Biden threw away the old Democratic playbook, and Republicans can’t adapt

During the Democratic primary, Biden talked a big “bipartisan” game, echoing many of the same bromides we heard from Obama about “reaching out across the aisle” and other such nonsense. It really did seem as though he was setting up “Obama, the sequel.” Yet that’s not what we’ve seen, not even for a second. When 10 supposedly “moderate” Republicans paid him a White House visit, presenting him with a $600 billion counteroffer to his own $1.9 trillion proposal, they were essentially laughed out of the room. 

“I think it’s — they put their ideas forward.  That’s how the President sees it,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about the GOP’s ridiculous counter-offer. “He felt it was, you know, an effort to engage, and engage on a bipartisan basis, and that’s why he invited them to the White House today. But his view is that the size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crisis — crises we’re facing — the dual crises we’re facing, hence why he proposed a package that’s $1.9 trillion.”

Not only did Biden dismiss the Republicans, he didn’t even bother to engage in negotiations. No, “Would $1.3 trillion work? No? $1 trillion? $800 billion?” Because we know that not only would that have dragged out this process for way too long, delaying critical work on election reform, immigration reform, and other Democratic priorities, but in the end, you know those assholes would’ve voted against the legislation anyway. It’s what Republicans have always done, and there was zero reason for Democrats to believe that this time, with a party beholden to Donald Trump of all people, that things would’ve ended up differently. 

It is impossible to overstate just how momentous this accomplishment is. Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan, and Congress passed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan. Democrats delivered not just a massive boost to a recovering economy, but also passed the most comprehensive anti-poverty initiative in generations. 

Joan McCarter recapped the elements of the bill here, and really, go read it. Really appreciate just how amazing this moment is. My favorite? It cuts child poverty nearly in half, providing direct monthly payments to lower-income parents. 

This legislation is so amazing that it has unprecedented popular support. A recent PPP poll spelled out some of the numbers, and these are all within the polling mainstream (which is 70%+ approval overall, and 50-60% approval among Republicans). 

  • Lowering healthcare costs for people who lost their coverage due to job loss during the pandemic: 77% of voters support this American Rescue Plan provision, including 58% of Republicans
  • $1,400 relief checks for middle income and working families who need it the most: 74% of voters support it, including 61% of Republicans
  • Capping insurance premiums for millions so none pay more than 9% of their income for health coverage: 72% support, with 57% support among Republicans (only 11% of voters overall oppose this provision)
  • New funding to surge vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing: 71% of voters favor it, including 51% of Republicans and 72% voters over 65.

And get this: These approval numbers are even before people get their checks. There’re the stimulus checks and the monthly child credit checks for tens of millions of parents. There’s the funding to accelerate vaccine distribution, and the funding to help businesses keep their employees on the job—such as airlines cancelling planned furloughs, and desperately needed assistance for restaurants and bars. 

You can tell Republicans are in a bind because Fox News didn’t focus on this law. Instead, they spent the last month crying about Mr. Potato Head and racist anti-Asian Dr. Seuss books pulled out of commission. That’s a far cry from 2009, when Fox News was obsessed with “You are going to lose your doctor” storylines in attacking and undermining the ACA. 

And that’s why this isn’t 2009 anymore, yet Republicans are trapped with that playbook. They’ve decided to vote, en masse, without a single defection, against the most momentous and popular piece of legislation since who knows when. And their message and media machines are afraid to touch it. They’re not even trying to undermine the law in the public’s mind. The best they can do is weak sauce like this: 


“All the good stuff happening isn’t happening because of the bill. Hey, is that Dr Seuss over there?” is pretty much their operating message right now. How is that going to sustain them through an election cycle where the economy will be booming?

People have been hoarding cash, with household savings rates well above historical norms. Makes sense in times of economic uncertainty when people are unsure whether they’ll have jobs in the months ahead, as well as diminished opportunities (like leisure travel) to spend earnings. But there is massive pent-up demand. As economic anxiety eases, jobs feel more secure, stimulus checks hit bank accounts, and people shake off cabin fever with joyful abandon (I know I will!), that spending will be rocket fuel for the economy.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has just upgraded expected economic growth this year to a blistering 6.5%, and 4% next year. They had projected 3.2% in December. Goldman Sachs projects an even higher 7.7% growth rate in a report titled, joyfully, “The Coming Jobs Boom.” 

Fox News knows this, of course. Its reaction to an unfriendly reality is simply to quit the news business. It’s all culture-war nonsense at this point, and manufactured nonsense at that. It’s hard to stand for something when the party they all back couldn’t even muster a policy platform at the Republican National Convention last year. “Whatever Trump wants” was much easier to stamp on a single piece of paper while letting his lackey Sean Hannity rule the roost. 

But how does that better prepare Republicans for 2022? How does “oppose everything Democrats do, even the stuff everyone loves” win them votes? Even Q adherents will have to think twice in 2022 if they have to choose between surrendering their $300 or $360 monthly check per child, or voting for a Republican promising to undo that help. And what message will they have for a booming economy as the nation returns to normalcy after Trump’s gross mismanagement of the pandemic response? Layer that on top of demographic changes—Republicans still depend too much on old, white, rural men who are methodically, er, exiting the electorate. And what’s left? A hope for an ACA-style backlash that they aren’t even trying to spark?

The unified Republican opposition to the $1.9 trillion rescue package is the best gift Republicans could’ve handed Democrats. Second best? Not even trying to undermine it publicly. Dr Seuss won’t win them any elections.