As Joe Biden seeks to become the Six Trillion Dollar Man, Democrats are conjuring convenient excuses for downplaying budget concerns and steamrolling Republicans.
So much of what we believe has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about the past. If we believe that we have been cheated or victimized, then we have justification to do pretty much anything we want. After what Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell put them through, Democrats think they have excuses out the wazoo.
They seem to have taken the line about how “if God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted” and updated it to “because Trump exists, now everything is permitted.” Progressives who were perfectly happy to have a conservative like me dogging Trump for his big spending and go-it-alone approach are furious when I call out Biden for his big spending and go-it-alone approach.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but within minutes of my latest TV appearance, my Facebook account was hacked. Most of the anger and criticism was less malicious (communicated via tweet or email)—even if the gist was that I should be fired by the Beast and transferred to OAN.
Still, the feedback is instructive. A theme has emerged. Here’s a recent email, sic’d throughout: “Mr. Lewis, with all due respect, Boo Hoo. How does this even compare with the wretched criminal excesses of donald trump. happily ignored by republican politicians and conservative commentators. As for bipartisanship, ask Mitch McConnell when he will stop planning to get the majority back and ficus on the needs if real folks, no matter their political affiliation. Its time for something new and the horrid… last four years goes a long way to justifying many previous unthinkable changes.”
The message is simple: Trump tried to overthrow an election, and somehow this justifies “unthinkable changes”—like pushing through the largest expansion of government programs in decades.
But the “Trump made us do it!” non-sequitur is just one such takeaway. Let’s take, for instance, the notion that Republicans are wasting Biden’s time. “The lesson that this team learned, beginning with President Biden, from that experience is that there is a cost to waiting too long,” Jay Carney, former Obama White House press secretary, told Politico. “I think everyone is much more realistic about whether bipartisan cooperation is possible.”
Sen. Chris Coons echoed this sentiment, adding, “There are certainly some in the president’s inner circle who were part of the Obama team who say, ‘Look, we can’t just have this go on forever.’”
Forever? How about for a second? It is obvious that Obama-era Dems have internalized the notion that Republicans stymied his agenda. But is this a rational belief? According to that same Politico piece, Phil Schiliro, who served as director of legislative affairs in the Obama White House, “argued Obama—aided by Biden—was successful in winning Republican support for a host of issues, including equal pay legislation, children’s health insurance and $350 billion more in bailout funds, in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, as they do now.”
So what about today? “During the course of Joe Biden’s first 100 days as president, the Senate was repeatedly described as “broken.” Also, during the course of Joe Biden’s first 100 days as president, the Senate passed 13 bills and filibustered zero. 10 of the 13 bills have been signed into law by President Biden, and the remaining three should soon follow suit,” liberal columnist Bill Scher writes.
The passage of the $1.9 COVID-relief package deserves a huge asterisk—since the reconciliation process meant that Republicans couldn’t have filibustered it if they wanted to. It’s impossible to know whether Republicans might have agreed to a reasonable compromise because, immediately after meeting with Republicans in early February, the Biden administration scoffed at the GOP counterproposal, signaled Biden would steamroll them, and promptly passed the package on a party-line vote. Biden went full speed ahead on the whole enchilada. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, bipartisanship has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.
Now, it is possible that these Republican overtures were always insincere. Maybe Mitt Romney’s a liar and a cheat. Maybe the same Republicans, who just a little over a month prior had voted for the other $900 billion COVID-relief package, were just trolling him. It’s just that we have no way of knowing that, since Biden didn’t even try to meet them halfway.
I’m also intrigued by the assumption that Biden is somehow in danger of running out of time. The Bush tax cuts weren’t signed until June 7, 2001. Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind Act wasn’t signed until Jan. 8, 2002. Seems to me that Biden is cooking with gas.
Yet another lesson Democrats think they have learned is that compromise isn’t just a fool’s errand; it also waters down your achievements. “The Affordable Care Act didn’t begin delivering health insurance on a mass scale until four years after the bill’s passage,” writes Ezra Klein. “That reflected a doomed effort to win Republican support by prioritizing private insurance and a budgetary gimmick meant to keep the total price tag under $1 trillion over 10 years. Obamacare eventually became a political winner for Democrats, but it took the better part of a decade.”
Again, the Biden team has obviously taken this notion to heart. In advance of Biden’s February meeting with Republicans, Psaki telegraphed Biden’s decision to snub their counterproposal, saying, “The risk is not that it is too big, this package, the risk is that it is too small.”
The left has reverse engineered several revisionist history lessons to rationalize a hurry-up offense in the pursuit of radical transformation. From the standpoint of progressives, this makes perfect ideological sense. Likewise, Biden has an incentive to do this if he wants to preserve his legacy. Never mind the outrageous bill he might be handing our children and grandchildren. As Chuck Todd said on Meet The Press, “Mr. Biden is making a $6 trillion bet that promoting popular programs will be popular, and that he’ll be rewarded for getting things done, long before the actual bill comes due.”
It’s really no surprise that my warnings fall on deaf ears and my criticisms of Biden elicit petulant cries of “But Trump was worse!” To paraphrase Upton Sinclair, it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his agenda depends upon his not understanding it.