Democrats, Stop This Political “Five Alarm Fire”—Pass Biden’s Two Historic Infrastructure Bills ASAP November 3, 2021
November 2, 2021. Yes, baseball fans, that’s the date that the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in a 7-0 shutout against the Houston Astros in that TX’s team own home park. All I can say as a disappointed Dodger fan is that we “got beat” by baseball’s 2021 best. Oh well, “wait till next year.” Now, let’s pivot to the political mini-playoffs that occurred on 11/02/2021. The key races were just awful for the Democrats. There is no other way to spin this. Pundits are already writing process, frankly, obituary stories. They are saying we will probably lose our House and Senate majorities in the 2022 midterms based on the GOP Glenn Youngkin’s winning the VA off- year gubernatorial election against former VA Democratic Governor, Clinton ally, and political heavyweight Terry McAuliffe. As I write this blogpost, the gubernatorial race in New Jersey, which should have been, according to polls, a “slam dunk” win for popular first-term Democratic Governor Phil Murphy remains way too close to call. Even if Murphy wins, he has been given the political scare of his life, a complete surprise to just about everyone. How did all of this happen? For starters, let’s return to the world of baseball and quote the famous Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. Berra, a veteran of World Series contests, had many quirky statements attributed to him. One of them was, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
In the leadup to the 11/02/2021 political contests, it sure was “déjà vu all over again.” Let’s take a trip down political “memory lane.” In 1994, Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House and “Team Blue” controlled, with far stronger majorities than we have today, both the House and Senate. President Clinton, on the eve of the 1994 midterm elections, was trying to pass much key legislation, especially his healthcare reform plan. What happened? The Democratic majorities, erroneously acting like the public wasn’t noticing, spent months bickering over how to pass health care and just about everything else facing them. Their constant bickering was prominently displayed day after day in the newspapers and all over the television networks. The result? Healthcare failed to pass until Obama’s time in 2010 and much other major legislation was left on the Capitol Hill “cutting room floor.” In the 1994 midterms, disgusted Democratic voters didn’t show up heavily at the polls and GOP right wing provocateur GA’s Newt Gingrich toppled the House Democratic majority, something that had not been done since Republican President Eisenhower’s time in the 1950’s. In the Senate, GOPer Bob Dole also took back that chamber from the Democrats. Democrats were only able to recapture both congressional Houses in 1986. In 2010, Democrats again publicly bickered “big time” for months over passing Obamacare, but in the end, it went through and Obama signed this landmark legislation. Again, after this bickering, too many “tired” and dispirited Democratic voters stayed home and the extremist GOP, led by their anti-government Tea Party wing, took back the House in 2010 and later the Senate in 2014. It took the Democrats until 2018 to recapture the House and 2021, after the GA election runoffs, to get a tie 50-50 Senate vote. This 50-50 standoff gave Democratic President Biden’s VP Kamala Harris the ability to break legislative tie votes and permit Democrats to run the Senate as a majority party.
Now, when given the chance to pass major infrastructure bills that would rival laws passed by FDR’s New Deal, with a Democratic White House and a House and Senate majority, what do the Democrats do? Why go back to their “B” word, bickering again without stop for all Americans to see. And it’s not only conservative-leaning and often objecting AZ Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema and W. VA’s Sen. Joe, “I always find fault with Democratic legislation” Manchin barring passage of these bills. The nearly 100- member House Congressional Caucus, a left-leaning progressive group, founded in 1991, proudly held up Biden’s two infrastructure bills at the end of September and they still have not passed. Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) decided with her group to hold both bills hostage until the Senate, especially Senators Manchin and Sinema, would guarantee in nearly a “blood oath” that they would pass the social spending bill along with the infrastructure road and bridges one that had bipartisan GOP support. The social safety net bill will have to pass Congress via the reconciliation procedure requiring a 51 vote, with VP Harris’ help. Otherwise, all the GOPers would filibuster it. Democrats would then be unable to break such a filibuster by finding the needed 60 votes from 10 GOPers. Cong. Jayapal has stated that she “won’t let the Biden presidency fail,” but her legislative hostage taking sure looked like a major attempt to do just that (See nytimes.com, Goldberg, M., 10/16/21). Lately, Jayapal is indicating that she is ready to pass both these bills even though Manchin is still doing his usual grousing about them. Well, it’s about time, Cong. Jayapal! However, her concession here was too little and too late for VA’s Terry McAuliffe.
While campaigning, McAuliffe rightly criticized the Democrats in Congress for holding up these bills. He was unable to tell his VA constituents that “help was on the way” in bridges, roads, and social spending. There is no doubt in my mind that McCauliffe’s 50.7%-48.6% or 2.1% loss to GOPer Youngkin (95% of the vote reported) was heavily hurt by Democrats bickering and inability to quickly pass Biden’s key infrastructure legislation (See nytimes.com, 11/03/21). VA Dem. U.S. Senator Mark Warner who campaigned hard for McAuliffe stated that on the campaign trail he heard comments like, “Hey you guys got the White House, the Senate, the House. When are you going to get more things done?” Sen. Warner added, “I mean only in Washington could people think it is a smart strategy to take a once-in-a generation investment in infrastructure and prevent your president from signing that bill into law (nytimes.com, Weisman, J., 11/03/21).” I myselfg have repeatedly heard similar comments from friends like, “the Democrats have it all, why can’t they pass more bills?” When I try to explain that there is the filibuster and different views among Democrats, their eyes glaze over. Message to Jayapal and Friends, Manchin, and Sinema-- pass these bills ASAP or you will lose both houses in 2022, more governorships, and more state legislatures! Biden, one of the most competent and progressive-leaning Presidents we have ever had, will be politically crippled and the GOP will then have a good shot at the White House in 2024. Some people are already saying that VA’s Youngkin should be on the 2024 ticket, at least in the VP slot. The Third Way political group of moderate Dems aptly stated, “The months of in-fighting and . sausage making must come to an end. We must pass these two historic bills, and then explain what they will do to create jobs, cut taxes, and help working families afford the essentials (kos.com, McCarter, 11/03/21).” Former VA Gov., Hillary’s running mate, and now VA Sen. Tim Kaine similarly stated, “Congressional Dems hurt Terry McAuliffe. I mean I’m going to be blunt. It’s humbling to say it. But if we had been able to deliver infrastructure and reconciliation in mid-October, he (Terry) could have sold those policies.”
How did political novice Youngkin manage to beat well-known and former VA Gov. McAuliffe? Although McAuliffe was worth $30 million, his fortune was a mere fraction of Youngkin’s $300-400 million and Youngkin freely spent at least $17.5 million funding his own campaign (Barakat, AP, 5/15/21). GOP strategists were delighted that Youngkin was able to win by still keeping Trump supporters and getting them out in droves. Youngkin also pulled some normally Democratic and many formerly GOP voters in NOVA (Northern VA), the Democrats’ stronghold, into his camp. While Youngkin didn’t criticize Trump, he kept him away from his rallies and got the major media outlets to wrongly buy his strategy of claiming he was not a real Trumper, even though his positions were the same and McAuliffe hammered him for that without stop. Like aimiable Ronald Reagan, Youngkin, in his fleece jacket, did not come off as a threatening reactionary. Youngkin ignored national issues and went back to the late Dem. Speaker “Tip” O’Neill’s maxim that “all politics is local.” Youngkin played the “education” card, normally a Democratic strength. In a debate, McAuliffe stated, “I don’t think that parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” The media deemed this a gaffe and McAuliffe failed to respond to it for far too long. In addition, Youngkin hammered that he would stop VA from teaching CRT, Critical Race Theory, a supposed fringe idea spoken of in some universities that claims the U.S. is “inherently racist.” It has never been taught in VA. Youngkin used an ad showing how the mother of a high school senior said her son, now a GOP operative, had nightmares after reading in his Advanced Placement class a book about the horrors of black slavery, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” This ad and these comments about CRT were racist dog whistles that brought out rural whites, but many in the media felt this was a legitimate issue. Democrats must repudiate this CRT nonsense set of lies, immediately, which, again, McAuliffe failed to do very well (See Kos, Dworkin, 11/03/21). According to NBC exit polls, Youngkin took key Democratic votes away from McAuliffe. He was deemed “likeable.” In 2020, Trump beat Biden in VA by just one point among women, 50%-49%, and Biden carried VA by 10 points. In 2021, white women voted for Youngkin against McAuliffe 57%-43%, a 15-point swing with this group. While Biden lost white non-college graduate women by 12 points, Youngkin clobbered McAuliffe in this group by a “y uu ge” 50 points. You get the idea. Many analysts also felt that McAuliffe’s just tying Youngkin to Trump all the time was a poor strategy. McAuliffe should have stressed, like Youngkin, what he locally planned to do for VA (cnn.com, Bradner, Krieg, & Merica, 11/03/21). Biden’s low polling ratings because of the bickering in Congress also helped Youngkin.
In NJ, another kind of gaffe may have hurt Gov. Murphy. Taxes was the most crucial issue, according to a recent Monmouth Poll. GOPer Ciattarelli hammered Gov. Murphy over a comment that downplayed that issue. Murphy had stated, “If taxes are your issue, we’re probably not your state (cnn.com, Bradner et al, 11/03/21).” The GOP has often successfully tarred Dems as the “tax and spend” party and Murphy’s comment was “music to their ears.”
VA Democrats also lost the Lt. Governorship and Atty. General’s office. After having control of the House of Delegates for just two years, they lost 6 seats and now have just 49 out of 100 members in that body. The VA State Senate, not on the ballot this year, is still in Dem. hands, and will be the only check on Youngkin and the VA House (kos, Fiddler, 11/03/21). Yes, VA and NJ often vote against the party holding the White House in off years, but the Democrats’ poor performance in those states yesterday remains inexcusable.
Despite the VA disaster and the NJ governor’s race, Dems did will in other areas around the country. They easily picked up a GOP mayor’s seat in St. Petersburg, FL, a normally swingy area, with many “Red” voters. In Manchester, NH, Democratic incumbent Joyce Craig won re-election, and NH is, of course, also a swingy area (Kos Elections, 11/02/21). In NY, former police officer and Democrat Eric Adams became the second black mayor to win in the Big Apple. Michelle Wu became Boston’s first woman mayor and Asian American in that post. Democrat Ed Gainey beat a GOPer to become the first black mayor of Pittsburgh (cnn.com, Janfaza, Dezenski, & Duster, 11/03/21). In MN, voters defeated a measure to basically get rid of the police department. Yes, police departments need to be reformed, but not abolished or defunded. Had this measure passed, the GOP would have been able to hit “Team Blue” with more anti-police attacks in the 2022 midterms. Remember, Dems lost many congressional seats in 2020 when GOPers ran ads attacking all Dems for trying to defund the police.
More Trump and independent switchers made the difference in giving Youngkin victory. We must always make sure that in every election going forward, our base has 110% turnout, not the rural Youngkin base which had such numbers yesterday. And the way to get good Democratic turnout? Pass Biden’s bills ASAP.
It looks like Democrats in D.C. were hit hard on the head by the VA losses and the close NJ race. They are, correctly, not retreating from passing the two infrastructure bills. Many now believe that holding the roads/bridges bill hostage hurt their ability to show that they were the party that can govern. They now believe it is imperative to pass these bills ASAP. Yuh think? It’s about time! In the words of NJ Dem. Cong. Tom Malinowski who represents a swing district, the best thing we can do in Congress is “pass those damn bills immediately (nytimes.com, Weisman, 11/03/21).” Biden’s and the Democrats’ standing in Congress will rise only if we show that we are the party that finds solutions. We must stop being politically paralyzed with bickering. It’s the only way we can keep our House and Senate majorities in 2022. It’s too bad that VA’s McAuliffe, his down ticket Democrats, and NJ’s Gov. Murphy had to pay the price. Pundit Van Jones called the Democrats’ 11/02/21 electoral disasters, “a five-alarm fire.” This fire will only be extinguished by passing these bills ASAP and showing from now on out that we can competently govern. Failure is not an option.