May 07, 2021

Thought of the Week:

-Themes Emerge from the Biden Administration’s First 100 Days: Several post-pandemic themes on spending, taxation, trade, and foreign policy have emerged from the Biden administration’s first 100 days. First, is the death of neoliberalism, which prioritized the role of free markets over government in the economy and dominated policymaking for the last fifty years. Signs of the demise include the alienation of the business community from both parties in Congress and the aggressive new tax and spending plans offered as infrastructure. The hope that President Biden would bring back the consensus on economic and trade policy that dominated the Clinton and Obama administrations seems gone. In fact, the new economic model appears that it will be shaped by progressive politicians such as Senator Bernie Sanders; Sanders’ influence can be seen in the size and scope of the spending plans and the emphasis on income inequality. Joe Biden’s campaign claim that he was not a Trojan horse for big government has given way to a new reality. Second, is the surprising continuity with parts of the Trump agenda. Although the Biden team has been more polished and conventional it its delivery, they essentially align with President Trump on key issues including confronting China, maintaining metals tariffs, ending the Afghan war, and a Covid plan centered on state-based vaccine roll outs. While President Biden will bring change in areas like fiscal policy, energy, and the environment, the “return to normalcy” in global affairs has underwhelmed many. In fact, diplomats call the administration’s new “foreign policy for the middle class” a transition from “America First” to “Americans First.” Third, is the new third rail of US politics: immigration. What went from an issue that came close to finding bipartisan solutions under George W. Bush and Barack Obama is now so toxic that Biden cannot even rally his own party around a single policy. Attitudes toward immigration are also polarized between left and right, contain dynamics around race, and electoral considerations prevent many Democrats from seeking compromise. Fourth, President Biden’s low profile has worked well for him so far. Unlike his immediate predecessors, he is not the story every day, and because of this, has not become the lightning rod for controversy and opposition that they were. This helped the White House pass a Covid rescue plan and should be an asset in keeping the Democratic coalition together. While that coalition is relatively united, several centrists seem willing to buck the party on various issues. Biden’s low profile has also, in the words of Republican staffers, made him a “terrible bad guy” who has been hard to vilify. Last, is the remarkable lack of blowback against his policies. President Biden’s polls are in the mid-50s, not great but not bad for a polarized country. Polls show that nearly 80% of the country was ready for more stimulus, even after the first four rounds passed in 2020. Republicans, complicit in President Trump’s economic relief packages, have a hard time criticizing handouts now, no matter how high the debt-to-GDP ratio grows. Instead, conservatives focus on the culture war and not economic policy. This has made opposition to Biden fractured and ineffective, allowing him to run his playbook so far. However, Republicans will eventually find attack lines to exploit and will continue to paint Biden as a tool of the far left. 

Thought Leadership—from our Associations, Think Tanks, and Consultants:

National Journal’s Six Factors that will Shape the 2022 Mid-Term Elections: 

  • The narrow congressional majorities. The most obvious argument for Republicans winning House and/or Senate majorities are the narrow margins in the two chambers, currently six seats in the former, one in the latter. Post-World War II, the president’s party has averaged a three-seat Senate loss and a 22-seat loss in the House. In first-term midterms, Senate losses swell to an average of seven seats.
  • House reapportionment/redistricting. The states that Biden carried in 2020 will lose three seats, while those that Trump carried will gain three. With only a six-seat margin that is a big deal. Although Republicans will not be able to dominate redistricting as much as they did a decade ago, they will draw the maps in states with 188 congressional seats; Democrats will control just 73 districts. The best argument for House Democrats is that since they lost 11 seats last year, their exposure is light. 
  • Republican exposure in the Senate. Republicans will have to defend 20 seats, compared to Democrats’ 14. Republicans also have five open seats among their 20, which are usually harder to defend than incumbent seats. Democrats have none. 
  • Partisan voting patterns. Based on presidential voting patterns, the outlook seems closer to a draw. Of course, with only a single-seat margin, Democrats cannot afford any net loss at all.
  • Wild-card candidates. Democrats are hoping that former President Trump and his supporters will pick fights with GOP incumbents, potentially nominating candidates who may have significant weaknesses going into a competitive general election. 
  • Turnout. In 2018 and 2020, turnout was higher than it had been in 100-plus years. The reason for both: Donald Trump. He inspired an enormous turnout among Trump Lovers and Trump Loathers alike. Midterm elections always have a lower turnout than presidential years, but the question is which group will suffer the greater decrease in voters? With fewer independents voting in midterm elections, partisans become even more important.

In Other Words (Quote): 

 “I’ve had it with her.” — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, referring to Liz Cheney.

Did You Know:

There are only 30 legislative days left before the August recess where both the House and Senate are in session and votes are allowed.

Graph of the Week:

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