Could Joe Biden Run Out of Runway?
Democrats’ Debatable Divided Destiny
A straight line can be drawn between Team Biden winning the presidential nomination in 2020 via the Democratic Party inside game (securing the endorsement of Representative Jim Clyburn, easing Senator Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg out of the race) and Team Biden governing successfully in difficult times via the Democratic Party inside game (leveraging the historic closeness and coordination between all members of Team Biden-Harris-Klain-Pelosi-Schumer, winning 97% of Democratic votes to get the first pandemic legislative package through).
Party unity has allowed President Biden to govern and increased the chances of leverage against/with Republicans (to look for opportunities to govern in a bipartisan manner by effectively arguing that the minority party can either give in to most of what Team B-H-K-P-S wants – or watch Democrats govern via executive orders and reconciliation).
Now, watch closely this week as the strains on that signature intraparty unity begin to bust out all over.
To be sure [Note: here is the “to be sure” paragraph.], what keeps the enterprise afloat – the extremely tight relationships between the president, the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and their teams – remains in place.
But consider the list of items that are starting to tear at the fabric:
* huge spending
* huge tax increases
* energy taxes
* inflation concerns
* deficit concerns
* school reopenings
* extended unemployment benefits
* crime and policing
* Afghanistan troop withdrawal
* Big Tech regulation
* guns (sort of)
* DC statehood
* Supreme Court changes
This list is not exhaustive, but/and every element on it divides the party to some extent across both political and policy dimensions.
The ability of the White House to hold things (mostly) together so far is testament to Klain and Co. working the inside game nonstop – and Joe Biden’s longstanding relationships.
The benefits have been many:
1. Kept the media focus on Republican divisions.
2. Allowed the administration to project a strong sense of momentum.
3. Sustained Biden’s approval ratings relatively high.
4. Made a two-front war less likely.
But now that two-front right/left war for the administration might be about to break out bigly.
Just a few key examples from this very news cycle:
* This Bernie tweet that got an AOC retweet:
* This essential reading (and potentially paradigm-shifting) Politico story about the confidence of the very rich that Team Biden can’t keep the necessary coalition together for massive tax increases (even if it can hold a lot of the coalition together).
* This Leana Wen op-ed going harsh on the mask changes:
[T]he Biden administration must admit to the American people that CDC’s guidance was released prematurely and without considering all the implications and unintended consequences. They can say that such a complex decision needs to involve other agencies and stakeholders, and start the process of addressing many unanswered questions — such as what kinds of protections are needed for retail workers if they encounter unvaccinated and unmasked customers. The White House should also engage local and state officials, union representatives and business leaders, and offer a big mea culpa for not having done so in the first place….
[A] decision on something as overarching and consequential as ending mask mandates should have been directed from the very top, by the president himself. Biden needs to course-correct, now. If he does not, the existing confusion could harm Americans’ health, prolong the pandemic, and paradoxically diminish confidence in the CDC and its ability to safeguard the public’s health.
Senior White House officials will (pretend to) laugh off this “Dems in disarray” critique, seeing it as a typical media pearl clutch.
And there is no doubt that the Great Unifier for Democrats (Donald Trump) and his deputy (Joe Biden) will be hard at work in the coming days trying to keep things on track.
But watch closely.
This could be the week when Team Biden sees just how short the runway is.
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