Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress routinely acquiesce to dogmatic progressives and uncompromising conservatives, respectively, because those members have large numbers in their caucuses, remain strongly unified and are not afraid to take political hostages.
Pretty simple — and now that deal has been trashed. Moderates trusted their leaders to honor this agreement and they were shamefully pushed aside by those same leaders to appease the progressives.
Unlike progressives, moderates cannot return to their districts and claim “leverage” as a reason for opposing an infrastructure bill. Reality for moderates, where re-election is not a sure thing, does not allow them to publicly oppose a popular jobs bill to protect their procedural options. Voters in swing districts would leverage moderate members out of their seats for such brazen behavior.
Now that the Democratic leadership reneged on the deal and threw all in with the progressives, my advice to House Democratic moderates is simply to walk away from reconciliation negotiations until the infrastructure bill becomes law. It’s time to deploy the same hardball tactics of the far left. Hold your breath and wait for your leaders to turn blue.
What’s so astonishing in this whole debate is the presumption that all congressional Democrats support this expansive, big spending agenda. Yes, progressives support it. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear moderate, swing district congressional Democratic candidates in their 2020 campaigns tell their constituents they wanted to spend trillions of dollars, outside of Covid-19 relief, in support of a massive expansion of the federal government’s role in our lives. Sure, Vermont progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders advocated for this agenda, but he lost the Democratic presidential primary.
Democrats have completely misread Biden’s 2020 election mandate. The 2020 election was a repudiation of President Donald Trump, and it was not an endorsement of a big spending agenda. Full stop.
If this $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal and its key components are as popular as Democrats tell us, then why not take this agenda to the voters in the 2022 midterm?
Believe it or not, Americans cast their votes for names on a ballot, not a party slate like in many parliamentary systems. The progressives and far right need a reminder that America’s founders rejected a parliamentary system of government even though at times Congress behaves as if we became one. Not all Democrats and Republicans are monolithic and doctrinaire in their approach to governing. Diverse opinions on policy exist within political parties and that is healthy for democracy.
No doubt voters would like childcare options expanded, quality early childhood education provided, funding to fight back climate change and affordable access to health care for those who need it, but not on the scale proposed. What’s more, these issues are not being dealt with in a vacuum.
Bludgeoned moderates understand this. Too bad there aren’t more of them in Congress to push back.