Taken together, the way in which the Biden administration is getting sidetracked by issues like immigration and climate change in the first two weeks in the middle of a health and economic crisis is a political red flag. The president is trying to appease the progressive interests that backed him last November, but at the long-term cost of losing track of the promises that propelled him into office—restoring unity, getting control of the pandemic, and building on the economic recovery.
“For the next period of time nothing else is important. Not immigration reform. Not criminal justice reform. Not climate change. Not child poverty. Not executive orders. Not Trump’s trial,” wrote Center for American Progress senior fellow Ruy Teixeira, just after Biden’s inauguration. “Either solve the twin crises or prepare yourself for the wrath of voters who will, not unreasonably, think you have failed them.”
Unlike Obama, who entered office with massive political capital to spend, Biden comes into office with narrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. The message from voters in the election was a rejection of extremes: a desire to move on from President Trump’s divisiveness and grievance-based politics, combined with a wariness of Democrats’ leftward lurch. Given the seismic divisions within the GOP, this is the ideal moment to craft proposals that can win bipartisan support.