Unless he reverses course, Biden will have, in less than one month, surrendered the central theme of his campaign and (in my opinion) his raison d’être. Abandoning this promise to unite the country and its political actors would be tantamount to a bait-and-switch. Biden’s brand would be undermined, and he would be less likely to garner any future bipartisan cooperation—something he may need with a 50-50 U.S. Senate.

What is more, this choice would further erode the public’s trust in political leaders. Not counting the Trump interregnum (where the pretense of being everyone’s president was abandoned), Biden would be the third consecutive president who came to office vowing to be “a uniter, not a divider,” only to cave and pursue a strategy playing to his base.

The problem is, Biden is making a false choice between working across the aisle and effectively addressing COVID relief. Nobody really knows what amount of money would sufficiently address the crisis, and everyone is placing their bets, in part, based on how things played out in 2009, when Obama believed he ended up paying too big a political price for what turned out to be too small a relief package.