringe candidate to bury you even before the general election – how often do you think 50 Democratic senators are going to stick together? How often do you think tepid Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin, of ironclad Republican West Virginia, is going to overcome his fears of enraging voters in his crimson red state and cast votes in favor of Democratic interests that he supposedly represents?
So here we are, with the honeymoon period following that stack of executive orders signed by Biden fading into the background, realizing, once again, just how fearful Democrats are of leading. Biden himself seems to be pressing at least most of the right buttons so far, but Congress, with both chambers controlled by his party, promises to somehow, yet again, steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
Biden has called for “unity” in numerous speeches since the election. The general assumption was that he was referring to our divided nation in general, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress reaching across the aisle like they did every now and then from generations past when Americans especially needed their leaders to do important work on their behalf.
But it’s the Republicans that are unified – even if what we’re currently witnessing bears little resemblance to more traditional Republican behavior we grew up with – and it’s his own party that Biden should be looking to when he sees a unity problem.