Biden’s Last Hurrah?

Is the stimulus bill it for this administration?

President Joe Biden takes notes doing a G7 Leaders' Virtual Meeting Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in the White House Situation Room.
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Kevin Drum warns Democrats excited about the $1.9 trillion dollar relief bill about to get President Biden’s signature not to expect any more accomplishments. As in none:

There might be another reconciliation bill later in the year, but aside from that Republicans will not allow anything more to pass and Democrats will not be able to eliminate the filibuster.

It doesn’t matter how important something is or how strongly we fight for it. It just doesn’t matter. So please, no stories about the “difficult path ahead” or any of that nonsense. Nothing more will pass. Nothing. And we all know why.

I think that’s wrong.

Here, I’m doing the opposite of what I did with Josh Marshall in my previous post: betting against recent trends. Certainly, the fact that not a single Republican Senator voted for this stimulus package (which I too would have preferred to see much more narrowly targeted) is strong evidence in his direction. Still, not only do Democrats control the White House and the House, they have 51 votes in the Senate. So, really, even if Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and other relatively moderate Republicans won’t go along, this bill is evidence that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are gettable.

I am, however, less optimistic than I was even a month ago that Biden’s talent for negotiation and relationships built over a long career as Senator and Vice President will break through the Mitch McConnell firewall. Lockstep conformity would seem to be not only bad policy but bad politics, especially for Senators in competitive states. It certainly looks like they’re going to stick with it, though.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Assuming Biden won’t run for a second term, can he use campaign funds to promote his agenda in the media?

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  2. Kingdaddy says:

    In this instance, Kevin Drum reminds me of the opinion writer, long ago, who wrote that the impending death of Albanian leader Enver Hoxha was going to trigger a world historical crisis, because of the complex chain of events that the author argued was inevitable. Such outrageous claims are either (1) just an attention-getting tactic, or (2) the product of someone who spends way too much time in his head, “figuring out” how current events absolutely must play out.

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  3. EddieInCA says:

    I hope to see a round of political ads which say “Your Rep/Senator voted against helping you when you needed help.”

    Over and over again.

    Zero Republican votes. Zero.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Drum’s opinion falls into the category of conventional wisdom, based on the assumption that Moscow Mitch will simply re-run his game plan of obstruction. The question becomes are there any “get able” R’s and what is the willingness of the Dem caucus to exempt particular bills from the filibuster that would normally be outside the rules of reconciliation.

    There have been hints of frustration among R’s at McConnell’s do nothing/obstruct all strategy, that may contribute to the raft of retiring R senators who are not elderly or infirm.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    I am, however, less optimistic than I was even a month ago that Biden’s talent for negotiation and relationships built over a long career as Senator and Vice President will break through the Mitch McConnell firewall. Lockstep conformity would seem to be not only bad policy but bad politics, especially for Senators in competitive states.

    It’s certainly true that Biden’s relationships will matter a great deal less than McConnell’s political instincts. But, I think it’s also true that lockstep is bad politics. As the COVID relief bill starts to have an impact for constituents of both parties, McConnell’s instinct should indicate to him that lockstep opposition was a bad play and he’ll adjust. We won’t see cooperation from the GOP by any means, but participation will be allowed. The filibuster isn’t going to be eliminated, but the votes are there to reform it. If the Republicans actually have to exert themselves to prevent cloture, cloture is more likely.

    The Dems have popular support for HR1 and PRO. An infrastructure bill is sorely needed. VP Harris is going to get to use her vote.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    51 does not equal 60.

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  7. KM says:

    Biden’s “talent for negotiation and relationships ” means ZERO when no one is willing to negotiate with him. It’s a two-way street unfortunately but all the responsibility and expectation of “unity” is being placed on the side that’s not deliberately trying to screw over America for cynical political gain.

    I can be the best hostage negotiator to ever live but if you’d dead set on killing the hostage or so out of it you cannot grasp what I’m trying to say, it’s gonna end badly. That’s just a fact. A silver tongue and friendly gesture is worthless against closed ears and minds. Unless the GOP sees that their little hissy fit is costing them something, we’ll be doing things along party lines for the next few years. They’ve no reason to open up to negotiate if the greater benefit is to dig their heels in and cry unfair partisanship.

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  8. dazedandconfused says:

    If Manchin will vote for filibuster reform, something like making filibusters stand and talk again, much could be possible. Manchin has said he is open to ideas on the topic.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    Hope A. There is reason to think McConnell may depart early for health reasons. His replacement may not be as effective at holding the line on obstruction. Having said that, I have no idea who’d replace Moscow Mitch as Minority Leader or, more importantly, what happens to McConnell’s PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund.

    Hope B. Manchin and Sinema decide they can maintain appearances for their respectively red and purple electorates by retaining something still called the filibuster, but modified to make it more expensive for the filibusterers and more publicly visible. A Jimmy Stewart style talking filibuster, with, say, 60% of senators voting (not 60 votes) for cloture would be better than what we have.

    Hope C. Biden really has some bipartisan pixie dust that can make some sort of TipnRonnie thing work even with Moscow Mitch.

    Top of the head I’d give A a 10% chance, B 20 or 30%, and C 0%.

    I should probably add D. Off the wall miscellany. Resignation by McConnell for reasons other than health, criminal indictment, assassination, visible dementia, loss of leadership position to some Trumpskyite, whatever.

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  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    @gVOR08:

    Hope B. Manchin and Sinema decide they can maintain appearances for their respectively red and purple electorates by retaining something still called the filibuster, but modified to make it more expensive for the filibusterers and more publicly visible. A Jimmy Stewart style talking filibuster, with, say, 60% of senators voting (not 60 votes) for cloture would be better than what we have.

    I really don’t have a read on Sinema at all–what she stands for, why she ran for office, anything–but I think Manchin sincerely wants an infrastructure bill. So this scenario strikes me as an increasingly likely occurrence. We will get filibuster reform with something called the “Manchin” or “Manchin-Sinema Rule.” The filibuster as we know it will be dead, and Manchin and Sinema get to go back to their constituents and show that:
    1. If a Republican had held their seat, no stimulus, no infrastructure bill.
    2. If some other Democrat had held their seat, teh libruls would’ve destroyed the filibuster and also America.

    Win all around.

    (Honestly, I like the idea of a talking filibuster, as I think for the next two decades there are going to be many instances of Republicans talking for hours trying to derail a very, very popular bill, or Democrats talking for hours to prevent very, very bad bills, and not much of the reverse.)

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  11. Andy says:

    Well, no one should be surprised that Republicans opposed this bill and I’m frankly kind of surprised the moderate Democrats didn’t extract more concessions.

    Although advertised as a relief bill, this is arguably the most progressive piece of legislation in a generation, and services several long-standing Democratic priorities and constituencies and even creates a new entitlement program, albeit one that sunsets in a year (and Democrats will fight hard to renew it or make it permanent). It’s really a testament to the effectiveness of Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer as well as the utter fecklessness of what now passes for the GoP, who seemed to spend more time whining about Dr. Seuss than challenging this legislation or offering any kind of coherent alternative.

    But going forward, I doubt this can be repeated. Democrats very effectively used the “never let a crisis go to waste” to get several of their priorities passed, but I think it’s doubtful that will continue to work as the threat of Covid starts to recede. And, at some point, I would expect the GoP to get some of its shit together so that policy choices are more than accepting or not accepting what the Democrats come up with.

    Plus, with this bill, the federal government will have spent the equivalent of Japan’s entire annual GDP on relief packages over the last year, $5 trillion dollars. That’s over $15k in spending for every person in the US. Although neither party cares one whit about deficits anymore, I don’t think that level of spending and federal action is politically or economically sustainable. So I would expect more pushback in the future.

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Well, no one should be surprised that Republicans opposed this bill and I’m frankly kind of surprised the moderate Democrats didn’t extract more concessions.

    Although advertised as a relief bill, this is arguably the most progressive piece of legislation in a generation, and services several long-standing Democratic priorities and constituencies and even creates a new entitlement program…

    Had Republicans been willing to negotiate in good faith, they likely would have had a pretty big say in what got into the bill. Biden, Manchin and Sinema would have killed for bipartisan support. And even if Biden balked, he has no say in the matter if Manchin balks.

    Republican intransigence created a much more progressive bill, because all the negotiation was between Democrats.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    I would expect the GoP to get some of its shit together so that policy choices are more than accepting or not accepting what the Democrats come up with.

    This won’t happen. There are no Republican policy ideas aside from white nationalism and phony nostalgia. There are literally no Republican ideas for any of the challenges we face, just denial and inchoate rage. There haven’t been any Republican ideas for a long time. What people think of as Republican ideas were dogwhistle racism, misogyny and embrace of plutocracy, expressed as a love of tax cuts and a consuming ‘worry’ that giving money to desperate people might accidentally benefit some less-than-desperate brown person.

    The Left has won the culture wars, they’ve won the economic/budgetary wars and since neither Left nor Right has a single idea on Foreign Policy, all that’s left to the Right is resentment and denial.

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  14. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Had Republicans been willing to negotiate in good faith, they likely would have had a pretty big say in what got into the bill. Biden, Manchin and Sinema would have killed for bipartisan support. And even if Biden balked, he has no say in the matter if Manchin balks.

    The fundamental problem is that there are very few people in Congress who actually want bipartisanship – as opposed to those who just give it lip service.

    So I find the entire idea that “good faith” negotiation – whatever that means in practice – as the key missing ingredient for bipartisanship to be largely a fantasy. But I agree with you in a limited sense in that the GoP really had nothing to offer and that explains why the small compromises Manchin et al got through were even weaker and more limited than one would expect.

    But even if the GoP wasn’t a wreck, major compromise was never in the cards because there simply aren’t enough “moderates” who actually support bipartisanship. Put simply, there aren’t enough “moderate” votes that can be captured that would make up for the loss of votes from the base. That’s the effect of a situation with a lot of polarization, little party discipline, and the small number of moderates. The power of Manchin and Simena, etc. is not as great as claimed for that reason.

    For example, I’m not sure what House and Senate Democrats would actually be willing to sacrifice from or add to the Covid legislation that would actually get Republican votes while not losing a greater number of Democratic votes. Let’s say you take out some Democratic priority and add in a tax cut. How many GoP votes will that get compared to how many Democratic votes will lose. I think the result would be that more Democratic votes would be lost and GoP votes gained. And so from a practical standpoint, it’s a nonstarter.

    That’s why the leadership of both parties in Congress prioritizes party unity over bipartisanship. And I think that is a wise and rational calculus for the circumstances because they realize that compromising to get 5 votes from the other side would mean they would lose 10 from their own side. And if the legislation is already 50-50, then that means there aren’t enough votes to pass it.

    When there were large numbers of moderates who believed in bipartisanship then the vote gain would be positive and therefore moderates really could control the legislative agenda or at least force bigger compromises. But we don’t live in that world anymore. In today’s polarized environment it’s simply a much better strategy to focus on party unity and cram what you can through on a 50+1 basis when fortune grants nominal control of Congress and the Executive and act as if we live in a parliamentary system despite not having any Parliamentary features.

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  15. Just nutha says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I wish we had more of you and fewer scorched earth types
    at all tiers in national government. Sadly, we don’t.

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  16. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The Democrats have certainly played their hand well, but I think you are overconfident in your assessment. Politics never ends, coalitions, priorities, and affiliations change. I’m very skeptical that the US will turn into a California or Illinois, especially considering the Democratic party really only represents the interests of perhaps 1/3 of the total US population. They are winning as much from a lack of coherent competition as anything, the result of being the only semi-coherent political coalition in a de-facto bipolar system. That lack of competition is unlikely to last over the long term, so enjoy it while it lasts.

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  17. @EddieInCA: I’m so glad the Republicans voted against this pork barrel bill .theyll get my vote next time.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    But even if the GoP wasn’t a wreck, major compromise was never in the cards because there simply aren’t enough “moderates” who actually support bipartisanship. Put simply, there aren’t enough “moderate” votes that can be captured that would make up for the loss of votes from the base. That’s the effect of a situation with a lot of polarization, little party discipline, and the small number of moderates. The power of Manchin and Simena, etc. is not as great as claimed for that reason.

    Manchin or Sinema could have said no. No in general, or no to getting half the kids out of poverty, or no to anything that struck their little fancies.

    Also, this is not the first covid relief bill that congress has passed. This is the first one that no Republicans supported.

    The Republicans counterproposal was tiny, short-termed, and not going to help enough people, and they weren’t interested in even extending the insufficient to long-term enough that the pandemic would plausibly be over. And after the 2009 Stimulus package being watered down so much, Democrats learned their lesson.

    But there are plenty of moderate Democrats — Manchin, Sinema, Tester, Hickenlooper, Bennet…

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  19. EddieInCA says:

    @Andy:

    And, at some point, I would expect the GoP to get some of its shit together so that policy choices are more than accepting or not accepting what the Democrats come up with.

    What are you smoking, Andy? Tell me, please, what policy choice will the GOP advocate that doesn’t involve Tax Cuts for the Rich, or screwing brown and black people? I’m genuinely asking. What will the propose? Because they had a majority in both houses, and the Presidency for two years, and we got kids in cages, and a tax cut.

    Tell me what the policies they will push for.

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  20. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael jenkins sr:

    @EddieInCA: I’m so glad the Republicans voted against this pork barrel bill .theyll get my vote next time.

    If you supported. Trump’s previous relief packages, but don’t like this one, it just underscores that an intellectually dishonest hack you are. However, if you can show that you were equally outraged by the deficit spending the last four years, then I’d apologize for my characterization.

    But I’m going with Partisian Hack to describe you.

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  21. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    And, at some point, I would expect the GoP to get some of its shit together so that policy choices are more than accepting or not accepting what the Democrats come up with.

    Perhaps I’m too cynical, but the reason I focus so much on the structure of State and National election laws and districts is that I do think structures play an outsized role in determining outcomes. And at this point, I don’t seen anything in the near visible future that is going to lead to what you are describing.

    There’s very little electoral up-side for the Republicans to put out any real policy options beyond “not the Democrats” and potentially a lot of downsides.

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  22. Andy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Tell me what the policies they will push for.

    I don’t know. I’m not a Republican and it seems to me as an outsider that Republicans don’t know either. It’s not like there is some grand plan out there waiting to be implemented. Republicans appear to be throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks and fighting among themselves. Given that our parties have de facto no central control, what happens to the GoP in the future with be an emergent affair and therefore unpredictable.

    But I think anyone who believes the current situation will either persist for eternity, or is self-assured that the GoP will continue to auger in, is fooling themselves. It’s simply unsustainable for half the country to essentially have no effective national political representation.

    Remember it wasn’t that long ago when many here complained about how united and effective the GoP was and how the Democrats were in a constant circular firing squad. And yet here we are.

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  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Lockstep conformity would seem to be not only bad policy but bad politics, especially for Senators in competitive states. It certainly looks like they’re going to stick with it, though.
    Yeah, I mean, if no Republicans are willing to sign onto a bill with 75-f’ing-percent approval…what the hell ARE they going to sign onto???
    But as Tim Ryan put it;

    “Heaven forbid we pass something that’s going to help the damn workers in the United States of America. Heaven forbid we tilt the balance that has been going in the wrong direction for 50 years. We talk about pensions, you complain. We talk about the minimum wage increase, you complain. We talk about giving them the right to organize, you complain. But if we were passing a tax cut here, you’d all be getting in line to vote yes for it,” Ryan said. “Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers.”

    Perhaps at some point some Republican somewhere may have an epiphany and think that doing something to actually help people may be good politics.

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  24. JohnMcC says:

    Briefly here to note that Nancy Pelosi is going to be remembered as one of the most effective legislative leaders in U.S. history. First the ACA and now this.

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  25. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Ok, so let’s assume Republicans wanted a big tax cut added to this latest package that was just passed along with removing some of the Democratic giveaways like private pension bailouts. My position is that I don’t think moderate Senators have enough power (ie. numbers) to force the Democratic leadership to make that kind or scale of compromise. And even if it were successful in the Senate, I think that change would be a non-starter in the House.

    Do you disagree? And if so, why and how? Personally, I don’t see how it works, but if you’ve got a good counter-argument, I’d love to hear it.

    In my view, there are simply too few moderates and so the kinds of grand bargains seen in earlier times are no longer practically possible and increasingly partisans would rather have nothing instead of serious compromise.

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  26. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    …especially considering the Democratic party really only represents the interests of perhaps 1/3 of the total US population.

    You need to show your math, considering:
    – The COVID relief bill is polling at +70% favorable as it is about to be passed solely by the Democratic Party
    – HR1 for voting reforms is polling at +65% favorable as of the last poll I could find
    – The Democratic House just passed the PRO act to recover some of the decay of the NLRA while national approval of labor unions is on an upward trend of approval over the last 10 years
    – as has been thoroughly documented by Steven Taylor, those voting for Democratic office holders far outnumber those voting Republican despite the current ratio in the Senate

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  27. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Perhaps I’m too cynical, but the reason I focus so much on the structure of State and National election laws and districts is that I do think structures play an outsized role in determining outcomes. And at this point, I don’t seen anything in the near visible future that is going to lead to what you are describing.

    There’s very little electoral up-side for the Republicans to put out any real policy options beyond “not the Democrats” and potentially a lot of downsides.

    Over the short term – being “not the Democrats” is enough, but chaos doesn’t last forever and I think the incentives to be competitive will eventually coalesce into some kind of policy alternative to the Democratic party. It’s hard for me to imagine that everyone in the “not Democrat” group will engage in infighting and avoid promoting policy alternatives for all time.

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  28. Andy says:

    @Scott F.:

    Free beer always polls well. The Covid package is popular because it’s advertised as all upside with no tradeoffs, it gives almost everyone cash money, and no one is being asked to sacrifice anything to make it happen.

    as has been thoroughly documented by Steven Taylor, those voting for Democratic office holders far outnumber those voting Republican despite the current ratio in the Senate

    That’s a function of having a binary-choice system.

    Polling over a long period of time has shown that only about 1/4 – 1/3 of the electorate actually identifies with the Democratic party. Some specific pieces of legislation that Democrats support will and can be very popular, but in terms of how many Americans the party actually represents, it’s lower than vote totals indicate.

    For example, assume for a minute that the US had a multi-party democracy like most other countries. In that case, the Democratic party wouldn’t come close to winning outright majorities (and neither would the Republicans). The only reason they do is because our system is a de facto binary choice system.

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Do you disagree? And if so, why and how? Personally, I don’t see how it works, but if you’ve got a good counter-argument, I’d love to hear it.

    Every Democrat is committed to passing covid relief.

    That means they would swallow a shit sandwich if that’s what was actually needed. So, yes, if the price of Manchin’s support was some Republican cover, and the price of that was eliminating the estate tax for covid related deaths, it would happen.

    Because the alternative is letting people get massively fucked over. AOC would take the deal, and bring the progressive caucus in line.

    When the Republicans guarantee that there won’t be any votes from them, Manchin et al have no one left to negotiate with. Can the moderate Dems bring along Republican votes? No? Well, then shit sandwiches will be served to the conservative Democrats.

    The unemployment boost will be $300 instead of $400, but last longer, and the first $10,000 will be tax free. Ok.

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: And everyone seems to believe that other group would agree with them as some form of socially-liberal fiscally-constrained psuedo-libertarian group.

    I think we underestimate the number of socially conservative fiscally liberal big government busy bodies out there.

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  31. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    Polling over a long period of time has shown that only about 1/4 – 1/3 of the electorate actually identifies with the Democratic party

    Polling over a long period of time shows an approximate three way split of voters identifying with either party or as independents and a binary-choice system is what we have, and will continue to have, regardless of what I might assume for a minute. So, the question is which of the binary parties is best positioned to represent the interests of the third who identify as independents. Today (and for the foreseeable future) that is the Democrats.

    And government responsive to the people’s needs always polls well, too.

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  32. EddieInCA says:

    @Andy:

    It’s simply unsustainable for half the country to essentially have no effective national political representation.

    And I would argue that it’s not half the country. It’s about 45% and getting smaller each year. The GOP is pushing voter suppression and further gerrymandering to help their minority status, but eventually, that, too, will not be enough to save them. You can’t continue to be a white, racist party and expect to compete nationally. They”ll do well in individual rural districts, but eventually, unless they change, the sheer number of people in cities will outnumber those in rural areas, and then what? GA, NC, PA, MI, WI, MN are only going to get more blue as time goes by. Texas isn’t far away. If Texas turns blue, how does the GOP win if the Dems start with 142 from CA, NY, IL, and TX alone.

    Heck if you look at 270 to Win right now for 2024, the Dems start with 208, and the GOP starts with 124 (with Texas as a tossup). Even if you give the GOP Texas, they start at a deficit of 204-165.

    If you add TX to the Dem column, they START with 249 electoral college votes.

    https://www.270towin.com/

    I know which side I’d prefer to be on.

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  33. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There are literally no Republican ideas for any of the challenges we face, just denial and inchoate rage. There haven’t been any Republican ideas for a long time. What people think of as Republican ideas were dogwhistle racism, misogyny and embrace of plutocracy, expressed as a love of tax cuts and a consuming ‘worry’ that giving money to desperate people might accidentally benefit some less-than-desperate brown person.

    There are currently 211 Rs in the House and 50 Rs in the Senate (N=261). If you had to estimate (or state with certainty, as is your wont), what proportion of these Rs are racists, misogynists, xenophobes, etc., and know themselves to be as much? And what proportion of these Rs are racists, misogynists, xenophobes, etc., but they just don’t know it?

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  34. EddieInCA says:

    @Mimai:

    130, give or take 10. So 120-140.

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  35. Mimai says:

    @EddieInCA: I appreciate the specificity. To focus in a bit on the 120….do you think there is a mix of “I know what I am and that is what I want to be” vs. “I know what I am but I don’t want to be this way”? Or are they mostly (entirely?) in one category?

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  36. Loviatar says:

    @Mimai: / @EddieInCA:

    What proportion /number know that some of their fellow Rs are racists, misogynists, xenophobes, etc., but they just don’t care?

    100% / 261

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  37. EddieInCA says:

    @Mimai:

    Q: What you call a person who claims to not be a racist but hangs out with racists?
    A: A racist.

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  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I’m not sure you are being completely fair in your accusation. It’s not like the Republicans don’t help people. They offer a lot of help to some segments of society. It’s true that the segment that they help most probably represents about 0.01% of the population, but the help the GOP provides is invaluable. How would the oligarchy maintain and expand their control of the capital of the nation without the help they receive. Sure, they’d probably figure out a way to, but it would be considerably more difficult.

    And that doesn’t even begin to consider the good that the Republicans do protecting white evangelicals from the predations of society. Lotta good happening. For lots of people.

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  39. Mimai says:

    @EddieInCA: B. a UC (not necessarily incompatible with A)

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  40. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m skeptical both generally in that argument, but also specifically with this bill, which had a lot of non-Covid stuff squarely targeted at Democratic priorities and interest groups – and would have had even more, like $15/hour. That’s really the only thing the moderates were able to stop besides some low-hanging fruit around the edges like phase-out of the $1,400. So I think the whole idea that the Democratic leadership were willing to give up more if only moderates had put on more pressure is questionable at best. But ultimately this is speculation so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    I think we underestimate the number of socially conservative fiscally liberal big government busy bodies out there.

    I do think there are a lot of those. True fiscal conservatives have been losing for decades and have no power after Trump in either party.

    @Scott F.:

    Polling over a long period of time shows an approximate three way split of voters identifying with either party or as independents and a binary-choice system is what we have, and will continue to have, regardless of what I might assume for a minute.

    Yes, people identify with one party or another because they don’t have another choice and there is decades of propaganda telling people that if they don’t vote for a major party candidate they are either “wasting” their vote or engaging in some kind of morally deficient behavior.

    Again, how big would the Democratic party be if we had a multi-party parliamentary system? If you think the number of people who would identify as Democrats wouldn’t change, you’re kidding yourself.

    The Democrats right now are kind of like vanilla ice cream. It’s the least objectionable option when the only other available choice is Rocky Road.

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  41. Andy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    And I would argue that it’s not half the country. It’s about 45% and getting smaller each year.

    We can quibble about specific numbers, but the point remains. That 45 or whatever percent need real political representation, even if you don’t like those people. It’s much more likely than not that those who can’t be in the Democratic tent will coalesce and take up the GoP mantle, even if it takes a decade or more. And sooner or later the Democrats are likely to make mistakes that an effective opposition will exploit.

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  42. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    Again, how big would the Democratic party be if we had a multi-party parliamentary system?

    How is this relevant to your earlier point about which party is representing the interests of what segment of the US population, because… checks newspaper… the US is NOT a multi-party parliamentary system and it won‘t be in our lifetimes.

    You initially claimed skepticism that the US would turn into a California, considering the Democratic Party was unrepresentative of the interests of 2/3 of the total US population (you‘ve since scaled that back to 45% but whatever). Yet, California Democrats/Republicans are just as vanilla ice cream/Rocky Road as the rest of the country. (Actually, California Republicans likely offer a slightly better choice than the national flavor of Republican because a Louis Gohmert or Paul Gosar wouldn‘t fly there.) There was a Republican governor in California within the last ten years, but now the GOP is mostly irrelevant there.

    Why? Because the Democratic Party found ways to serve the popular interests of the broader spectrum of Golden State voters and because they‘ve governed reasonably enough to maintain power. That‘s all it takes in a binary-choice system to force one of the choices into the wilderness, perhaps for a long time.

    So, the facts are the US Democratic Party in 2021 is pursuing broadly popular policies (not just COVID, but pro-labor, pro-voter, and pro-green) and a solid majority of US voters, when given a choice between the two choices in our system, have elected to be represented by someone with a (D) after their name. This is much more relevant to whether or not the US will go the way of California than how things might be different than if our entire electoral system were somehow not was it is.

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  43. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    It’s simply unsustainable for half the country to essentially have no effective national political representation.

    And yet, with the Republican vote suppression campaign, that’s what they are pushing. It is literally their end goal, and has been the basis of Republican politics since the Hastert Rule.

    And, when they are all voting against a $1.9T bill that polls at 70%, rather than trying to make it reflect their ideals more… that’s what the Republicans are doing.

    Yes, we need a better Republican Party.

    We could also use a better Democratic Party, but that’s a less pressing need. Democrats have shown a willingness to compromise when not in power, and have traditionally spent way too much time begging for Republican votes that ultimately never came (see the ACA). I’m pleased that the Democrats tried, saw the Republicans weren’t interested, and then moved on without them.

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  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    Others above have addressed this. Look at it this way: how many Mafia members are murderers? Just a small percentage, the button men, the enforcers. But every Mafia member knows they are part of a murderous organization. Which makes them enablers of, collaborators in, murder.

    Do all Republicans wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I hate me some Black folks?’ No. But do they care far more about white people than they do Black people? Yes. Do they accept damage done to Black people that they would never accept if done to white people? Yes. They are enablers of, collaborators in, racism.

    You cannot be an innocent Mafioso, and you cannot be an innocent Republican.

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  45. Andy says:

    @Scott F.:

    First of all the 45% was Eddie, not me.

    We seem to fundamentally disagree about what constitutes support for a party.

    In my view, the fact that choice is constrained into a binary choice is dispositive. It’s simply a fact, born out of many years of research, that many people vote for one of the two parties not because they are true supporters of the party and its agenda, but because they are constrained by the limited choices offered. They’re voting for that party because they have to settle for the least bad option, or the option that is closest to their own preferences, or as an oppositional vote “against” the other party or that party support the single salient pet issue they care about.

    Assuming that all these people have the same level of support and affinity for the party, what it stands for and its platform based solely on the single data point of who they voted for in a binary choice decision, is, at best, papering over a whole lot. It’s “representative” in a very limited and narrow sense. The fact that large majorities of Americans consistently indicate in polls that they are unhappy with the two-party system and that they wish there were more choices is, I think, dispositive evidence of my view. It’s not possible to prove, but anyone who looks at this objectively understands that IF the US system changed to take away the binary-choice structure, then we would see the number of people who vote for and affiliate with the two major parties shrink drastically. The reality is that Democrats and Republicans are only able to get majorities or pluralities (In half of the last 8 presidential elections the winner didn’t receive a majority of the vote) because voters don’t have alternatives due to the way our system is structured.

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  46. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds: This metaphor is very clarifying…helps me to better understand your perspective. Thank you.

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  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    I’m a big believer in personal responsibility. When the UAE asked us to appear at a book event we refused because we’d be contributing to a false front put up by a dictatorship to conceal its core nastiness. When the Chinese insisted I make changes to a book, I refused because it was my responsibility to push back against censorship. We all make individual moral decisions about who and what we’ll be OK with.

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  48. Mimai says:

    Nothing but respect for that…a moral compass (correctly calibrated, natch) to guide one’s actions. That is what I was seeking clarity on vis-a-vis your earlier comment.

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    I acquired my moral compass later in life than I should have. Coincidentally shortly after I met my wife. Yeah, coincidence, that.

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