The Democrats are truly in disarray.
Moderate Democrats are threatening to hold up the reconciliation bill. Progressive Democrats are threatening to hold up the infrastructure bill. Senate Democrats, driven by the moderates, want the infrastructure bill first. House Democrats, driven by the progressives, want the reconciliation bill first.
In the Senate, Bernie Sanders is calling on his colleagues to undermine Joe Manchin without saying Manchin’s name out loud. The Squad, the Progressive Caucus, and several other members of the House are calling Manchin out by name. Kyrsten Sinema is getting trashed by progressives in the media, and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are now bit players in the chambers they control.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump held a rally a couple of hours away from Atlanta. During the speech, he reiterated the stolen election rhetoric, suggested Stacey Abrams would be a better governor than Brian Kemp, and trashed Rep. Liz Cheney. This got coverage for a bit but didn’t stay in the headlines long. Likewise, yesterday was a pretty big day with the generals’ hearings on Capitol Hill. But today, you can expect the biggest headlines and talking points to stay hovered around the discussions in Washington.
And therein lies the problem for Democrats. The polling for Biden is plummeting, and it does not appear to be that great for Congressional Democrats, either.
“Republican obstruction is a reality, but voters aren’t generally paying close enough attention to follow that. So when something bad happens, rightly or wrongly voters look to the party in charge,” explained Molly Murphy, a Democratic pollster.
But on Monday, new data from Morning Consult revealed a murkier picture of the potential political fallout, showing a plurality of voters hoisting equal blame on both parties if the country sank into an unprecedented default on its financial obligations.
The share of voters blaming Republicans inched up 4% — a small shift, but not one that should be ignored, especially if these standoffs slog on for weeks.
Right now, the numbers are on the Republicans’ side, and while that 4 percent shift may be something to watch, it’s not affecting the GOP’s position here because there is wiggle room in the polling. It’s a sacrifice that they are willing to take to get accomplish two goals:
- Get a better outcome in the financial fight.
- Force the Democrats to divide further.
The party in power takes the biggest hit here, and that once again bodes ill for the Democrats. It likely played a role in the Virginia gubernatorial election in 2013 that originally handed the state over to Terry McAuliffe (ironically, it could play the opposite role in this year’s gubernatorial race). The government shutdown and subsequent furloughs of federal workers in the Virginia area could be blamed on the House Republicans in charge, and that did hurt them in the polls. The opposite could happen now. Democrats have full control of Congress and they have the White House. If they can’t keep the government from shutting down, they’ll take the blame in the immediate future (though it won’t have much of a long-term effect).
More importantly, though, if the Democrats can’t get either the infrastructure or the reconciliation bill through, then it’s very likely that the COVID-19 package is the only significant piece of Biden’s legislative agenda we’ll have seen pass.
That would be a massive embarrassment for the party in charge, and not one they can easily recover from. What’s worse, they are acting like none of this is really a problem. They are trying to shift all the blame to Republicans (and the media is helping), but it won’t be a permanent stain on the GOP like an absolute failure in Congress would be on the Democrats.
There is something else here, too. The media and the Democrats have focused so much on the chaos within the Republican Party over Trump they have undermined their own case against them. Either the Republican Party is unified and able to control the legislative agenda from the minority or they are being torn apart by Trumpism. It can’t be both.
Whether they are losing to the former or the latter, though, it makes little difference. Voters will see no reason to continue keeping them in power if they can’t use it.