Biden Misreads His Mandate

The limits of "normalcy"

We’re caught in a fog of political maneuvering, so it’s not clear if today is going to be a 24-hour cycle of Democrats in Disarray.

Virginia may slip away, congressional tempers are fraying, and, for our sins, we are trapped in an endless Groundhog Day of Infrastructure Week.

Apparently, TFG also lied about his invite to the World Series game in Atlanta.

So, happy Tuesday, America.

Joe Manchin may merely have been blowing off steam yesterday when he chastised House progressives for holding up action of the bi-partisan infrastructure bill, and failed to endorse the bigger social spending package.

Or he may have blown up the whole deal. We’re talking about Democrats, so who knows at this point?

“I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy and the American people,” Manchin said. “Every elected representative needs to know what they are voting for and the impact it has, not only on their constituents, but the entire country.”

“I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward,” the senator added. “But I’m equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country.”

The Biden White House reacted calmly, expressing confidence that it still had Manchin’s support. And the chair of the House Progressive caucus, also responded with unwonted restraint.

“We intend to pass both bills in the next couple of days,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said during an interview Monday on CNN.

Reacting to Manchin’s allegation that liberals had held the infrastructure bill “hostage,” Jayapal dismissed the critiques, urged lawmakers to “keep tempers down” and stressed that Democrats should trust that the president can ultimately deliver the 51 votes necessary to pass it in the Senate.

Not everyone, however, resisted the temptation to set their hair on fire.

That should be helpful in changing hearts and minds. Exit take:


BONUS: In re: Virginia, an historical note:

Join the Bulwark tonight for a special election night livestream!

Here is the link for Bulwark+ members.

Biden Needs to Talk to America

As we watch the machinations on Capitol Hill, and wait for the results from Virginia, you should spend some time reading this piece from Sarah Longwell and Ben Parker:

Most, though not all, of President Joe Biden’s problems can be summarized like so: He is misinterpreting his mandate. It’s not specifically that he’s being too liberal/progressive or too moderate/centrist, or moving too quickly or too slowly on this or that policy. Instead, he seems to be misinterpreting the kind of leadership that the country needs.

Perhaps Biden thought that, after four years of a president who seemed intent on filling every nook and cranny of every citizen’s life with ALL CAPS, Americans would appreciate a more reserved chief executive. This would be a miscalculation. Nothing rarely beats something.

It’s not a new observation to say that a president’s words are among his greatest tools. Theodore Roosevelt first called the presidency a “bully pulpit” in the early twentieth century. His distant cousin Franklin, through the Depression and the Second World War, made presidential broadcasts that were both intimate and informative about matters of the highest national importance. Ronald Reagan was for good reason dubbed the “Great Communicator.” As political scientist Richard Neustadt famously argued, “presidential power is the power to persuade.”

Yet Biden has so far spoken to the American people both infrequently and ineffectually. (That’s not to say that he’s never given a good speech—his wide-ranging address to a joint session of Congress in April was a notable example.) He has yet to give a memorable speech as president on a particular subject. Across his career, probably his most famous public utterance wasn’t in a speech at all—it was when, back in 2010, Biden called the passage of Obamacare “a big f**king deal.” Profanity and decorum aside, he seems incapable of addressing the current cascading crises with the same degree of urgency.

Most obviously, Biden has failed to make a focused, succinct case to the American people about why he’s spending so much of his own time—and forcing Congress to spend so much of its time—on infrastructure and social spending bills. Whatever arguments could be made for or against particular proposals matter less than the fact that the president isn’t making them clearly, prominently, or effectively enough.

Read the whole thing here.

On Earth 2.0, this might be a problem

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this about the Trump-endorsed, front-running GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania:

BUTLER, Pa. — The estranged wife of Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell testified under oath Monday that he choked her until she bit him to escape, that he hit their young children, and that he lashed out at her with obscenities and insults.

In tearful testimony, Laurie Snell told a family court judge that her husband once called her a “whore” and a “piece of s—” while pinning her down. On another occasion, she said, Parnell slapped one child hard enough to leave fingerprint-shaped welts through the back of the child’s T-shirt. And she said he once got so angry he punched a closet door with such force it swung into a child’s face and left a bruise. She said Parnell told his child: “That was your fault.”

She also testified that after a Thanksgiving trip in 2008, he briefly forced her out of their vehicle alongside a highway after raging at her, telling her to “go get an abortion.”

In a statement released by his campaign, Parnell, a decorated Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and was endorsed this summer by former President Donald Trump, vigorously disputed his wife’s claims, calling a number of them “lies” and said he was looking forward to rebutting them when he presents his case next week.

Tim’s take:

Meanwhile in Ohio…

David Graham writes in the Atlantic: “Josh Mandel Might Be Craven Enough to Win”.

If [J.D.] Vance is a phony, though, Mandel is what we might call a genuine phony: He makes little pretense of being anything other than a craven operator, as his years of changing guises show. This, more than any claims about fraudulent elections, is where Mandel really overlaps with Trump, another genuine phony, whose only authentic characteristic is his sense of grievance. Thanks to the former president, it might finally be Mandel’s turn.

Wapo: Trump’s role on January 6

In case you missed the Wapo’s remarkable new reporting, Amber Phillips has a useful summary of Trump’s role in inciting the violence:

Let’s review what Trump did:

  • Trump spent months before the election casting unfounded doubt on a new way millions of people voted during the pandemic, by mail.

  • He falsely claimed on election night, before the votes were even fully counted, that he won.

  • After he lost, he falsely claimed that the election was stolen from him, and he propped up a parade of legal advisers to file dozens of lawsuits challenging votes based on little more than hearsay. Most of these got thrown out of court; Rudy Giuliani got disbarred for bringing such baseless lawsuits.

  • He put immense pressure on local Republican officials to vote against certifying their community’s election results. GOP officials in Michigan initially did. Others who resisted received death threats. (“In a perfect world, traitors are hung by their scrawny little necks until dead,” one to an Arizona official read, The Post investigation found.)

  • He stirred up his supporters on social media: “Big protest in D.C. on Jan. 6th. Be there, will be wild!” The Post investigation finds: “Trump’s election lies radicalized his supporters in real time.”

  • When all that failed, he pressured Vice President Mike Pence to halt the last step to making Biden president, by urging him in his duty as president of the Senate to deny certification of enough results to throw the election in doubt.

  • When that failed, he refused to call off his supporters, despite top Republican lawmakers, besieged in the Capitol, urgently calling him to do so. “Trump had direct warnings of the risks but stood by for 187 minutes before telling his supporters to go home,” The Post investigation finds.

Quick Hits

1. Mandates Work


2. Trump Light?

It’s likely that the punditocracy will interpret a Youngkin win tonight as a victory for what they are already calling “Trump Light.”

But, ICYMI, JVL explains why the GOP may have a hard time replicating Youngkin in other states: there was no primary election in Virginia.

Left to their own devices in Virginia, Republican voters either (a) would not have chosen Glenn Youngkin; or (b) would have forced Youngkin to go much, much further into MAGA territory—which would have made his general election strategy inoperable.

Unless Republicans in other states can come up with tricks like “disassembled conventions” to keep their voters from deciding primary races, then Glenn Youngkin probably isn’t a workable model in most cases going forward.

Cheap Shots

Poor Loserism is contagious.