How Not To Win Friends and Influence People
Joe Biden could learn a thing or two from Dale Carnegie
Outside of the American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden’s one legislative success came from Republican support in the House of Representatives. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in the lower chamber with 13 GOP members voting for it. Had they not said yea, the bill would have failed because of the six Democrats who voted no.
Despite an unemployment rate under 4% and a DJIA near 36K, Biden is faltering in the polls. The urgency ahead of the 2022 mid-terms is evident in how quickly the Democrats shifted from Build Back Better to the supposed necessity of election-related legislation. They claim it is urgent legislation and without it our democracy will be over. But, if that’s what they truly believe, why did they spend an entire year trying to pass spending bills?
Biden’s speech in Georgia was a tell in how it shifted from urgency to desperation. The moment he compared opponents of The Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to figures such as Jefferson Davis, Bull Connor, and George Wallace, he lost the debate on moral authority alone.
Then there is the filibuster fakery. People are not stupid, and they recognize Democrats’ about-face on the filibuster and see it for the cynical political ploy it is. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin can’t stop blathering about it, but when President Trump implored Mitch McConnell to get rid of the legislative filibuster, Durbin, when asked by George Stephanopolous about it, said, “Well, I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers. We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure.” Note how “respect for the minority” became “the tyranny of the minority” almost overnight.
Biden, in his Atlanta speech, said, “I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills.”
That is quite the change from a year ago when he said in his inauguration speech, “I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities. Not of personal interest, but of the public good. And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division.”
Considering the Freedom To Vote Act (a slightly watered-down version of For The People Act) first passed in 2019 as nothing more than a messaging bill, it’s challenging to make the case it is essential to saving our democracy. And that’s a turn of phrase that’s already old and busted. And certain people cannot understand why issues like inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, school closures, and other concerns take center stage. Look at this:
People like Tom and Jennifer cannot wrap their heads around the fact that many people do not live like them. Rubin works from her home in Oakton, VA, where the median price for a house is over $900,000. Her two sons are both adults. Tom enjoys the same luxuries. So yes, CPI, the cost of filling up the gas tank and empty shelves at their local grocery store is not a concern to them. I am in the same boat. My “children” are 24 and 23 years old. I don’t have to concern myself with school closures, and even if I did, I have the option of working from home, as does Andrea. Our neighborhood grocery store had near-empty shelves in the produce and meat department. So we drove the 20 minutes to a Wegman’s to get stuff because we have that option.
Rubin went on to say that Biden has no control over inflation, and that’s somewhat true (though the constant spending certainly exacerbates the issue). However, when the White House boasts about economic numbers, attributing it all to their policies, then it stands to reason people will blame them when things go wrong.
That’s politics. Tom and Jennifer are smart enough to know this, but that doesn’t offer the same satisfaction (and doesn’t get as many likes and retweets) as poking fun of the rubes who are too concerned about gas prices and not enough about “saving our democracy.”
Getting back to Biden, it’s worth noting that his comparison to figures such as Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis didn’t only apply to those who don’t support the legislation but also to those who won’t destroy the filibuster they loved only four years ago. It’s why it amused me to read that Biden would have one-on-one conversations with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to see if he could change their minds. I’m confident that comparing them to a traitor and two segregationists didn’t have the effect he’d hoped. They didn’t come around.
Biden is in a mess of his making. Unlike traditional campaigns, Biden ran for the middle during the Democratic primaries and tacked left the moment he took the oath of office. He began his term with a lot of goodwill from the public, who had to endure the events of January 6th on top of four years of chaos under President Trump.
He came into office with a rebounding economy, vaccine distribution on the rise, and a public ready to see things getting back to normal.
He signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in March, and in early April, his poll numbers were flying high. He immediately went to work on getting an infrastructure bill passed and surprisingly found some honest-to-goodness bipartisan support for the effort among Republicans in the Senate. In May, the CDC released new guidelines saying fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks indoors.
And then he took a cue from the left-wing of the party and said he wouldn’t sign an infrastructure bill unless coupled with a massive $3.5 trillion “social infrastructure” (aka welfare) bill. He immediately put the bipartisan deal in trouble as there was no way he’d get Republican support for Build Back Better.
Then, the Delta variant hit. The CDC reversed course, and suddenly everyone had to wear masks again indoors, regardless of vaccination status. And let’s not forget the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, along with the administration’s BS about how many Americans were left behind (it was always “about 100”).
The problems only increased in the fall. Inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, rising gas prices, and other issues became more visible. Then, after Biden got into pissing matches with Ron DeSantis and other Republican governors and tried to blame red states for his failure to “shut down the virus,” Delta began hitting the blue states (viruses don’t know political ideologies, folks). Build Back Better was not going to pass (despite the Democrats and their media allies’ best efforts to browbeat Joe Manchin into submission). The administration got a slight reprieve when the public managed to get through the Christmas season unscathed (though it turns out — as many of us said — that people were smart and did their Christmas shopping a lot earlier).
No one, however, was ready for Omicron. Thankfully, it is a much milder variant of the virus (the people I know who have caught it have all been fully vaccinated — and boosted for the most part — and have reported mild symptoms). The ratio of cases to hospitalizations and deaths is far lower than any other time. Still, the administration has taken a beating over what appears to be a lack of preparation for a variant like Omicron. I think some of that criticism has been unfair (though it has amused me greatly to watch partisans contort themselves into human pretzels to make excuses), but who said politics was fair?
Part of the problem stems from the people who surrounded Biden, convinced him he could have an FDR/LBJ presidency - transformational. However, that was not possible with the narrowest congressional majority that I can recall.
As for the election laws, Biden has the opportunity to sign legislation that reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — which was at the heart of John Eastman’s memo and Trump’s attempts to get Mike Pence to not accept electors from several states — and has Republicans on board. But they’re not interested in doing that for whatever reason.
So instead, they’ll get nothing and try to use it as a wedge issue in the 2022 campaign. I am sure that framing the opposition as traitors and white supremacists will do the trick.