Biden needs a reset. He’s not alone

Thursday marks a year since Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. As you may have noticed, things aren’t going especially well (more on that tomorrow). The president is hoping to reset things with a press conference at the White House this afternoon. But he isn’t the only one who could reconsider his approach after twelve underwhelming months.

Among those who need to rethink things: congressional reporters. With Biden’s legislative agenda stalled, it is a popular complaint of those obscure scribblers who are paid to chase members of Congress around the Capitol that every day feels like the last. Here’s a bit of advice for those looking to spice things up: if you don’t want today to feel like yesterday, don’t ask the same questions you asked yesterday. Questions to which you already know the answer. It long ago stopped being news that Joe Manchin is not in favor of changes to the filibuster. We know this. It is, by now, a well-established fact. And yet, the poor guy must state this fact approximately ninety-three times a day. And congressional reporters feel the need to report it as news.

To ask one bad question over and over again is to miss a more important one: why does Democratic leadership keep trying the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?

To the Democratic Party: it’s one thing to be cynical hyperbolic fear-mongerers over voting. It’s another to actually believe this stuff. In other words, stop buying your own spin. If a party wants to turn things around, it must first realize, and maybe even publicly acknowledge, that the future of American democracy is not threatened by the continued existence of a Senate filibuster. And that voting in America is, well, pretty easily done. Do that and you won’t look like an out-of-touch coterie of MSNBC-addled weirdos.

In a no-holds-barred Substack post, political comedy writer Jeff Maurer dares to say what is increasingly unsayable in Democratic circles: the stakes just aren’t that high. Of the party’s language on voting laws, he writes: “To call this argument ‘overwrought’ would be a massive understatement — calling our rhetoric ‘overwrought’ would be like calling Baywatch ‘a little horny.’” In their response to the Republicans obsessing over election security, he observes, “we matched their base-driven hyperventilating with some of our own. A major mistake was to conflate voter suppression — which is shitty but ineffective — with election subversion, which would spark a constitutional crisis. By matching the GOP’s delusion, we’ve instigated a Burn After Reading-style cat-and-mouse game in which all the players appear to be idiots and the stakes are non-existent.”

Perhaps the most succinct distillation of the current voting-rights mania I have read. It is not too late to lower the temperature.

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The deepening Democratic exodus

Another day, another Democratic House retirement. Rather, another two retirements. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and Jerry McNerney of California both announced yesterday that they won’t be seeking re-election in November. That brings the total number of Democrats stepping down to twenty-eight. Eight of those are seeking other elected office. Karen Bass, for example, is running for mayor of Los Angeles. Charlie Crist is taking on Ron DeSantis in Florida’s gubernatorial race (good luck!). But twenty are retiring from politics altogether. Defending a razor-thin majority would have been difficult for Democrats without these departures. But the exodus makes the chances of keeping control slimmer still.

Mask wars at the Supreme Court

No workplace is safe from petty Covid feuds. NPR’s supremely well-connected legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports that rows over masks have reached the highest court in the land. At recent oral arguments over vaccine mandates, all but one of the eight Supreme Court justices attending in person were masked. The exception was Neil Gorsuch, while Sonia Sotomayor participated remotely.

According to Totenberg, Sotomayor, who has diabetes, wanted her colleagues to don masks because of the Omicron wave. Chief Justice John Roberts asked the other justices to do so. All of them did, except for Gorsuch. And so Sotomayor chose to Zoom into proceedings. Don’t they have weightier issues to be arguing about?

What you should be reading today

Matt Purple: Joe Biden daydreams about civil rights
Dominic Green: Crossing the Omicron Rubicon
Jay Caruso: The president’s phony empathy for migrant families
Janan Ganesh, Financial Times: How the pandemic exposed the myth of the Anglosphere
Lisa Kashinsky, Politico: How Omicron ruined new mayors’ honeymoons
Jeffrey Herf, American Purpose: Time is on Iran’s side

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.8 percent
Disapprove: 52.6 percent
Net approval: -10.8 (RCP Average)

Percentage of Americans who disagree with the following statements
Biden is energetic: 58 percent
Biden is a strong leader: 57 percent
Biden is a clear communicator: 56 percent
Biden keeps his promises: 53 percent
Biden is capable of leading the country: 51 percent (Morning Consult/Politico)

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