At long last, a moment from a Democratic debate that might actually move votes. Until last night the closest thing we’d had all year to a meaningful answer at the debates was Kamala Harris’s exchange with Biden over busing this past summer. His numbers slipped afterward and hers shot way up, briefly placing her in the top tier.
Briefly. Six months later, he’s still leading the national polls and Harris is a former candidate.
But maybe we finally have another vote-moving moment. This one comes at Biden’s expense too — by his own words.
Moderator Tim Alberta asked: “Three consecutive American presidents have enjoyed stints of explosive economic growth due to a boom in oil and natural gas production. As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?”
“The answer is yes,” the former vice president said.
But Biden — the front-runner in national polling in the Democratic nomination race — emphasized that “the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs … is real.”
Right, as you’ll see below, he quickly hedged his “yes” answer with a utopian vision in which hundreds of thousands of laid-off members of the fossil-fuel industry not only find work in green energy but higher-paying work.
But that part’s not going to make the cut when this clip is featured in GOP attack ads.
And it undercuts Biden’s pitch as the hard-nosed centrist who’s searching for realistic ways to help the working class while Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are off in Unicornland, hatching megatrillion-dollar programs that’ll never pass Congress, never be paid for even if they did, and never, ever be implemented as smoothly as they’d have one believe. Mass layoffs are a key line of attack against Medicare for All, with upwards of two million private-sector jobs at risk if private health insurance is nuked. Sanders and Warren have various reassurances about that — there’ll be a transition period, the laid-off workers will be able to work for the new government health-care bureaucracy, and so on. But massive disruption isn’t so neatly solved. For instance, one of the core arguments for M4A is that it’ll eliminate many redundant jobs by placing all of American health care under one administrative roof, leading to a (giggle) more efficient system. By definition, then, not everyone purged in the great private insurance bloodletting will find work elsewhere in the industry.
As I say, on that subject Biden is a realist: Disruptions disrupt. He’s a public-option guy, not a Medicare for All supporter, so he’s happy to point out the potential for chaos if Sanders and Warren get their way. Ask him about throwing tends of thousands workers in the energy sector onto the unemployment line in service to green energy, though, and suddenly everything’s chill. He supports green energy so those jobs can be safely gambled with. This is the “electable” guy in the field.
This answer, in response to a different question about working with Republicans, seems not so realistic either:
Number two, with Trump out of the way, it’s not going to change things in a fundamental way, but what it will do is it will mean that we are in a position where he’s not going to be able to intimidate the base–his base is not going to be in intimidate those half-dozen Republicans we may need in other things. I refuse to accept the notion as some on this stage do that we can never, never get to a place where we have cooperation again. If that’s the case, we are dead as a country. We need to be able to reach a consensus. And if anyone has reason to be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate, it’s me the way they’ve attacked me, my son and my family.
Trump’s base absolutely can and will intimidate moderate Republicans in the Senate, whether or not ex-President Trump is egging them on to do so. And he probably will be: There’s every reason to believe he’ll tweet through his rage during his successor’s administration if he ends up losing next fall. But even if he gave up Twitter, the GOP will naturally transition in the wake of defeat from a Trump cult to a revanchist posture in which the only way to avenge the sting of defeat is to roadblock everything the new president wants to do. (There’ll also some be post-election narrative that the Democrats cheated to win in the name of delegitimizing the new president, just as there’ll be another Democratic narrative that Trump cheated if he wins reelection to delegitimize him.) So yeah, of course Susan Collins and Romney and Murkowski will have their arms twisted to prevent compromise with Biden. They’ll probably have their arms twisted more then than they do now since at the moment Trump is around to fight for Republican priorities. Once he’s gone, it’s on congressional Republicans to show the base that someone’s fighting.
Also, in what universe does Joe think he’s going to have 54 Democratic seats such that he only needs a half-dozen Republicans to beat a filibuster and pass legislation? Sanders and Warren may reside in Unicornland but Biden’s clearly an occasional visitor.