Biden, Democrats roll dice on agenda

by Nolan Finley

Democrats are making a big bet at the start of this midterm election year that their downturn in popularity with the electorate stems not from being too radical with their agenda, but not radical enough.

The party that holds the majority in both the House and Senate is attempting to barge ahead with its progressive wish list, despite dismal approval numbers for both Congress and President Joe Biden.

Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are calculating either that Americans have soured on them because they have made so little progress in turning the nation into a European-style welfare state, or recognize there is an inevitable shellacking awaiting them in November so they may as well get what they can before they get tossed out.

I suspect it’s the latter. They know what’s awaiting them when disappointed voters go to the polls for the midterms.

Democrats hold a mere nine-vote majority in the House, and control the 50-50 Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. Since World War II, the average midterm loss for the party in power has been 26 seats in the House and four in the Senate. So even if it’s a typical year, Democrats can expect to lose their majorities in both chambers.

But this year promises to be anything but typical. It could be a slaughter.

As the cycle begins, the approval rating for the Democratic-controlled Congress stands at just 20%. Biden, who is not on the ballot but whose performance perception will greatly influence voter behavior, stands at just 42% overall, and at 40% on the vital issue of managing the economy.

Unless inflation ebbs before fall and Biden is able to deliver on his so-far ignored promise to shut down COVID-19, it will be almost impossible for Democrats to overcome those horrible numbers.

That’s why they’re keeping the name Donald Trump constantly on their lips and have tried to divert attention from their own failures by inventing a false existential threat to the nation.

It won’t work, and I suspect the Democrats know it won’t.

So they’ll mount an all-out drive this spring to exploit the last days of their one-party rule in Washington to federalize elections, give unions the extreme upper hand in organizing workers and enact as much of the Build Back Better Bill’s $5 trillion in cradle-to-grave handouts as they can get past their reluctant colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The push started Tuesday in Georgia, which Biden called “the belly of the beast” of the make-believe civil war. Making the unsupported claim that the voting integrity bills passed in that state were aimed at suppressing minority votes, Biden lent support to Schumer’s plan to suspend the filibuster to strip states of their constitutional right to run their own elections.

It’ll be a good test of how far the Democrats are able to reach. If they can knock down the filibuster, it’s off to the races for the rest of their agenda.

But if Obamacare and its disastrous impact on Democrats in the 2010 election is fair warning, slamming through such massively expensive and transformative legislation on a straight party-line vote won’t play well in November.

Getting what they want legislatively could be devastating for them electorally.

That is if Republicans don’t rescue them by making Trump the face of their party this fall, playing directly into the only defensive strategy Democrats have left.

Nolan Finley is the editorial page editor at The Detroit News.