Presidentish Joe Biden never held much sway with two semi-centrist senators — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — from two states unfriendly to leftist Democrats, West Virginia and Arizona. Still, Biden needs them both to pass his ambitious “Build Back Better” agenda through the 50/50 Senate.
After Tuesday night’s drubbing, Biden can kiss his pass goodbye.
I like to think about Congress the way RealClear’s Sean Trende described it. Not as a place where monolithic (or nearly so) parties try to push through their agendas as they do in parliamentary setups, but more as a meeting place for 535 elected officials, each of whom represents a different constituency. What people often mistakenly call “gridlock” is really just the natural result of the nature of our legislative branch and our semi-coherent political parties.
There’s another way our setup differs from a parliamentary system: The chief executive is wholly separate from the legislature. Unlike a prime minister, an American president has no power to introduce, rewrite, or amend legislation as it moves through the sausage-grinder.
So if a president wants to get something done in Congress, he’s got to have some clout there.
Clout comes in three main flavors: love, respect, and fear.
A president would like to have a congressional caucus that does nothing but love or respect him, but that’s never the case.
Sometimes, you’ve got to scare members of your own party into voting for what you want. Presidents usually accomplish that by using their personal popularity to humiliate them into compliance or their mastery of the party machinery to whip them into line.
Joe Biden ran as a bipartisan dealmaker who could play Capitol Hill like a fiddle. But he hasn’t shown enough personal popularity — that is, he lacks the ability to generate any fear — to accomplish anything of substance on Capitol Hill since the “stimulus” passed last spring.
And that stimulus bill was a gimme from the start. I could have gotten it through this Congress.
So Biden has a House caucus in a virtual civil war and Speaker Nancy Pelosi barely keeping a lid on it. He has an evenly split Senate and zero ability to win love, respect, or fear from Democratic senators who aren’t already with him 100%.
Tell me about the 81 million votes, George.
I’d intended to write this column about how Sinema and Manchin were already tough for Biden to push around. After Tuesday night’s results, Sinema and Manchin might as well be the immovable objects, and Biden the utterly resistible force.
Imagine a light breeze blowing gently against the Great Wall of China, and you’ll get an idea of how much effect Biden now has on Manchin and Sinema.
But there’s something bigger at play, too, and it’s the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
I didn’t think to bookmark the tweet, but someone on Twitter earlier today made a relevant point about the 2010 midterms. They pointed out that there was really only one major issue in 2010: Opposition to ObamaCare. That issue was enough to cost the Democrats six seats in the Senate and 63 seats in the House.
And that was when the Democrats enjoyed much larger majorities than they have today. Losing six seats in the 2010 Senate still wasn’t enough to give the GOP control. And that 63-seat gain in the House gave the Republicans a solid majority, but not always a comfortable one.
Today, the Senate is split 50/50 and the Democrats have a base seven-seat edge in the House. If 2022 turns out similarly to 2010, it’ll be a blowout with results far more devastating to the Dems than 2010 was.
But there isn’t just One Big Issue going into 2022 like there was in 2010.
Now the Dems find themselves on the wrong side of parental rights, CRT, transgender normalization, inflation, supply chain disruptions, vaccine mandates, taxes, regulation, and spending.
I’m not saying that the GOP is going to pick up 100 House seats and a filibuster-proof Senate majority, but after last night, that previously impossible scenario has at least entered the realm of possibility.
Nobody understands this better than 50 Democrat senators and 221 Democrat congresscritters eager to hold on to their seats.
In Virginia, Biden proved that he has the Merde Touch. Down-ticket races in New Jersey and elsewhere showed that people are fed up with Bidenomics in a big way — and it hasn’t even been fully implemented.
If they’re going to have any chance at all, even semi-vulnerable Democrats are going to have to flee the sinking USS Biden.
Whatever Biden’s legislative agenda was supposed to be for 2022, it’s basically finished. They still might muster enough votes to pass something like the much-diminished “infrastructure” bill, but for that to happen it’s going to have to be diminished even further, reduced like a Shrinky Dink into something comically unrecognizable.
Just like the once-grand ambitions of that scheming mediocrity, Joe Biden.