Now that Congress has passed the debt limit deal, explanations for President Biden’s success in negotiating the outcome are abounding. Among them: Biden drew on his long experience in Washington to achieve bipartisan compromise; he avoided claiming a win so Republicans could support it; he didn’t get distracted by the media’s second-guessing.
Here’s another way to understand this unexpected outcome: Biden is operating from a largely unappreciated theory of MAGA, and in some ways, it’s working.
Passage of the deal, which averts default and economic calamity, was decisively bipartisan. The Senate approved it Thursday night with 17 Republicans backing it, after it passed the House with support from more than two-thirds of House Republicans.
This happened even though the deal’s spending cuts are not close to what Republicans sought. Yes, the outcome legitimizes the debt limit as a tool of extortion and imposes cruel new work requirements on many food stamp recipients. But Republicans didn’t use this showdown to crash or cripple the economy, as some observers (including me) worried they might.
Biden’s theory of MAGA helps explain this outcome. Biden ran in 2020 on the idea that the country faced an existential threat from the far right, highlighting white supremacy, political violence and President Donald Trump’s unprecedented attacks on democracy. This year’s reelection launch highlighted the assault on the Capitol and cast “MAGA extremists” as a threat to American “freedom.” [Continue reading…]