As the budget negotiations drag on, with Bidens program stalled by a tiny group of corporate Democrats who do not represent the overwhelming majority of their party, a sickening feeling is setting in. The great promise of Bidens first six months is coming apart, Republicans and the right-wing media are gloating, and the stage is set for the usual midterm reversal in 2022.
What might change this grim scenario? I can think of three things.
First, when the Democrats finally do agree on a budget deal, Biden can get on with the business of governing. And even at $1.75 trillion plus the $550 billion of new money in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there is a lot to appeal to the voters.
Second, the Democrats may be rescued by Donald Trump. At a time when Republicans need the Trump base but want Trump himself to please shut up, Trump continues to relitigate 2020 and support far-right and corrupt candidates who will be easier for Democrats to beat in the midterm. In Georgia, Trump pressured the rest of the Republican establishment to endorse Herschel Walker, a former football star with no political experience, whose former wife testified in a divorce suit that he had threatened to blow your f---ing brains out.
Trump will give Democrats the gift of more such candidates. And the more that Trump is back in the limelight, the more it will energize Democrats, embarrass Republicans, and sway independents.
Third, with the budget deal finally done and the media less focused on divisions among Democrats, we can get back to holding Republicans responsible for their wall-to-wall blockage of policies that most Americans want. With Build Back Better, Biden discovered his inner FDR. Now he needs to discover his inner Harry Truman.
In 1948, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. Harry Trumans approval rating was in the 30s. He was universally expected to lose. So Truman sent Congress a Roosevelt-scale program that he knew Republicans would vote down, and he went on the road to remind voters of the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Dont vote for me, he would say. Vote for yourselves.
They did, and Truman beat Dewey, taking back Congress with him. Yes, it was a one-off, but history is made of one-offs. So its much too early to count the Democrats out for 2022if Biden plays his hand well.