For the hard-left in the Democratic Party, it’s all about them. It’s about their romantic visions of rushing to the barricades, of being outsiders standing against The Man (and they do really mean The Man), about being so very, absolutely and unquestionably right about everything.
What it is not about is winning elections, establishing a long-term majority and making steady progress over time. In short, for the hard-left politics is not about being effective; it’s about self-indulgence.
As if that hasn’t been made clear in countless ways up to this point, they underscored it again this week in the intra-party fight over Pres. Biden’s big spending bills. There are two. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill has already passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote. The $3.5 trillion progressive package is still in the drafting stages and has yet to pass the House, much less the Senate.
House Democratic moderates wanted to go ahead and pass the infrastructure bill and work out the details of the bigger domestic spending package later. They had good reasons for that, which only got better. Moderates reasoned that they needed to show progress and that the road and broadband projects would be popular in their districts. Left unsaid was ‘the sooner the better’ because they would like to have at least some of those projects completed by election time, 2022.
And moderate arguments only became stronger with Biden’s debacle in Afghanistan. Changing the subject right now would be a good thing for Democrats.
But the hard-left would have none of it. To quote an Associated Press story:
Outside groups, including Justice Democrats, started running campaign ads and members of Our Revolution, the organization aligned with Bernie Sanders, protested Tuesday outside the New Jersey office of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a leader of the moderate effort.
“This is a ‘which side are you on’ moment,” said Our Revolution executive director Joseph Geevarghese, who promised to “organize like never before to hold Democrats accountable and get this bill over the finish line.”
Well, gosh, Joe. I’d say I’m on the side of winning elections and somehow keeping the Democratic majorities in place against long odds. I think we should hold progressives accountable if the moderates go down next year and the majority is handed over to Kevin McCarthy.
Look, Democrats do not hold their slim majority in the House because of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or my own Congressman Mark Pocan. They represent overwhelmingly blue districts where anyone who is vertical and breathing can win as long as he or she has a “D” next to their name.
No, the Democrats have their majority thanks to those nine moderates who so infuriate the hard-left and also, by the way, find a way to win in the small number of competitive districts out there. Moreover, the hard-left is making their claim to run the party at the very moment when their message is losing within the party itself. Just within the last few months, progressives have lost high-profile primary races for governor in Virginia, mayor in New York and a congressional seat in Ohio, So, the idea that hard-left activists are in a position to “hold accountable” these moderates is beyond ludicrous. It’s very much the other way around.
In the end (well, it’s not really the end, but a middle inning), Speaker Nancy Pelosi brokered a smart compromise. She promised the moderates that the infrastructure bill would pass no later than September 27th and she promised the progressives that the social spending bill would pass no later than October 1st.
Let’s pause here to praise Pelosi. She knows how the place works and she knows how to keep the wings of her party flying in the same direction, improvising brilliantly as she goes along. Biden has exactly the same skill set, though you might be excused for being uncertain about that at the moment given his awful handling of Afghanistan. But on the domestic front, and on his work on these two big bills in particular, he’s been deft.
So, thanks to Pelosi and Biden, it looks like the President’s big domestic agenda might become law sometime in early fall and it might happen in a way that helps, or does minimal damage to, the moderates who made the whole thing possible in the first place.
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