Biden believes that this is precisely the kind of elitist trap Democrats fall into time and again, to their own detriment. The more energy and airtime Democrats devote to eliminating the filibuster, the less energy they’re putting into talking up the expanded child tax credit or working toward the passage of a historic infrastructure bill. He believes voters are going to care much more about the money in their pockets than the less tangible issues of government reform. I’ve been hearing Biden say this since January 2017: Democrats inadvertently enabled Trump’s victory because they’d stopped improving people’s lives. “What I’ve learned in my entire career in politics, you can do anything with somebody and get them to move as long as you don’t change their standard of living downward,” he told me.
When dealing with both Trump and the Democratic Party’s left flank, Biden thinks he can de-escalate fights by not waging them head-on. He still believes in a pre-Twitter approach to governing whereby, when change actually occurs, it doesn’t always happen in public, or as quickly as many voters want. Scrapping the filibuster won’t matter if nothing else can pass the Senate and Biden has a failed presidency; protecting small margins in elections won’t matter if Democrats don’t deliver on other priorities and lose House races next year by 5 or 10 percent.