Even beyond the climate, political risks weigh more heavily on the Biden administration than on past administrations. This is another lesson from the Obama years. The Obama team had real political success: they avoided another great depression, they re-regulated the financial sector, they extended health insurance to over 20 million people. But the Democrats lost the House in 2010, thus ending Obama’s legislative program, then they lost the Senate in 2014, then Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, then the Democrats lost the Supreme Court for a period of time. generation.
Many of those who served under Obama, and now serve under Biden, think they were so focused on the economic risks that they missed the political risks – and you can’t do good economic policy if you lose it. political power. Biden’s team is haunted by the fear that if this fails, a man very much like Trump could take back power. This helps explain why, for example, they are not affected by arguments that the $ 1,400 stimulus checks, while very popular, were poorly targeted. As one of Biden’s economic advisers told me, “if we don’t show people that we are helping the dickens out, this country could come back to Trump far too quickly,” but he used a bigger word. earthly than “dickens. “
Biden is a politician, in the truest sense of the word. Biden sees his role, in part, as the perception of what the country wants, the intuition of what people will accept and not, and then work within those boundaries. In America, this is often seen as a dirty deal. We love the aesthetics of conviction, we think leaders should follow their own advice, we use “politician” as an epithet.
But Biden’s more traditional understanding of the politician’s job has given him the flexibility to change alongside the country. When the mood was more conservative, when the idea of a big government scared people off and the virtues of private enterprise shone, Biden reflected that policy, calling for balanced budget amendments and warning against “mothers.” welfare driving luxury cars ”. Then the country changed, and so did he.
A young generation has revived the American left, and Bernie Sanders’ two campaigns have proven the power of his politics. Republicans have abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism, and Trump has raised – but failed to follow up – the frightening possibility of populist conservatism, which combines xenophobia and resentment with popular economic policies. Stagnant wages and global warming, Hurricane Katrina and a pandemic virus have proven that there are more frightening words in the English language than “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” like Ronald Reagan said so.
Even when Biden ran as a moderate in the Democratic primary, his platform had shifted well to the left of anything he had supported before. But then he did something unusual: rather than swing to the center in the general election, he went more to the left. And the same thing happened after winning the election. It has moved away from professional demands and complex targeting in policy design. It emphasizes the irresponsibility of allowing social and economic problems to worsen, as opposed to the irresponsibility of spending money on social and economic problems. His administration is defined by the fear that the government is not doing enough, not that it is doing too much. Like pseudonymous commentator James Medlock wrote on Twitter, “The era of ‘the era of great government is over’ is over.” “
Additional reporting by Roge Karma.
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