Biden’s Quest for Moderation at the Expense of a Truly Progressive Agenda
Joe Biden is running for president as the dealmaker, the adult in the room, the man who knows how to get things done. Joe Biden is calling for a restoration of “normalcy”. Biden says that Republican’s will have an “epiphany” once Trump is out of office, and they will want to work with the Democrats again. I guess that means, Republicans will be willing to compromise once Trump is out of office.
During his tenure as vice president, Biden made numerous deals with an unwilling Republican contingent in the Senate and in the House, all at the expense of progressive agendas. And he still could not get a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Biden is a free trader and has supported NAFTA, TPP and allowing China to join the WTO. Yes, he did work with a few Republicans to get the Affordable Care Act passed, but he was also in the same administration that used a custom list of nominees from Citibank to line the cabinet with business-friendly leaders. How does that distinguish him from the business-friendly Trump administration?
While Joe Biden was in office as the Vice President, Republicans were busy doing all of the obstruction they could. In other words, he had to compromise with people who were not really willing to compromise. Many of them were determined to do anything and everything possible to make sure that Obama failed. They wanted Obama to be a one-term president, and the word, “compromise” was not in their lexicon. He was dealing with people who could be described as follows:
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” ― Senator Barry Goldwater (1953–1965, 1969–1987)
These people Goldwater refers to are easily identified in the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee. Many of them have ties to the Tea Party faction that rose to power in 2010. In the Senate, there is the Senate Republican Steering Committee, performing a few of the same functions as the House committees mentioned earlier. All are staunch advocates of religious freedom, but they are not defenders of freedom from religion.
As we have seen in the last two years, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has held an iron grip on what is allowed to even see the floor of the Senate for a vote. McConnell has worked hard to protect the president from any possibility of a veto that might compromise his position with his base of support. At the same time, McConnell is perfectly open to votes that would compromise Democrats in purple or red states where they may be subject to challenge in the next election.
There is an unmistakable resolve exhibited by Republicans in both houses to support the president, even if they disagree with him. We’re seeing that now with Trump’s trade war with China. Many Midwestern states are being hit hard by the trade war and their farmers are suffering. Republican Senators and Congresspeople in the Midwest know that their constituents are suffering, but they are silent. They fear reprisal from Trump.
Biden has made “working with Republicans” a central plank of his campaign for president. This is a given for any Democrat. We know we’re going to have to work with Republicans in Congress to get anything done. But Republicans are not interested in compromise. They are not interested in giving even an inch to Democrats. There is only one direction for such compromise and that is to the right.
Biden was first elected to Congress in 1972. Biden was one of the “Third Way” Democrats in the 1990s when Clinton was president. He knows how things work in Congress. For someone with as much experience as him, it would seem reasonable that he would do what he could to protect liberal and progressive agendas. But he has not. He is still looking for the Third Way.
The Third Way, simply put is centrism. But if you’re already negotiation from the center with an opposition that is far to your right, the only direction you’re likely to go is to the right.
Biden is already talking compromise. Rather than adopt single-payer health care, or Medicare For All, Biden already talking about a public option that runs alongside a deeply corrupted health insurance industry. Every study that has been done on the public option shows that a public option will attract the sickest of us and will quickly grow in cost due to cherrypicking by the private health care industry. Perhaps Biden doesn’t seem to mind subsidizing the private health care industry that way.
Biden is already talking about finding the middle ground on the Green New Deal, too. One day, climate change is an existential threat. The next day, “we need to find the middle ground.” Just how do you find a middle ground in response to an existential threat? Can you go too far in response to such a threat?
Now consider what we have in the Senate. A majority leader who constipates Congress. A majority leader who won’t let any progressive bills reach the floor at all. A majority leader who is busy packing the federal court system as a bulwark against future encroachment of a truly progressive agenda. Mitch McConnell calls himself the Grim Reaper.
If Biden wants to compromise there is only one side that will compromise, there is only one direction that compromise will go. There is no reason to expect those on the right to compromise. There is only one direction that we can expect any compromise to go, and that is to the right.
Biden did say that Republicans in Congress will have an epiphany once Trump is out of office. What? You mean Republicans might have independent thought and actually speak those thoughts once Trump is out of office? I somehow doubt that will happen as 8 years with Obama in office have proven.
I believe that progressive victory is a matter of time and demographics. Trump is the hail mary pass of the GOP. There won’t be another candidate (or president) like him for at least a decade if not a generation. By then, the browning of the United States will have accelerated, and with that, a rather more liberal electorate.
Trump has been selling miles of rope to the GOP and there is no reason to expect him to stop the sale anytime soon. Trump has alerted us as to how many misogynists, racists, and Evangelical Christians there are, and how much power they have when they get organized. This presidency will also show us the shrinking base of support that the GOP has, as well.
Given the trends in demographics, there is no reason to compromise now. Especially when Republicans in Congress are so unwilling to compromise themselves. Regardless of who rises to the nomination, Trump’s days are finite, and it’s possible that he won’t even secure the nomination for the GOP next year.
If Biden wants to compromise and find the middle ground, it’s not because he needs to. It’s because that is all he knows how to do.