As I write this, the members of the Electoral College are slowly but surely counting their way through the list of names for both President Trump and Joe Biden. We’re not expecting any surprises here, so no matter where you stand on questions regarding the integrity of the election, it would appear that the Democrats are preparing to take back the Oval Office in January while keeping a significantly slimmer hold on the House of Representatives. How much impact they will have still depends on whether or not they can win both of the Georgia runoff elections. (Fingers crossed that they can’t, but it’s going to be close.)
Whether they hold one chamber or both, however, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden have an important question to answer. It’s one that cropped up in a collection of editorial pieces assembled by the editors of the New York Post today. What exactly should be their message as they seek to exert power and enact change? The Post chose to turn to a quote from Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone. That’s a name you won’t see quoted under my byline very often, but in this case, he’s making what should at least pass for an important point in Democratic circles. Let’s take a look.
From the left: Democrats Need a New Message
Now that “Trump, the democratic Saddam, has lost, and his metaphorical statue will soon be dragged out of the White House,” Democrats need to turn their attention to creating an “ambitious” new party identity, advises Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone. For the last decade, “the brilliantly marketable Obama and the monster-pig shipwreck act that was Trump” let Democrats ignore the fact that “something was not quite working with the party’s overall message.” Having elected Joe Biden, “another ex-senator with a pro-Iraq [War], pro-NAFTA” record, they’ll need to acknowledge “how much failing to deliver real change cost them before.” Otherwise, “they will find themselves right back where they were four years ago — vulnerable to revolts on both sides.”
Taibbi’s hatred of President Trump has never been something he’s sought to hide and it doesn’t sound as if he’s really embraced any form of recovery from Trump Derangement Syndrome yet, but he’s highlighting some very real concerns that his party must be wrestling with right now. The problem is, the Democrats ran such a lackluster, nearly invisible campaign this fall that their own voters probably don’t know what they should be expecting.
To listen to AOC and the rest of The Squad, you would think that they won the election for the Democrats singlehandedly. And they and their followers are expecting to be paid back for their efforts in the form of even more sweeping progressive, socialist “progress.” That’s a message being echoed by Taibbi when he warns Biden about how the party “failed to deliver real change” when they were last in power. This is presumably why they feel Hillary Clinton lost, which might make sense in some sort of alternate universe moderated by ayahuasca therapy advocates.
Their problem is that it’s precisely the positions endorsed by many Democrats pandering to the socialists that came close to costing them control of the House. As Biden himself said during a recently leaked call, the Republicans “beat the hell out of us” on talk of defunding the police and the rest of the socialist claptrap they were pushing. With an even slimmer margin in the House and possibly not holding a majority in the Senate, they’ll be hard-pressed indeed to push through an agenda like that. And if they do manage it, they may have the hell beaten out of them even more badly in two years and/or four.
The other problem they’re facing is the aforementioned lack of a coherent message. You could find both Biden and Harris coming down on both sides of any number of issues at various points during the campaign, but for the most part, their only message was that Donald Trump must not be allowed to win a second term. Orange Man Bad. That was about it. But once the Orange Man is gone, you won’t be able to blame things on him anymore, though I’m confident they will still try mightily to do so. Revisiting an old theme that’s been making the rounds again lately, the Democrats are about to become the dog who finally caught the car only to realize that none of them know how to drive a stick shift.
Every direction Biden and Harris look contains at least some pitfalls. If Uncle Joe immediately starts ruling “by the phone and the pen,” issuing endless executive orders, he’ll be doing exactly what he criticized Trump for. If they pass legislation that’s too moderate, AOC and her friends will threaten to jump ship. If they push too far to the left, nervous members in red-leaning purple districts will likely bail out and they don’t have much of a margin to spare.
In short, “Orange Man Bad” may have (barely) gotten Joe Biden into the White House. But it’s not going to be able to keep him there.