Biden is stranded

Why is Joe Biden’s presidency failing? According to an emerging view on the left, it’s because Biden isn’t going far enough, fast enough. In recent weeks, the focus has been abortion, with the president being criticized for failing to rise to the moment after Dobbs. But the dynamic is basically the same whatever the issue. From climate change and voting rights to healthcare and college tuition, the complaint is by now a familiar one.

Whenever the whingefest starts, I find myself asking: are we talking about the same president?

It is a testament to Biden’s political talents that he has somehow managed to govern in a far more partisan, progressive tone than he campaigned and run an administration that is a long way to the left of the last Democratic president’s — and still leave his party’s progressives so unsatisfied.

A quick recap: in Biden we have a president who would have spent trillions of dollars more were it not for Joe Manchin, has adopted a combative, uncompromising and often partisan line in the wake of Dobbs, now supports carve-outs to the filibuster for several of his party’s top priorities, has accused anyone who does not support a federal voting rights overhaul as being no better than a segregationist, and now claims that anyone who questions trans ideology and deviates from the trigger-happy prescription of puberty blockers to children is peddling “conversion therapy.”

This is the guy you’re so exasperated with?

The tragic irony of the Biden presidency is that he built his victory on an appreciation of the gap between the progressive opinions of his party’s elite and those of the average American. It is, quite literally, the reason he is president. He studiously eschewed woke prostrations and big-spending far left economics. It was a heroic act applauded by the great middle of American politics dreading a Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders showdown. Against Trump he fought a narrow campaign, correctly identifying an appetite for normalcy above all else. Then he took the oath of office and forgot all of that.

In 2020 and 2021, there were periodic suggestions that Biden needed a “Sister Souljah moment.” A visible falling out with his party’s social justice warriors would remind Americans of Biden’s reasonableness and reassure independents anxious about the influence of the far-left. It never came. Now Biden has yielded to progressives but they have proved to be lousy teammates. Meanwhile, moderates feel understandably alienated.

Much was made of a quote from Biden’s outgoing communications chief Kate Bedingfield in a story yesterday on the White House’s response to Dobbs this weekend. “Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign,” Bedingfield told the Washington Post. This was written up as a sign of a split with the left when really it is a perfect encapsulation of the Biden White House’s desire to have its cake and eat it.

Biden, his spokespeople will tell you, is the perfect ally and full-throated defender of various progressive causes but also impeccably moderate, and to suggest otherwise is an “ultra MAGA” lie. He wants to transform America with massive spending that fights climate change and restructures the economy, they say, but to imply his administration could possibly have anything to do with our current economic woes is dangerous misinformation.

Not only is this not a recipe for success, it’s not even a strategy. That word implies the acknowledgment of trade-offs, decisions being made, a path having been chosen. Instead, Team Biden lurches from one crisis to the next, apparently unaware of why they were put in the White House in the first place. The left understands that, in such circumstances, shout the loudest and you are the most likely to get heard.

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Biden loses Democrats

If there were any doubt over the scale of Biden’s problems, a New York Times poll out this morning adds to the gloom. Its headline finding? A majority of Democrats do not want Biden to run again.

Democracy dies in hyperbole

Is hyperbole the biggest threat to American democracy? After a flurry of over-the-top articles about Florida governor Ron DeSantis, I am starting to suspect it might be. With DeSantis on the rise and some signs that Donald Trump’s stock is falling, the columnists who have spent years explaining the ways in which the 45th president was a unique threat to America’s political stability and democratic future are here to tell you that his possible successor would be worse. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wants you to know that “Ron DeSantis would kill democracy slowly and methodically.” The Washington Post’s Max Boot thinks the Florida governor’s IQ is worryingly high: “Just because DeSantis is smarter than Trump doesn’t mean that he is any less dangerous. In fact, he might be an even bigger threat for that very reason.”

When I read op-eds like these, I wonder to myself: what would a Republican president have to look like not to be described as an existential threat to American democracy in this way? Is there such a thing as a GOP presidential candidate whom the Boots and Chaits of the world would accept as someone they disagreed with but who was within the bounds of what they see to be normal, healthy democratic politics? How about someone like Glenn Youngkin? Not according to Boot, who argued that the “fate of democracy itself” was on the ballot when Youngkin squared off against Terry McAuliffe last year.

Keep playing the game and you soon see that no one to the right of Mitt Romney passes the test. Realize that and you realize how uselessly overblown these never-ending warnings about the future of American democracy have become.

What you should be reading today

Ben Domenech: Who will stand for free speech?
Taylor Millard: Puerto Rico is more conservative than AOC thinks
Jesse Singal: Rise of the anti-woke weirdos
Megan McArdle, Washington Post: The reordering power of a recession may come as a shock to younger workers
Edgar Sandoval, New York Times: Inside a Uvalde classroom
Michael Auslin, Wall Street Journal: Abe cast Japan in leading role on world stage

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 37.4 percent
Disapprove: 57.6 percent
Net approval: -20.2 (RCP Average)

Why don’t Democrats want Biden to run again?
Reasons offered by Democrats who said they want someone other than Biden to be the nominee in 2024:
Age: 33 percent
Job Performance: 33 percent
Prefer someone new: 12 percent
Not progressive enough: 10 percent
Ability to win general election: 4 percent (New York Times/Siena)

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