Biden Berns Out
I am once again reminding you Biden is not a transformational figure
[I know I already sent out one email this week, and I don’t like to flood your inbox, so I’ll keep this one pretty short — JK]
Today marks one year in office for President Joe Biden. He celebrated by conducting a rare press conference yesterday, clocking in at two dreadful hours, more or less. If you read the DC press today, you’ll find lots of analysis and responses to his gaffes about Putin potentially invading Ukraine and questioning the legitimacy of the 2022 midterm elections. Left-liberal Twitter also took special note of Biden’s stated surprise at the GOP obstructionism he’s faced — which, I think, is probably as much about bipartisan virtue signaling as it is sincere shock. Either way, it’s not especially inspiring messaging.
There was one other moment that stood out, and if you read the headline of this post you’ve probably guessed the gist of it.
“You guys have been trying to convince me that I am Bernie Sanders,” Biden said in response to a question from Fox News’ White House Goofball Correspondent Steve Doocy. “I’m not. I like him, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I’m not a socialist. I’m a mainstream Democrat, and I have been.”
Two obvious points about this, and two maybe less obvious ones. First of all, only Fox News — and fellow travelers Newsmax, OAN, etc — would ever confuse Biden for Sanders, partially because they’re paid to do that, and partially because the people making the editorial decisions at those networks are pretty stupid. Biden is and has always been a conservative politician more concerned with the preservation of order and the status quo than economic and social democracy.
Second of all, the liberal commentators who attempted to frame Biden as the second coming of FDR or LBJ were either delusional, following the pack, attempting to ingratiate themselves with the incoming administration, or filled their analysis with so many caveats and qualifiers that the comparisons were watered down and not particularly illuminating. Nothing about Biden’s history or his 2020 campaign suggested he was interested in, or capable of, being a transformative historical figure. His achievements in his first year were significant when measured, say, against Obama’s handling of the financial crisis. They are insufficient, though, when measured against the political and social needs of the United States, not to mention the onset of apocalyptic climate change.
The last two points I’ll make is that Biden’s agenda is being sunk by his own wing of the Democratic Party, a dynamic I just wrote about for Truthout, so I won’t reiterate too much of that here. But it’s worth underlining that the conservative Democrats have gotten what they wanted, specifically when it came to passing the bipartisan infrastructure deal and tanking the Build Back Better act. That was their desired end point! And what has it gotten them? There’s a narrow way in which tanking the BBB bill was in their donors’ financial interest, so their sabotage ensured those sweet, sweet campaign contributions would keep flowing. But you don’t hear them making an affirmative case that this state of affairs is superior to any other state of affairs. They’re just as likely to criticize the Biden administration for rising inflation or whatever as any other group.
That brings me to the last point, which is: who are Biden’s allies now? I think the Sanders-Squad wing of the party will probably still fight for the best parts of Biden’s agenda, his potshot at Bernie yesterday notwithstanding. His relationship with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) as a whole, though, is very weak. He, Pelosi, and Schumer all pressured Rep Pramila Jayapal and the rest of the CPC to delink the infrastructure bill from the BBB social spending bill, with the assurance that BBB would pass by mid-November. Not only did that not happen, but now the bill is getting broken up into smaller chunks that also face steep odds of passing.
To the extent that Biden still has residual goodwill with the right flank of the party, it hasn’t exactly done him a whole lot of good. They’re the ones who think virtually any government policy that helps the working class is by definition pulling the country too far left.
I would love to be wrong and see some kind of legislative slam-dunk extravaganza in the coming months that proves Biden’s theory of power, to the extent that he has one. Instead, my guess is that the high water mark will be sending out a few COVID tests and masks per household unforgivably late into the omicron surge, let alone the pandemic more broadly. Either way, Biden should rest easy knowing that nobody to the left of Steve Doocy will mistake him for Bernie Sanders.