Joe Biden's new administration faces a line of tough decisions with killers on everything from controlling the southern border to dealing with Iran. But one choice dominates them all: does Biden intend to rule from the center-left or make far-reaching concessions to the progressive wing of his party?
Biden & # 39; s nominations and early executive orders suggest he wants to rule from center left, but his & # 39; sweet spot & # 39; will be much more progressive than President Obama's as the Democratic Party has continued to move steadily to the left.
How will President Biden resolve tensions between his party's left wing and the establishment corporate center? His first day in the office showed a way. He will show his virtues to progressives on hot button issues such as Keystone XL pipeline, Guantanamo Bay detention center and the Paris climate agreement. He will not build a new mile border barrier. He wants a higher minimum wage. Those gestures are meant to please party activists without, he hopes, cost too much to the average voter. Best of all, they don't require tedious, time-consuming procedures such as passing laws or ratifying treaties. They will be enforced by presidential orders and bureaucratic regulations
More broadly, President Biden will use EOs, bureaucratic regulations and under-cabinet appointments to propitiate his party's vital interest groups in the fields of education (teacher unions), criminal justice, racial relations, immigration and the environment. Important as that policy is, Biden has no intention of meeting the far-reaching socialist demands of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
How far Biden intends to go, how high a price he is willing to pay, will become apparent when his energy regulations start to cut jobs and his immigration and law and order policies lead to more crime, especially in poor communities.
We are already seeing tensions rise among Democrats over COVID regulations, which have devastated state and local revenues as they crush local businesses and the tax revenues they generate. How do you pay for unions in the public sector if the taxes don't go to the municipal treasuries in Chicago and New York City? The only growth companies there are U-Haul trailers. Biden can delay a national bill by printing more money, but even there he faces fiscal and political constraints.
The more moderate Biden's policies are, the more setbacks he will face from progressives. Still, the president and his supporters believe they can triumph for three reasons. First, he defeated the far-left banner candidate in the primaries, starting with South Carolina, after Democratic voters were finally faced with the grim choice between Biden and Bernie. Democratic voters and party leaders feared that Sanders would not only lose the White House but also sink candidates. Second, even with Biden on top of the ticket, Democratic senators and representatives are well aware that they nearly lost their races because the progressive demands were so prominent. Their Republican opponents took on socialism, AOC and its squadron, defending the police, and rioters in Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha and Seattle. Democrats peeping through those elections hold the party's left-wing radicals directly responsible for their tough races – and for the fate of losing moderate Democrats who are no longer in their ranks. They now have no reason to bow to the demands of those radicals. Finally, progressives miss all realistic options beyond fighting for influence within the Biden government. Yes, they can be a threat to primary breeds in Deep Blue states and districts. But only there. They're poisonous in purple neighborhoods, and party pros know it. The more trouble these progressives cause, the more likely Democrats will lose the House and Senate in 2022 and the White House in 2024.
This political reality and the party's tight margins on Capitol Hill will inform Biden & # 39; s next big pick. Will he urge Chuck Schumer to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell so that the government can pass legislation through a 50-50 Senate? Without that deal, Republicans will block big bills with the filibuster. (And Biden has made it clear that he does not support the "destruction" of the filibuster, as many of his party members advocate.)
Schumer and Biden know they don't have the 60 votes it takes to overcome filibusters. In fact, they can't even enforce a simple majority if a Democrat objects. That's a real problem. If the legislation is too progressive, Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will disagree. If it's too centrist, the objections will come from the likes of Sanders, Warren, Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey.
How can Joe Biden, himself a creature of the Senate, overcome these obstacles? Two ways. First, like all modern presidents, he will rule like a monarch, issue orders, amend legislation by signing statements and order his bureaucracies to issue rules. Our democracy is so great that we are rarely governed by detailed laws duly passed by our elected representatives. We are ruled by presidential fiat and bureaucratic dictates. This fundamental constitutional transformation took off in the mid-1960s when Lyndon Johnson approved the Great Society's programs. Since then, only Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump have tried to resist Washington's growing power and, within it, the growing power of the executive and federal agencies.
Second, if Biden really needs to pass laws, then he and Schumer need to build a workable majority on the Senate floor and on committees. Unless they kill Filibuster rule, building that majority requires Republican cooperation. McConnell will only offer it if he wins major power-sharing concessions.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has her hands full controlling her diminished Democratic majority. Pelosi cannot afford to lose many liberals, progressives, pragmatists or the dwindling number of moderates in her caucus if she expects to pass legislation on strict party lines. That's where any Senate compromise will bite the House. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate will only agree on centrist legislation, which will no doubt frustrate progressives and conservative Republicans alike on Capitol Hill and across the country. When those compromise notes make it to the House, progressives in Pelosi's caucus will object. If they refuse to pass the bill, Pelosi cannot pass it with democratic votes alone. She needs support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the more moderate members of his caucus.
Pelosi has never needed Republican help before, and her eagerness to overthrow Donald Trump a second time indicates she's not looking for it now. On Thursday she said she had no intention of giving Trump a "get out of jail free" card. On Friday, she said she will pass the article on the House impeachment to the Senate on Monday.
While the impeachment process will slow down the new government's agenda, it does not pose any real dilemmas for Biden. The president's really tough choices dictate how progressive his agenda will be, how much new laws he needs to enforce it, and how much bipartisan support he needs to move forward.
It's all about how far left Biden will go to appease party activists, especially on policies that lack broad popular support. Of course he will send a "virtue signal" with executive orders and some appointments, especially with regard to the environment, labor, education and civil rights. All of them involve major democratic constituencies. But those constituencies alone are not enough to win national elections. Figuring out how to build a broader coalition without alienating the party's progressive parties is the most far-reaching dilemma facing President Biden and his new administration.
. (tagsToTranslate) Elizabeth Warren (t) Bernie Sanders (t) Left Wing (t) Progressive (t) Joe Biden