Just Let Joe & Joe Do It

Progressive Democrats need to acquire a better understanding of where they stand. They are in no position to call the shots.

Let’s take a trip back to last December. It was clear to anybody who was not delusional that Joe Biden was the next President. But the Democrats had barely hung on to their House majority when they had been expected to pick up seats. They had also underperformed in Senate races, and they now were in a position where they needed to sweep two races in Georgia just to get to a 50-50 tie.

With a big assist from Donald Trump, who did everything he could to drive down the Republican vote, the Democrats pulled off the upset and they took back the Senate, thanks only to the tie-breaking vote of new Vice President Kamala Harris.

When you also consider that Biden essentially won by only 44,000 votes in three states to give him the Electoral College majority, this could not be called a resounding mandate for sweeping policies. (I know. Republicans win slim majorities and push for sweeping right wing policies all the time. But it’s just a fact that the Democrats have a more diverse caucus. There aren’t any Republicans as liberal as Joe Manchin is conservative.) In fact, the Democrats enjoy their majorities, razor thin as they are, thanks to the moderates who hung on in purple or even red districts and states.

Chief among them is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who consistently wins in a state that went for Trump by 36 points in 2020. Only Wyoming had a bigger Trump margin. Manchin wants his colleagues to cut their package from $3.5 trillion to something closer to $1.5 trillion and he wants them to trim their increase in the corporate tax rate.

Progressives are indignant, but where’s their leverage? Are they really going to vote against a $1.5 trillion package because it’s not enough? I once overheard a hard-bitten Democratic legislative leader who was on the phone to a colleague. “Do you want a little bit of something or a whole lot of nothing?” he asked.

That’s the question for progressives. They owe their majorities — and the chance to even be having this debate right now — to Manchin and his fellow moderates. They should just let Joe Manchin work out a number and a plan with Joe Biden, pass the damn thing and then promote the hell out of it. This works for me as my own politics are a shade to the right of Biden (I think he’s wrong on Afghanistan) and several shades to the left of Manchin (I’d be fine with the whole $3.5 trillion).

And I would hardly call a $1 trillion infrastructure package and another $1.5 trillion in soft spending on top of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill “incremental.” Economists who study these things refer to $4.4 trillion in total as a shit load of money.

Running on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, plus whatever social service and climate change advances can come out of a mere $1.5 trillion, is not such a bad platform. But running for reelection on the idea that hard-left Democrats got nothing done because they were fighting for some abstract number will guarantee Republican majorities next term. And then absolutely nothing will get done.

Welcome to the 209th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “Just Let Joe & Joe Do It

  1. I am conservative leaning Libertarian but here is my advice (for what it’s worth) to the progressive from two very different former Presidents.

    1. Someone asked LBJ when he was Senate Majority leader if half of loaf of bread was better that none. He replied “Son a slice of bread is better than nothing.”

    2. Ronald Reagan, who said many times, better to get 80% of what you want then get nothing and fly off the cliff with your flag waving.

    Two different Presidents, but similar message: compromise and work out a deal.

    Personally, the more both sides dither around, the less opportunity to create more burdensome regulations and find new things not in the Constitution.

    Those are my thoughts.

    Always enjoy and look forward to what you write every day. Not that I agree 100% but more than LBJ,’s slice. Would love to have a beer with you sometime and talk politics.


  2. Ditto to Ed’s thoughts, though I’d probably need a bottle or two head start on the “beer thing”.

    My contribution-

    “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
    —Calvin Coolidge (who was never hurt by something he did not say)


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