If anyone tells you they know how the battle among congressional Democrats will be resolved, wish them a good day and walk away very quickly. They managed to pass an infrastructure bill in the Senate — with Republican support! — and are now in total disagreement on whether to vote on it in the House, not to mention what to put in a massive social spending bill, and whether one can pass without the other. There’s a chance that it could all fall through their fingers.
So the traditional reassurances that a party does not drag itself over a political cliff have no more weight than the assurances that the Congress will never permit the United States to default on its financial obligations, or that one of our two major political parties won’t work to undermine the results of the next election. We are simply in a different time and place (perhaps a darkling plain, where ignorant armies clash by night.)
It is, however, possible to trace the roots of the current Democratic disarray. It comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of a central political truth, offered by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In turning her Conservative Party in a sharp rightward direction, she argued: “first you win the argument, then you win the vote.”
In shaping their sweeping social spending legislation, with a putative price tag of $3.5 trillion, President Joe Biden and the Democratic congressional leaders have argued that this is what the voters chose last November. And polls do show broad support for universal pre-K, lower prescription drug prices and expanded health care, paid for by higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. In essence, the argument goes, “We won the argument and the vote and now it’s time to turn these ideas into law.” The problem is that the Democrats did not win the vote — at least, not in the sense that mattered, given the unique nature of our system of government. And Biden has not even won the argument widely enough in his own party. [Continue reading…]