Friday, April 09, 2021

The Pleasant Surprise of the Biden Administration

Joe Biden has set out a muscular, progressive agenda.

This has come as a surprise to some people, particularly those on the leftier edge of the party, who thought Biden would simply be an extension of Third Way Clintonism and were despondent over what they assumed was a guarantee of four years of anemic faux-progress.

But what's most surprising to me* is that we're actually seeing some of these leftier folks acknowledge the pleasant surprise. More and more, they're not dismissing what Biden's doing, they're not pooh-poohing it with "both parties are the same." They're admitting that Biden has been far better than they anticipated.

We saw this shift first, I think, when it came to the COVID stimulus bill. A couple of people certainly lapsed into reflexive Eeyore-ing, complaining that the $1.9 trillion bill wasn't bold enough or expansive enough or was worthless without the minimum wage increase. But most people, including those on the left, recognized that it was in fact a B.F.D.. It probably helped that Biden did not let the GOP tie him knots with endless delay disguised as "negotiating". Biden made it clear that he learned the lesson of the Obama years on that front: if the GOP wants to get onboard with a popular bill, lovely, but he's not going to get himself mired in a political bog for months in a futile effort to make Susan Collins vote for an inferior bill.

The early days of the Biden administration are a vindication for the persons who saw him, not as a "moderate" or a "progressive" figure, but as a party figure. Joe Biden has historically aligned himself with the middle of the Democratic Party. As the Democratic Party has shifted left, Biden has shifted left too. And that, we should say, is to the credit of folks like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have done great work in pushing the conversation left in the context of being Democrats (as opposed to in the context of smirking about how Democrats are worthless).

The team is coming together. It doesn't mean everything will be perfect -- it never is -- but it is coming together, and it's getting stuff done.

* My version of being surprised by Biden adopting a progressive agenda was definitely Terry McAuliffe's tenure as governor of Virginia, where he was just way better than I think anyone could have anticipated ex ante.

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