politics

Can slidin’ Biden regain his footing?

Can slidin’ Biden regain his footing?

In a way Republicans have already won in Virginia. Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor and longtime party mover, has been forced to fight for his life in a state Joe Biden won by 10 points. If Mr. McAuliffe pulls it out Tuesday, his not-so-Trumpy challenger, Glenn Youngkin, will still have come close in the age of Trump, and his campaign will have provided a rough pathway for how future party candidates can make their way through: 1. Be a respectable, capable-seeming person who focuses on legitimate local issues (schools, taxes.) 2. Don’t say crazy things. 3. Don’t insult Donald Trump but do everything to keep him away. If forced to wager I’d bet on Mr. Youngkin. I think he’s done something remarkable. But whatever happens Democrats should stay nervous and Republicans can feel some degree of relief: a template is emerging, at least as to states like bluish-purple Virginia. This, with the anniversary of his election almost upon us has me thinking again about the president’s bad poll numbers. Presidents get bad polls and columnists reflect on the reasons, there’s nothing new there. But there’s something different about this moment. It’s early in the administration, and if the president can’t turn his position around America will likely know three more years of mess, murk and drift. At the same time it’s hard to imagine how he turns it around. In the past, presidents in trouble always seemed at least potentially able to dig their way out. You were a fool if you wrote off Bill Clinton after missteps and scandals. That gifted and politically ruthless man would always find a way. You were foolish to write off Barack Obama after the tea-party uprising, the ObamaCare backlash and the drubbing of 2010. He too had extraordinary talent, and technological sophistication. But Mr. Biden isn’t looking like a politician of deep natural gifts. He doesn’t show a lot of signs of the capability of turning his circumstances around. He’ll be 79 in November; he loses his train of thought and mistakenly sees big policy speeches as yet another opportunity to feed America’s hunger for more renditions of his personal story. His public persona is scattered, foggy. “Saturday Night Live captured it last week. Current Biden looks at Past Biden and says, “How can you be me, you seem so happy . . . so, so, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? “Lucid, says Past Biden. It got a big laugh. His own people famously hide him from the press, which is not, early on in a presidency, reassuring. Before Afghanistan people would see him and muse: Who’s in charge behind the scenes? Since Afghanistan they ask: What incompetents are in charge? In the past when presidents floundered, at some point their supporters would say OK, we ride it out, and their gaze would turn toward the vice president. During Mr. Clinton’s doldrums there was Al Gore, who was perceived not to have Clinton’s gifts but not his problems, either. The party would rally around him or could be made to rally around him. But that is not Kamala Harris’s position. She commands no broad fealty. Her primary candidacy collapsed before the first votes. A Los Angeles Times poll this month had her favorable rating at 42%, unfavorable 51%. She’s polling lower than her four most recent predecessors at the same time in their terms. I have never heard a Democrat in my Democratic donor town say, “Wait a few years, Kamala will come in. This adds to a brittle, unsettled feeling in the party. Nobody knows who’s in charge or in the ascendant. To regain popularity politicians have to be agile. They have to be like the old pol who is supposed to have said: “I have many firm principles and the first is flexibility. Mr. Clinton could read a poll, knew where the center was, and when he got in trouble he chased it. Does Mr. Biden right now know where the center is? The White House gives no indication of adopting policies that will ease their problems. Illegal immigration is a daily and growing crisis, but what remedies can they seize on? As a party, during the 2020 primary, the Democrats came out for functionally open borders. They’re stuck unless they change. Normally issues come and go but illegal immigration isn’t going to get better. When people hear on the news that they’ll be allowed to stay if they get here, they come. There’s no reason to think inflation won’t get worse. After Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talked up Mr. Biden’s economic plans on CNN, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers tweeted, “I began my career when Paul Volker [sic] was taking over at the Fed and not since then have I been more worried. I am curious at what point in the last forty years Treasury thinks the risk of an inflation spiral are greater than they are now? (The tweet was later deleted.) Jason Furman, head of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, seemed to give him backup the next day in comments to the New York Times. Mr. Biden’s first spending bill, the American Rescue Plan, was “oversized and “contributed to both higher output but also higher prices. The supply-chain crisis is in part an employment crisis connected to pandemic-era funding of broader benefits for those not working. You can look at this problem and try to solve it, or you can prattle on like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about how Americans are buying a lot and that’s the reason the ports are clotted. He then tried to switch the story into a debate on whether he should be on home leave with two new babies. But in a policy crisis no one cares about the personal struggles of a cabinet member; they just want to see the supply chain unscrewed. The White House could still—still, even now!—reverse itself, take the big infrastructure deal that passed with 19 Republican votes in the Senate, and celebrate the win. This would produce something big and bipartisan, demonstrate baseline competence, reap establishment praise, and arguably benefit the country. Who doesn’t want stronger bridges and tunnels? Instead, under pressure from progressives, he tied the infrastructure bill to the huge other spending bill, the famous formerly $3.5 trillion one. It was like tying something healthy to an obese corpse, throwing it into the sea and telling it to swim. The spending bill may well end up at a more modest number—Mr. Biden offered $1.85 trillion Thursday—but will that be a victory? There was too much mess around it, too much struggle, and the face of that struggle was the progressive caucus. The headline won’t be “Joe Biden got what we needed, it will be “Biden’s huge and controversial plan had to be blocked and remodeled by moderate senators in order to make the final product seem even remotely sensible. The progressives of the Democratic Party have the only social-media voice, but centrists, moderates and independents have the greater numbers and their support is more crucial. The Biden White House should gain some distance from progressives and use them as a foil. I know they’re not going to do this. They must have another plan. But what is it? Do they know they’re running out of time? They have to prove they can do something that works. (This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text) Download.

politics 2021-10-30 Livemint