How Biden should go on offense

Published on Friday, 28 June 2019 14:44
Written by Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post

In the first Democratic debate Wednesday night, one telling moment came when the 10 presidential candidates onstage were asked what they’d do if Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is still majority leader in 2021 and stands ready to crush all their elaborate plans.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared: “If the Democratic Party would stop acting like the party of the elites and be the party of working people again, and go into states, including red states, to convince people we’re on their side, we can put pressure on their senators to actually have to vote for the nominees that are put forward.” And if red-state senators find themselves still in the majority, what then?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gave an even more troubling answer: “Number one, sure, I want to see us get a Democratic majority in the Senate. But short of a Democratic majority in the Senate, you better understand the fight still goes on.” She continued, “It starts in the White House, and it means that everybody we energize in 2020 stays on the front lines come January 2021. We have to push from the outside, have leadership from the inside, and make this Congress reflect the will of the people.” So we get nothing done for two years and then run against Republicans? And what if Republicans win then?

Democrats have every reason to be upset about Republican intransigence and to focus on winning the Senate majority. But it’s irresponsible and ahistorical to think you can wish away the other party. You can never simply eliminate Republicans from the picture. The prospect of doing so might feel good, but on most items, even Republicans cannot advance through the Senate bills that no one on the other side supports (e.g. Obamacare repeal), let alone bills that divides their own side.

Here is where former vice president Joe Biden can aggressively defend his desire to work across the aisle - a position unpopular on Twitter among progressives but plenty popular with the electorate at large. The answer could go like this:

I’ll work like the devil to boot out every Republican and defend every Democratic seat. But the reality is that we are never, ever going to pass all the major legislation we want and help people in dire need right now by saying, “My way or the highway.” If we’ve got unanimity on our side and majorities in both houses, then by gosh, we’re going to pass a new Voting Rights Act. But lots of times we don’t have majorities in both houses or don’t have total unanimity on our side.

“That’s why Sen. Sanders - love ya, Bernie, but let’s be honest - never passed his utopian legislation. It’s not because we lack courage; it’s because the other side has interests and constituents, too. The essence of our constitutional system - which President Trump is destroying - is to bang heads, fight for what we think is right and then find a way to get something done. If we took the all-or-nothing approach, we wouldn’t have had a United States of America in the first place.

“If you’ve never served in government, never had to cajole and plead and threaten and pressure colleagues - as great Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Paul Wellstone and my good friend Sen. Cory Booker have - you think you alone can fix things. That’s not how the real world operates.”

Why mention Booker? He’s no threat to Biden, and he serves as a contemporary example (on criminal-justice reform) that you can horse-trade your way to legislative victories.

Such remarks from Biden might drive the far left up a tree. But it’s genuinely what he thinks, it’s a popular sentiment out in the country, and it’s inarguably true. Moreover, it’s the best pushback to the notion Biden is “out of it” or doesn’t understand what meanies those Republicans are.

In fact, it’s the Sanders types, expecting the opposition to melt away and a socialist savior to swoop in to do what mere mortal politicians could not, who are living in another universe.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 28 June 2019 14:44. Updated: Friday, 28 June 2019 14:47.