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President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the dais behind him, on April 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

Are Democrats Really Clueless About Impending Election Doom?

The party seems to have nothing but contempt for its base by never delivering, except incrementally, on campaign promises even when they have the votes—something the Republicans can't be accused of.

Norman Mathews

Armageddon comes November 8. Pundits and progressives have been warning Democrats for months that if they don't change course and achieve significant legislation promised in 2020, they will go down in flames on election day, along with our democracy. The tone of these warnings is imbued with the implication that the party, and especially President Biden, either doesn't believe this or that it is flummoxed on how to avoid the calamity. But is this case?

First on the list is that enacting progressive legislation would alienate Democrats' corporate puppet masters.

To buy into this misconception, one must assume that the party has no access to polls, political advisors, focus groups, and constituent complaints or that the gerontocracy currently in control simply can't comprehend this inevitability. Time to take off the rose-colored bifocals and see the world as it really is. It's not that the party wants to lose, it's just that it's not that into winning. How could this be? Isn't winning the ultimate goal? 

One can only hypothesize about reasons for not fighting roundly to enact policies that would help it triumph. Surely, first on the list is that enacting progressive legislation would alienate Democrats' corporate puppet masters. With their win of the presidency and both houses of congress in 2020, came the overwhelming responsibility that they must accomplish something. And this posed a serious problem—one that it created for itself during the Clinton administration when it made the Faustian bargain to skew policies away from its working-class base in favor of corporatism. This decision tied the Gordian knot that's plagued it ever since: the cliché of having to serve two masters. Need we ask which of those won? Besides, win or lose, the money keeps pouring in.

Perhaps, on the other hand, the party simply deludes itself into thinking that voters could not be crazy enough to restore Republicans to power. But people are seething because nothing to better their lives is getting done. As liberal author Paul Waldman states, "Confronted with a vacuum, people will default to blaming the party in power." The word most often used to define Democrats is "weak," not something Americans admire. They're more likely to prefer bad, but strong.

Could the party be thinking longterm? "We'll take a big hit in 2022. Then the public will finally see how bad Republicans are, and we'll roar back in 2024?" The problem here is when Republicans gain power, unlike Democrats, they use it to maximum advantage, a result that could sideline Democrats for decades.

True, with the exceptions of passing the infrastructure bill and the anemic gun-control legislation, they can blame the corrupt and recalcitrant Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Yet, there's always a Manchin, a Sinema, or a Joe Lieberman. Lieberman provided Obama with his excuses, but how genuine was this when one is aware that Obama selected Lieberman as his mentor when he was elected to the Senate?

How much effort did Biden exert to sway Manchin and Sinema? He spent months negotiating with them, even after it was clear that they were just playing him. He never once used the bully pulpit, going to their states to convince the populace that their senators were obstructing the Build Back Better plan, which would decidedly have benefitted them.

Biden ran on his prowess of being able to work with and persuade congressional members. Compare his bloodless efforts with arm-twisting Lyndon Johnson, who knew everybody's peccadilloes, details of their love lives, and everybody's price, whether it was new pork for their district or just a White House photo-op with their spouses. LBJ once said: "Smile and shake hands and thank everybody. Then just cut their peter off and put in your pocket."

Even the centrist Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee knows exactly what's happening. In their April poll, they found that in battleground districts, generic Republicans lead generic Democrats 47 percent to 39 percent, an ominous indicator for the next election. The party seems to have nothing but contempt for its base by never delivering, except incrementally, on campaign promises even when they have the votes—something the Republicans can't be accused of.

Certainly, Rule Number 1 in politics is hold onto your base. Their attitude seems to be, "Where's the base going—to vote Republican?" Most won't, but that ignores the fact that they can simply sit out elections. In the latest primaries, Republican turnout has been up 32 percent, while Democratic turnout declined 3 percent.

So what's the Democrat's course of action? Instead of courting the base, Democrats spend resources to sway elusive independents and "never-Trump-Republicans." In its most perverse move, the Nancy-Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC, poured millions of primary dollars into ads promoting extreme right-wing Republicans, hoping they will provide more favorable general election matchups. Ignoring the moral implications of touting democracy-destroying candidates, what could go wrong?

Three May polls indicate that youth-voter support for Biden has dropped anywhere from 16-21 percent in the past year. The combination of millennials and Gen Z comprises 65 million voters, the largest bloc in American history. Disillusionment is hardly a surprise, considering that Biden, who promised student-debt relief through executive order, has forgiven only that of students attending Corinthian Colleges.

Many young people are environmental activists, and again Biden has disappointed.

The death of the Build Back Better act is the most damning, but Biden has actually made things worse in some instances. For example, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the administration for issuing more than 3,500 oil- and gas-drilling permits in New Mexico and Wyoming.

Biden, whose hair should have been on fire, after the leak of the Alito memo regarding Roe v. Wade, tepidly remarked when the final ruling came down, "Quite a radical decision." He's virtually incapable of using the word abortion. Many suggested executive moves even before the final decision: enabling greater access to abortion medication; providing resources for child care, lost wages, travel vouchers for women who must go out of state; and moving military families to obtain abortions.

For seniors, he's refused to use patent seizures to lower drug prices and left in place large increases in Medicare premiums. Representative James Clyburn's disingenuous "I don't know what's required here" is belied by the plethora of suggested remedies. It's true that many of these executive orders could elicit law suits, but even if Biden were to lose in court, at least he'd be seen trying.

Bernie Sanders' advisor Jeff Weaver best articulates the Democratic leadership's goals, "to make elected progressives extinct and to extinguish the agenda of higher wages, affordable health care, criminal justice reform, addressing climate change. . ."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Norman Mathews

Norman Mathews is an award-winning composer and playwright. He has written for the concert stage and the musical theatre. He has been news editor for Dance Magazine and managing editor of Sylvia Porter's Personal Finance Magazine.

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