McConnell: I didn't recognize the nasty, demagogic, unpresidential Joe Biden who gave that speech yesterday

Oh, I don’t know about that, Mitch. The guy who once said of Republicans before an African-American crowd, “They’re gonna put y’all back in chains”?

I recognized him. Biden has mellowed a bit with age and senescence, morphing into the daffy Grandpa Joe character we typically see, but the brash loudmouth he was for most of his career still comes out on occasion.

It’s no coincidence that it came out yesterday before another mostly black crowd, I think. Issues with racial salience like voting rights tend to bring out the demagogic impulses of politicians on both sides.

This is the harshest McConnell speech about presidential demagoguery I’ve ever seen, apart from that one he gave last February.

A stinging line: If Biden had a mandate to do anything it was to unify the country, and he betrayed that mandate yesterday. To some degree that’s a case of Mitch crying crocodile tears; the righties who are burning their masks and snickering at “Let’s go, Brandon” were never going to be “unified” with Joe Biden over anything, after all. But it’s true that Biden’s speech was ugly, just as it’s true that he hasn’t let “divisiveness” stand in the way of him pursuing his more questionable policy goals. If he valued unity above all things he’d be laser-focused on voters’ own priorities with respect to issues like COVID, inflation, and the supply chain. Instead his party spent the second half of 2021 arguing amongst itself over Build Back Better, a bill most voters can’t even explain. And meanwhile the Biden White House neglected testing, N95s, and every other COVID precaution except vaccines, which he tried to compel via a questionable federal mandate that was destined to cause a bitter partisan split.

His supporters can and will defend those policies on the merits as necessary, whatever the costs. But if it’s true that Biden’s mandate was a return to normalcy and unity, McConnell’s right that he failed by prioritizing the way he did.

A bombshell new poll from Quinnipiac that proves McConnell’s point is rippling across political Twitter as I write this. It’s an extreme outlier, please note: Quinnipiac has Biden’s job approval at a shocking 33/53, well below the 41.9 that he’s currently registering in the RCP average. But two numbers stand out. The first, confirming McConnell’s judgment, is this:

He’s at 38/50 among independents on that question. What do you think that number’s going to look like in the next poll, now that Biden has compared Americans who support the filibuster to Jefferson Davis and George Wallace?

Here’s the other killer result from the Q-poll. Hoo boy:

If Biden did have a mandate of any sort on policy it was to get the virus under control, as he promised he would during the campaign. As much of a success as Operation Warp Speed was, Trump’s day-to-day approach to the pandemic was generally to underplay it and push for businesses to reopen. The Democratic promise to voters was that if the country simply elected a president who took the virus as seriously as it deserved to be taken, he’d put COVID in America’s rear-view mirror. Now here we are with record case counts thanks to a new variant and a shortage in rapid tests because the White House didn’t plan ahead for the winter.

It’s not just Quinnipiac showing Biden fading in approval on handling COVID either:

If the White House has lost the confidence of the electorate on both ending the pandemic and unifying the country, what’s left of Biden’s presidency?

McConnell was a stalwart defender of the filibuster during Trump’s presidency too, by the way, even resisting pleas from the White House to get rid of it at a moment when the GOP had total control of government and could have moved their agenda at will. But I wonder if he — or his successor, maybe — would be able to resist the same pressure in 2025 if Republicans found themselves back in charge of the House and Senate with Trump back in the White House. Trump is a vastly more popular figure within the party (and somewhat more popular figure across the country) than McConnell is, and his political approach of using every available lever of power to advance one’s interests is truer to the spirit of the modern right than McConnell’s long-game strategic moves are. He has a stronger grip on the party now than he did five years ago, to the GOP’s shame. Presumably the filibuster would hold in 2025 simply because there are too many centrist Republicans unbeholden to the base, like Collins, Murkowski, and Romney, who’d refuse to go nuclear even with Trump shouting at them to do so. But the politics of this issue could get complicated for the party sooner than we think.

I’ll leave you with this.