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Fri Jan 14, 2022, 07:07 PM

Friday Talking Points -- The Death Of Joe Biden's Presidential Legacy

We're not quite sure exactly what to call what we witnessed this week in Washington. We know it's not "regicide," since we don't have kings here. So what, exactly? Execucide? Presidenticide? Legicide? Particide? Whatever neologism you prefer, however (and feel free to suggest your own in the comments...), what we saw this week was the strangulation of Joe Biden's presidency and the Democratic Party's political agenda. It happened mostly in public, as two supposedly-Democratic senators killed all hope of anything important getting done for the entire rest of the year (if not for the rest of Biden's term). This will likely doom Democrats' chances in the midterms and will likely also cement the legacy (whether justified or not) of Biden's term in office as a president who was weak, ineffective, and a massive disappointment to most of the Democratic Party.

Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema personally strangled Biden's hopes for accomplishing much of anything more than he already has, and by doing so they did more political damage to Biden's presidency and their own party than Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Kevin McCarthy could have managed combined. That's how disappointing the entire tragedy truly was, for millions of Democratic voters.

Midterm congressional elections depend on turnout of the base. But why should any Black southern voter even bother to brave the hours-long lines when their own party and their own preferred presidential candidate have proven to be so ineffective in delivering for them? Why should any parent get excited about voting for a Democrat when the party couldn't even manage to continue the Child Tax Credit payments for another year? Why should anyone who cares about justice and democracy make the effort to vote when their elected officials quite obviously care about arcane parliamentary procedure far more than securing their right to vote?

It's been that kind of week, sadly.

Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Kyrsten. We sincerely hope all the money the big donors give you (and future lobbying opportunities, for Sinema) prove to be worth it. Because you have richly (pun intended) earned the wrath of Democrats all across the country, from sea to shining sea. History called, and you let it roll over to voice mail. And we won't forget -- you can count on that much.

We've even heard the suggestion that perhaps the way to convince these two is to get a bunch of progressive activist money together and just buy them off -- offer them more in campaign goodies than the other side already has. As the old joke goes (usually referencing cops), are Sinema and Manchin honest politicians? You know -- the kind that stays bought -- and doesn't sell out to someone else?

Sigh. It's been that kind of week.

It started early -- last weekend, Manchin let it be known that he wasn't even supporting his own offer on the Build Back Better bill. He had made this offer to the White House just before Christmas, but now apparently he's so miffed that they didn't praise his obstructionism to the skies that he's reneging on this offer, too. And that he wasn't even in discussions with the White House anymore on how to move forward.

So that killed off the entire remainder of Biden's economic agenda. And it was only Saturday. Things went downhill from there.

Tuesday was a good day, but it turned out to be too little, too late. President Joe Biden went down to Georgia to give a speech on voting rights. The speech itself was excellent -- even better than the barnburner he delivered the previous week to mark the January 6th anniversary. However, it was nothing more than a last-ditch effort -- an effort that now seems to have driven straight into the ditch.

The speech was well-received, but what was more telling than the audience's reaction was who wasn't there to hear it. Many Black activists stayed away, the most prominent being Stacey Abrams (an absolute lion of the right-to-vote movement). Abrams said she had "a scheduling conflict," but while her team wouldn't say what she was doing, she had no public events scheduled that day. Black Georgians felt grateful for Biden giving such a strong speech, but also more than a little disillusioned because it took so long for him to give such a speech. From their viewpoint, Biden has squandered his first year, always relegating voting rights to the back burner and (until now) never championing the issue personally.

This has meant the clock has already run out on several of the reforms that could have been possible if the two voting rights bills in Congress had actually passed last year. Redistricting has already happened (although some of the worst gerrymandered maps, such as Ohio's, are already getting rejected by the courts, thankfully). Primaries are about to begin. This is just about the last chance Democrats will have to pass any legislation that will impact the general election in November, and although Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden tried to orchestrate a full-court press on the issue, none of it changed the minds of Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema.

Now, to be fair, the people upset with Biden for not making voting rights a focus earlier on don't really have an answer as to why that would have been any different, when it comes to convincing Manchin and Sinema to reform the filibuster rules in the Senate (which would be necessary for either one of the voting rights bills to pass). Biden and Schumer could have done all of this last June or July, and the outcome likely would have been exactly the same. With not a single vote to spare in the Senate, Biden simply can't deliver the way L.B.J. could (with 67 Democrats in his Senate). It all comes down to the weakest link, and both Sinema and Manchin seem to revel in the contest to see which one of them is weaker.

Manchin played his usual "be the worst kind of tease" game all week, suggesting he might be open to some changes in the filibuster, but probably not enough to guarantee passage of the two voting rights bills. Sinema, as usual, refused to say anything and then gave a vomit-inducing grandstanding speech in the Senate right before Joe Biden personally arrived at the Capitol to talk to all the Senate Democrats. To quote the philosopher Jar Jar Binks: "How wude!" She managed some crocodile tears as she stood up for a fantastical bipartisanship which simply does not exist right now and will never exist as long as the filibuster rules remain unchanged. She is, to be blunt, living in her own reality. Manchin may be too, since he began the week by falsely stating that the filibuster had been in place for "232 years," which isn't even remotely true. The filibuster is not and has never been part of the Constitution, and you'd think a senator who supposedly reveres the filibuster would know that by now.

Of course, Biden wasn't alone in his push to convince the two holdouts. Barack Obama wrote an editorial in USA Today where he made his own case:

The filibuster has no basis in the Constitution. Historically, the parliamentary tactic was used sparingly -- most notably by Southern senators to block civil rights legislation and prop up Jim Crow. In recent years, the filibuster became a routine way for the Senate minority to to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. But we can't allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy. That's why I fully support President Joe Biden's call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote. And every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president's call as well.

The pundits chimed in as well, in an attempt to teach Manchin and Sinema the correct history:

The 14th and the 15th Amendments -- which along with the 13th were the constitutional foundations for civil and voting rights in America -- were not passed on a bipartisan basis. The 14th Amendment passed on an almost total party-line vote in Congress, with Republicans standing against a Democratic Party that opposed federal intervention in the South. When legislatures in the states of the former Confederacy refused to ratify it, that same party-line majority passed the Reconstruction Acts in 1867 and 1868, which imposed military government on most of the South and made ratification of the amendment a precondition of readmission to the union.

The 15th Amendment was likewise partisan, passed on a party-line vote in both chambers of Congress.

Saying you believe in bipartisanship in today's Senate is like saying you believe unicorns are not only real but also are saving the planet from climate change. It's just ludicrous for an adult to believe such things, in other words.

Democrats didn't pick this fight, it would do well to remember. But Manchin and Sinema are unilaterally disarming the Democratic Party, dooming it to lose the battle:

What Manchin opposes is achieving those monumentally important things [the voting rights bills] on a partisan basis. But here's the rub: Either Republicans will keep restricting voting on a partisan basis, or Democrats will protect and expand voting access on a partisan basis. Partisanship will prevail either way. The only question is which partisanship prevails.

None of it did any good. Manchin is still playing his usual coy game, but hasn't budged an inch. Sinema added insult to injury with her grandstanding speech, which brought joy and cheer to the heart of every Republican in the chamber. She has already gotten some strong condemnation from one very powerful voice, after Biden's speech provided the imagery:

"History will remember Sen. Sinema unkindly," [Martin Luther] King III said in a statement shortly after Sinema's speech on the Senate floor ended. "While Sen. Sinema remains stubborn in her 'optimism,' Black and Brown Americans are losing their right to vote.

"She's siding with the legacy of Bull Connor and George Wallace instead of the legacy of my father and all those who fought to make real our democracy," King added.

That's her legacy, plain and simple, from this point on.

America's legacy is still an open question, but this was certainly depressing to hear. Pollsters are now asking people a new question -- one they hadn't ever bothered to before: "Do you think the nation's democracy is in danger of collapse?" The results? A full 58 percent say they are indeed worried, while only 37 percent disagree. That's the reality of the situation that Sinema and Manchin are ignoring.

So as we said, it's been a pretty depressing week all around. Unless something drastically changes, what we all have witnessed has been the absolute death of the entire rest of President Biden's agenda -- at least for the next year. Bipartisanship is simply not going to spontaneously break out... sorry, Kyrsten. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the events of this week doom Democrats to becoming the minority party in both houses of Congress in the midterms. It really was that bad a week.

We have to hand out this award in a very qualified fashion this week. In fact, we considered handing both our weekly awards to the same man, because it has been a rollercoaster of a week for President Joe Biden.

But on balance, we found that Tuesday's speech was indeed impressive and should be recognized. Biden has now given two major speeches in January, and both of them were stunning and amazing, if just for the passion Biden displayed in them.

The first point this passion really appeared in this week's speech was in the following passage, as Biden was talking about his efforts to move voting rights bills forward: "I've been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months. I'm tired of being quiet!" But in reality, there has been nothing stopping Biden -- he could have been as loud on the subject as he wished, ever since he got sworn in. We sincerely hope that his first two speeches of the year are a harbinger of what is to come -- that Biden stays "tired of being quiet," and makes as strong (and as loud) a case as he can for his entire agenda, leading up to the midterms.

We briefly wrote about Biden's speech earlier this week, or you can read some other reviews of it if you missed seeing or hearing it on Tuesday. Biden was unequivocal in his call for Democrats to not only support voting rights but also to reform the filibuster to pass the bills and put them on his desk. And we've got the three most memorable passages (in our opinion) down in the talking points as well.

But the speech didn't happen in a vacuum. In fact, it happened in the midst of a pretty terrible week for Biden all around. Inflation went up again in December, Biden's testing mandate (with a vaccine opt-out) for private employers was tossed out by the Supreme Court (although they did uphold the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers), and tomorrow would have been the day for the monthly Child Tax Credit checks to go out again -- but they won't, because Build Back Better didn't pass. So millions upon millions of parents who have gotten used to these monthly tax credits will suddenly be left in the lurch, all thanks to Joe Manchin. And the week ended with Kyrsten Sinema rudely torpedoing filibuster reform right before Biden made his personal case to the Democrats in the Senate.

As we said, a pretty terrible week all around.

But, as we said, we still have to admit that was indeed an impressive speech. So even though it does come with some qualifiers, Joe Biden still was the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Sadly, it's getting to the point where we could do this section in the length of a tweet.

The Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week goes to both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, for the usual reasons. As well as (for Manchin) for torpedoing Build Back Better just to kick the week off and (for Sinema) disrespecting her party's leader by giving a crocodile-tears speech right before Joe Biden was due to make his case to Senate Democrats.

With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema on her Senate contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 646 (1/14/22)

Democrats now face a very steep hill, heading into an election year. Not only do they have the "midterm curse" dynamic working against them, but now they have a whole lot of very disappointed voters in their base.

An article written examining the aftermath of the apparent death of Build Back Better put it rather succinctly:

It's far from the ideal position. And party leaders and campaign strategists are holding out hope that the White House may still be able to revive nascent talks around the [Build Back Better] initiative to at least salvage some popular elements. But in interviews with nearly two dozen Democrats involved in the upcoming election, there is an increasing sense that political inertia may well win out and that their party will be forced to radically adapt its core pitch to voters.

"I don't think any of us are expecting anything else to pass," said Colin Strother, a Democratic operative and veteran of House campaigns in Texas. Strother said the party in Washington has "underwhelmed, underachieved and undersold" it's successes so far. "It has left our opponents emboldened, or supporters dejected and our prospects for 2022 dim if not dark. So we have a lot of work to do to dig out of this... We better have some golden fuckin' shovels."

As we said, a very steep hill to climb.

So we're doing what we can to launch this election year, even though it was rather dispiriting to do so. But Democrats are going to have to run on something, and they'd better start figuring out now what that's going to be.

We could only come up with four positive ones, for the time being. The last three of these are from Joe Biden's voting rights speech, where he lays out what is at stake not only for Democrats in the Senate but for the entire country. These are likely to be the bits of this speech which are remembered and quoted in the future.

Tout the good economic news

The following is from an article written by two people from Third Way, which is not an organization we usually look to for advice (to put it mildly). But the article was actually pretty good, laying out a 5-point plan for Democrats to fight back rhetorically in their midterm campaigns. One of the items was "Be like Reagan on the economy," and while we could have redesigned this as a Democratic talking point from a politician, it's easy enough to do so and we wanted to give credit for the idea where it was due:

Imagine what a Republican president would call an economy with the highest gross domestic product growth since 1984, the biggest jobs increase in U.S. history, booming wages and a stock market up 25 percent year-over-year. Donald Trump called far less "the greatest economy in the history of the world."

There is a 24-point gap between how positive voters feel about their own finances and how negatively they view the U.S. economy. One reason is inflation. The other is that Republicans denigrate the economy for political reasons, and Democrats live in fear of celebrating if a single voter is unhappy with their economic circumstances.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan had a sprinting economy like today's (including inflation in excess of 4 percent). He proclaimed it "Morning in America" and romped to a 49-state landslide.

Make Sinema and Manchin irrelevant!

This is admittedly a weak argument to make to most voters, except the ones in the Senate battleground states (such as Pennsylvania or Wisconsin). But it could indeed be a motivating factor there, and indeed several Democratic candidates are already explicitly making this argument.

"Are you disgusted with so-called Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema doing the Republicans' dirty work for them in the Senate? Well, there's one good way to make them completely irrelevant. Do you never want to see Manchin's face in a television interview again? The way to do that is to elect more real Democrats to the Senate! If I am elected, I promise to immediately reform the filibuster and support President Joe Biden's agenda for America -- all of the Build Back Better plan, voting rights, raising the minimum wage, making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes -- all of it! Send me and one other new Democrat to the Senate and tell Manchin and Sinema they can go pound sand for all you care!"

We could be getting so much done

This is related to the last one, obviously.

"If Democrats -- real Democrats -- had control of the Senate and keep control of the House, then we have a very positive agenda for making life better for all working Americans in almost too many ways to count. Go read what was in the Build Back Better bill that two supposedly Democratic senators killed! We will do all of this without raising taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, too, and it will all be paid for. We will then move on the rest of the Biden agenda which has been bottled up by the Republican Party's insistence on blocking all good ideas to move this country forward. And most important of all we will pass a voting rights act for the 21st century, to ensure that state politicians can never tear down what so many have fought for throughout our history. Think of what we can get done, and then take a look at the Republican Party. They have no ideas whatsoever on any plan to improve life for anyone -- except maybe the wealthy, they'll probably manage to pass another giant tax giveaway to the millionaires and billionaires. Compare what Democrats want to get done with the total absence of any ideas -- good, bad, or indifferent -- on the other side. It's a pretty easy choice to make, America."

Show them how determined you are!

Whip up Democrats everywhere on the importance of turning out to the polls this particular year.

"Are we going to let Republicans get away with their voter suppression laws? No! I don't know about you, but them trying to make it harder and harder to vote just makes me angry. I swear, I will not allow them to break my determination! I am going to vote, come Hell or high water, and I hope that you all feel the same. Jump through all their hoops. Help others navigate all their nonsense. Make sure your family and your friends all know what they have to do before Election Day. No matter what, do not let them intimidate you into just giving up and not voting. It is the only way we can beat their antidemocratic efforts!"

Let the majority prevail

As mentioned, these last three come from Biden's recent speech on voting rights. They are in the order given, and they build up to a rather dramatic conclusion.

Sadly, the United States Senate -- designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body -- has been rendered a shell of its former self. It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate. But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. Let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.

Weaponized and abused

The only thing to add to this one might be: "...as the authors of the Constitution meant it to be" -- always hammer home that the filibuster is not in the Constitution at all.

The filibuster has been weaponized and abused. While the state legislatures' assault on voting rights is simple -- all you need in your House and Senate is a pure majority -- in the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority: 60 votes, even to get a vote -- instead of 50 -- to protect the right to vote. State legislatures can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities. If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority. Today I'm making it clear: To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights. When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.

Where will you stand?

Biden got some grief for this passage, but it will easily be the most-remembered passage of the whole speech. And he's right. It is indeed time to choose sides, and the choice should be pretty obvious.

And the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? Every senator -- Democrat, Republican, and independent -- will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages. Will you stand against voter suppression? Yes or no? That's the question they'll answer. Will you stand against election subversion? Yes or no? Will you stand for democracy? Yes or no? And here's one thing every senator and every American should remember: History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters' rights. And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion. So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Reply Friday Talking Points -- The Death Of Joe Biden's Presidential Legacy (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Jan 14 OP
LuvLoogie Jan 14 #1
Joinfortmill Jan 14 #2

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jan 14, 2022, 07:31 PM

1. TL;DR

It's pizza and Netflix for me.

Joe is one year into his first term.

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jan 14, 2022, 07:39 PM

2. It's not over yet.

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