The latest example is a fast-approaching budget resolution that CNBC describes as “a massive investment in social programs and climate policy.”
Whether or not that is good or bad policy and whether or not we can afford it, the problem is the manipulative way Democrats are using the reconciliation process to bypass “regular order” to remake America. As Politico notes, this “marks Democrats’ first step toward bypassing the filibuster in order to pass their party’s massive social spending plan, which envisions higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to fund initiatives like expanded Medicare, free community college and green cards for some immigrants.” But it won’t be their last.
Just last week, we saw perhaps an even more egregious example of overreach, after White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling announced that the administration had “quadruple-checked” whether Biden could issue a moratorium on evictions and was “unable to find the legal authority.” But under pressure from the Squad and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who lacked the votes to pass a law but demanded the White House “get better lawyers” and do their work for them, Biden issued a new rent freeze anyway—never mind that pesky legal authority.
Meanwhile, Biden is currently being pressured by Elizabeth Warren and others to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower, so who knows where this will end?
Now, the public, as far as I know, has not fully litigated, much less endorsed, the notion of living in someone else’s home debt-free, free community college, or canceling student debt, but who cares? Remember: Biden already got away with steamrolling Republicans on the COVID-relief package and also chose to undermine good-faith assumptions by pairing the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Republicans agreed to with passage of this $3.5 trillion budget resolution—which will be introduced “immediately” after the infrastructure bill passes Congress.
That’s right, even as the bipartisan infrastructure bill is speeding toward passage, Biden and the Democrats are showing Republicans (and the rest of us) that bipartisan cooperation will not assuage their appetite for progressivism; they want to ram through their partisan agenda using any means necessary.
This is what happens when human nature transcends the constitution—and public opinion. Nobody wants to accept the paradoxical messiness and stasis of democracy where some anachronistic document, much less arbitrary filibuster rules, prevents politicians from taking decisive action on issues their base deems critically important.
The only thing that really is bipartisan is that we all now prefer instant gratification and maximalist activism to incremental gain and adherence to the rule of law. Our politics have entered a sort of Dirty Harry phase where the rules (“technicalities”) are now considered slow and obstructionist, and the hero is supposedly a man of action who takes the law into his own hands. Except, instead of a fictional vigilante, this mentality has been accepted by almost every serious political actor (whether or not they cop to it).
The larger takeaway is that democracy is in trouble. While Democrats would surely scoff at the comparison, progressives clearly want their president to violate the constitution to “protect millions of families,” just as the right’s infatuation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaks to their yearning for a strongman to impose their version of the “common good.” In a country where the Senate is divided 50-50, everyone wants a powerful strongman to push their agenda—and rationalizes that it’s necessary because their agenda is so virtuous, the game is so rigged, and the other side is so evil (on this last point, at least, both sides have a compelling point).
Does anyone really think that Joe Biden was elected to unilaterally advance a progressive agenda, rather than to restore normalcy to our system of government and our daily lives?
I know I don’t. But progressives want their own strong man. And, ironically, they are strong-arming Biden into becoming El Jefe.