President Joe Biden’s news conference marking his first year in office made one thing clear: This president doesn’t need a simple reset or redo. What Biden needs is to drastically change the way he governs the country. It is time for Biden to stop being “Uncle Joe” and go back to “Joe from Scranton.” This is the only way he can fight the battles he needs to win.
What Biden needs is to drastically change the way he governs the country.
For one thing, Biden must forgo the grandiose plans he had for transforming America. You cannot be Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson with approval ratings in the low 40s, along with the slimmest majorities in the House and Senate.
(And history is not on the Democrats’ side when it comes to retaining control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. This means, to help themselves, Democrats need to come together and do everything possible to help the president. Even if that means doing things they find legislatively undesirable under normal circumstances.)
Managing Covid-19, tackling the economy and fighting inflation remain essential, but the public needs more. Yes, the infrastructure bill was great, but people will not feel the impact until after the midterm elections. Now, after two very public legislative failures, Biden needs some wins.
The first win Biden can achieve on his own, meaning there is no legislation required. The president must start using the power of his pen to sign executive orders. This is the worst form of governance; what one president approves via executive order, the next president can remove by executive order. Yet desperate times call for immediate action.
During his news conference, Biden briefly mentioned the possibility of an executive order on voting rights. There have also been reports that Biden plans to sign executive actions on police reform as early as this month. Indeed, why wait? His goal should be to keep the ink flowing and sign at least three more executive actions by early spring. It may feel crass to some, but it will allow him to do something.
Next — and this will require the moderates and the progressives to both have strong stomachs and backbones — Biden must put his Build Back Better plan as we currently know it on the way, way, way back burner. The focus must change to lowering kitchen table costs for middle- and working-class families. In the end, the American public always cares about the bottom line.
Recent polling by Gallup revealed a devastating trend for Democrats.Axios summed it up this way: “Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter. Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.”
It turns out, Americans did not vote for the biggest structural reform of the social safety net in generations. In 2020, people voted to get back to some form of normalcy and competence after the most unstable, divisive and incompetent administration in history.
And as unpleasant as this may seem, Biden must go to Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to find out what they could work with in terms of Medicare reform; child care, whether it be the child tax credit or universal pre-K; and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, most likely capping the price of insulin at $35.
Other Democrats will hate this, especially the progressives. But it comes down to making a purely political calculation.
Other Democrats will hate this, especially the progressives. But it comes down to making a purely political calculation: Democrats can stick to their guns and go absolutely nowhere, or they can find smaller wins and give Biden, and themselves, something to promote and run on this fall.
Lastly, Biden must push for the reform of the Electoral Count Act of 1887. There are reports of bipartisan discussions to change and clarify how Congress tallies the Electoral College votes. After Jan. 6, there is no question that this must be done, and perhaps there might even be a willingness to include some of the pre-clearance of language of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Clearly, much more must be done to protect the voting rights of every American, and changing the Electoral Count Act is a drop in the bucket. But in politics a win is a win. Getting this win is not complicated, but it is only achievable if it happens quickly. Time is the enemy of any bipartisan legislation.
It is time to do triage on the Biden administration, and Democrats must apply a political tourniquet to a legislative agenda that is bleeding out. These are not popular tactics or righteous methods; hands may get dirty. But the Democrats do not have a legislative partner across the GOP aisle. They are on their own.