Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner

Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner
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Propaganda is a tricky thing. In an open society, it often does more damage to the perpetrators than to the target. And so it is with the progressive Left, who have managed to convince themselves that they have an overwhelming mandate for an exhausting list of policy demands and the political power to do whatever they want. Neither is true, and the delusion is likely to cost them.

Their demands that President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE’s massive policy wish list be passed without alteration is going to founder on the rocks of political reality — and the Democrats face the prospect of accomplishing nothing.

For starters, keep in mind that Biden ran an explicitly “not Trump” campaign. Infrastructure was as front-and-center for Biden as it was for Trump — which is to say functioning as part of the typical laundry list of presidential campaign promises. The 2020 election was a referendum on Trump, not on Biden’s policy ideas.

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The concept of infrastructure does poll well. Anyone bouncing over potholes on their way to work will instinctively favor a fix, particularly if someone else pays for it. Reuters and YouGov polling both show strong support for infrastructure spending, but that support wanes as the spending strays away from brick and mortar projects. Support also falls when the plan is presented in starkly partisan terms.

The nearly $1 trillion Republican counter to Biden’s plan not only covers the most popular categories but does so at reduced cost.

While Trump — and now Biden — have taken a cavalier attitude toward the federal deficit, concern over the size of the debt still looms in the background. A HarrisX survey showed 75 percent of voters “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the national debt. With the debt increasing by a colossal $5.8 trillion in the past two years, spending could make a comeback as a salient political issue.

But national polling does not really tell the story. What counts is the polling and political positions of 100 U.S. Senators — each of whom has his or her own mandate entirely separate from the president. From that perspective, the progressive Left should not expect — and should never have expected — to ram through their entire wish list.

Forty-seven Republican Senators hail from states that voted for Trump, and the margins for Trump in those states were generally not so close. Only North Carolina gave Trump a margin of less than 2-points. For the most part, the Republican Senators were elected and re-elected by substantial margins in states that also voted for Trump by substantial margins.

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Three Republican Senators represent states that voted for Biden: Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Wis.), Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Senate falling behind on infrastructure MORE (R-Maine). Johnson and Toomey have electoral mandates that are now over four years old. Johnson is an avowed conservative who may retire. Toomey is a classic fiscal conservative who is retiring — and who voted to convict Trump. Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were razor-thin for Biden with margins under 1.5 percent.

Collins, however, is an interesting case. Maine decidedly voted for Biden, giving him a 9-point victory. But Collins has her own mandate, winning by nearly 9-points. Not only that, Collins was not supposed to win. She was a top target by the Democrats and considered a likely loser. Maine voters were of a different mind, handing her a clear victory. The message from the Pine Tree State is rather unambiguous: They want a president who is not Trump (check that) and a U.S. Senator who will be an independent vote. In short, Collins is behaving just the way her constituents want her to.

Perhaps one could make the argument that the GOP Senators in Biden states should still bend to the presidential vote. Too bad that logic dictates that a trio of the Democrats’ own should then abandon ship.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe White House on Cleveland Indians' name change: 'We certainly support their change of name' Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package MORE (D-Ohio), Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor GOP blocks infrastructure debate as negotiators near deal GOP negotiators say they'll vote to start infrastructure debate next week MORE (D-Mont.), and Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (D-W.Va.) all represent states that opted for Trump — and by far bigger margins that the Republicans in Biden states face. Ohio went for Trump by over 8-points, Montana by over 16-points and West Virginia by 39-points (second largest state margin).

Each of these Democratic Senators were re-elected in 2018 with solid margins, but those margins were less than what their Republican counterparts achieved. Tester’s lockstep with the Democratic leadership is the most at odds with his own constituents. Tester won re-election in 2018 by 4.5 points in a race that the GOP national committees failed to target, missing a significant opportunity. Tester’s Republican colleague in the Senate, Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate committee advances bipartisan energy infrastructure bill  Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google Senators propose bill to help private sector defend against hackers MORE (R-Mont.) defeated challenger Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE, a popular sitting governor, by over 10-points. There is no indication the people of Montana are on board with the larger progressive agenda.

As for the bete noire of the progressive Left, Joe Manchin, his resistance to their agenda is arguably not strident enough. West Virginia voters are definitely not on board with Biden. Not only did Biden lose to Trump by nearly 40-points, the disparity in mandates between the state’s two U.S. Senators is enormous. Manchin was re-elected in 2018 with just a 3-point margin, not even topping 50 percent. In contrast, his Republican colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOfficials warn of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in water systems Graham, Hawley call on Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on US-Mexico border GOP senators urge Biden to keep Trump-era border restrictions MORE (R-W.Va.), won last year by a 43-point margin — even larger than Trump’s.

The bottom line for the expansive progressive agenda is that the voters have elected Senators who are not on board with it.

If the Senate were to follow the will of the public, as demonstrated at the ballot box, Biden’s infrastructure proposal would fail. Alternately, the GOP counter proposal, containing many of the most politically popular parts of the Biden plan, would pass easily.

The progressive Left listened to Biden’s ad hoc State of the Union address and thought it was a serious proposal and a done deal. It was neither. But the delusion is warping their politics.

Demanding everything and getting nothing is how elections are lost.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D., is co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, a public and regulatory affairs consulting firm. Naughton is a former Pennsylvania political campaign consultant. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.