Vice President Kamala Harris spent time yesterday talking to local media outlets in West Virginia and Arizona. It took me a moment to realize the obvious—she was applying local pressure on recalcitrant Democratic senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema! Why did it take me a moment to see what was right in front of me? Because Democratic presidents, at least in my lifetime, never put the screws on their own party!
President Barack Obama certainly didn’t, and it allowed asshat senators like Max Baucus of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to undermine his presidency. President Joe Biden is having none of that, having learned the right lessons, and has dispatched his popular Vice President to make the case (in this case, for COVID relief, which shouldn’t be in the least bit controversial) directly to their constituents.
This isn’t the only place where the Democratic Party looks little like its predecessors, with a 50-seat Senate caucus and a House majority more ideologically cohesive and unified than anything before it. And they ain’t playing games.
Republicans have long gotten big mileage from playing to historical Democratic desperation for “bipartisanship.” Obama made countless concessions on legislation like the Affordable Care Act trying to win Republican support, only to see those Republicans keep moving the goalposts … then providing zero support in the end. The Beltway media loves to sit on the sideline and bleat about Democratic “failures” to reach “consensus.” No one every bothered asking Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about bipartisanship, and certainly not Donald Trump. But Democrats? They’re expected to win elections, then do what Republicans want anyway in the name of “unity” and “bipartisanship.”
But Democrats aren’t playing that game anymore.
Got that? “Bipartisanship” doesn’t mean “surrender to Republican obstructionism, after which they’ll vote ‘no’ anyway.” Rather, it’s “if they want to be part of the process, great! They can vote yes” and presumably, they can have input in the process if they engage in good faith. Otherwise? Democrats will deliver for the American people on an agenda that is wildly population. Pretty simple! And while the COVID relief package is shaping up to be a Democratic-only affair, that doesn’t mean it isn’t unifying and bipartisanship—what matters is the American people, not what a bunch of traitorous nihilistic Republicans in D.C. think.
The DC press is having a sad. “Biden struggles to define his ‘unity’ promise for a divided nation,” sobs The Washington Post headline. Yet in that very same article, Biden says the obvious: “Unity also is trying to get, at a minimum, if you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines, but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity,” Biden said. “It just means it wasn’t bipartisan.” Again, unity isn’t defined Republicans in the Senate and House. That is destined to fail, and anyone who doesn’t realize their hand in nearly destroying American democracy has zero business opining on American politics.
Biden also learned other lessons from his time as Vice President—if you want to get something done, don’t dally in the hopes that Congressional Republicans will try and act in the best interests of the country. They openly worked to undermine the Obama presidency, and they just openly worked to undermine American democracy. They are not credible actors in our American government. So, you find other ways to work around them, and you do so boldly.
Democrats are doing so on two fronts: First of all, Biden is issuing a blitz of executive orders, most of them undoing Trump executive orders. And lo and behold, it’s unifying the American people behind a popular agenda:
Don’t just gloss over that tweet—take a close look at the numbers. That’s what a “unifying” agenda looks like. Not only are those issues popular, but the nation is in crisis, and people are far more open to change than might be the case in normal times.
Meanwhile, Republicans are left with little ground to argue, given that they cheerleader Trump’s near-exclusive use of executive orders to pass whatever it was that masqueraded as his “agenda.” Remember, his single legislative achievement was a massive tax cut for billionaires. Pretty much everything else of note was done through executive order, and Biden isn’t just hard at work undoing that damage, but is going further and faster than most expected.
As a result, we get delicious headlines like this one: “Biden’s Early Climate Blitz Goes Faster, Further Than Expected: In less than a month, the new president has oil executives ‘aghast’ at the swift policy switch.” Trump pioneered the tactic of overwhelming the opposition with a blizzard of action, leaving us sputtering, trying to put out fires on multiple fronts. Payback is fun, isn’t it?
There’s more! Democrats are on the edge of eliminating the filibuster, with only two roadblocks remaining. Yet the biggest one, West Virginia’s Manchin, has suddenly gotten all circumspect on questions about things like COVID relief, saying only that “Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) sidestepped when pressed on whether he’d support that “we’re gonna make Joe Biden successful.” If that’s the standard, that gives him permission to do all sorts of things he once vowed to oppose, like certain bits of legislation, or eliminating the filibuster. We’re not there yet! But the door is open.
And if Democrats want to give themselves some breathing room in the Senate, there is one obvious solution: DC statehood. Even Manchin has left the door open to that one, and there is a solid Constitutional argument that statehood only requires a simple majority vote. You don’t even need to ditch the filibuster to make it happen. We have the votes for it in the House, and it’s moving in the Senate, and Democrats are ignoring Republican kvetching on this, and pretty much everything else.
For two decades we at Daily Kos have been begging Democrats to ignore the media and DC Republicans, and for once, do the “politician” thing, put their fingers in the air, and see which way the wind was blowing. If they did that, we argued (looking at actual data), they could deliver a popular agenda for the American people.
Well, it’s finally happening. And after four years of waking up to a brand new atrocity every single day including weekends, it’s refreshing to wake up to good news and even more good news.