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Reblogged:Coalitions are Two-Edged Swords

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Over at Jewish World Review is a post-mortem by Ramesh Ponnuru of the apparent demise of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda. Having nervously followed this for some time -- and not quite ready to exhale -- I would have to agree with the following:
[Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)] was, after all, right about the best way to structure the bill, as even some progressives conceded. If Democrats wanted a larger tax credit for children, they should have included a 10 -- year enlargement and ditched other parts of the bill -- as Manchin said. If they weren't willing to sacrifice other initiatives, they should have left an expanded credit for another day. But the bulk of the Democratic Party in D.C. wasn't willing to set priorities.
The interesting question that nobody seems to be asking is: Why?

If these things are so important to Democrats, why did they have to be bundled together this way?

Ponnuru wanders to within spitting distance of the answer when he observes two things.

It's not just Manchin the Democrats are refusing to hear. Biden tried to garner support for the bill by saying it "is what 81 million people voted for." A large segment of those voters, though, just wanted Donald Trump out of office.

And second:
Image by The White house, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Build Back Better was unusual in seeking to realize an expansive partisan agenda in a very narrowly divided Congress. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama tried to enact such large and far -- reaching changes in spending when they had much larger margins.
This, too.

The American political parties are really coalitions, as difficult as this might be to remember for conservatives looking at the Democrats and vice versa. (I'm not a conservative, but after Donald Trump's antics made sure Georgia elected two Democrats to the Senate, I pretty much expected Build Back Better or worse to pass.) Indeed, on the evidence, it would seem that nearly every faction of the Democratic Party forgot this fact when Biden got elected and had both houses.

Coalitions are fine for winning elections, and can be for governing (if expectations are clear to all from the beginning), but not so much for legislation.

Consider the counterexample of abortion, which I wrote about recently:
If support for reproductive rights is so strong, why won't Democrats run on a promise to pass legislation to make abortion unambiguously legal?


[E]very time the Democrats talk about the freedom to have an abortion, they wrongly package it with forcing third parties to pay for it. This makes the cause of legalizing it less compelling for the very significant part of the American population -- which this poll did not measure, but of which I am a part -- that fully supports reproductive freedom, but strongly opposes being forced to pay for the decisions or medical procedures of others. [links and emphasis in original]
The Democrats will never legalize abortion because essentially none can conceive of separating the "part" of it (as they see it) with broad popular support (a woman's right to her own body) from the "part" (making people pay for other people to have abortions) that alienates lots of voters -- most of whom also disagree with them on other things.

It's easy to see this with abortion: Democrats are the party of redistribution, and it wants to monopolize abortion. With Build Back Better, there were no issues that as plainly would alienate any faction: It looked to most Democrats like a grab-bag of goodies for everyone, and to a few (Manchin is evidently only the most outspoken) like a fiscal bullet to America's heart.

Manchin was absolutelty correct: Probably some of these could have passed individually. Maybe some will, but throwing them all together and trying to hide their cost made even some within their own camp uncomfortable. The Democrats were so angry at Trump they lost sight of nearly everything else during the election, and afterwards forgot that they were a coalition when it came time to govern.

-- CAV

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