I'm re-upping my Wall Street Journal essay from before the election. I think it holds up pretty well if I do say so myself. Here's the conclusion to the essay, which seems, to say the least, apropos these days:
"A President Biden will almost certainly face a raging pandemic and a staggering economy. Mr. Trump’s inability to solve these problems is what forged the Biden coalition in the first place. Being an effective president and tackling these crises will be job one for Mr. Biden.
He knows this, which explains his ambitious “Build Back Better” plans. Mr. Biden thinks that large-scale, liberal, activist government will be the key to getting the country back on its feet. He will have to produce and produce fast. As Michael Tomasky, editor of the liberal journal Democracy, notes, the victorious Democrats’ biggest problem would probably be “letting themselves get stuck in gridlock and passing nothing of consequence, dispiriting their own voters.”
The remedy? Unite Democrats to push comprehensive, ambitious legislation swiftly onto Mr. Biden’s desk. Call it the FDR approach. The incoming administration’s rescue package could well move toward many of the goals Mr. Bernstein cites, but the priority would remain tackling the nation’s intertwined crises.
That may cause grumbling. Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown and an editor of the leftist magazine Dissent, notes, “The Democrats still have to figure out how to craft (and pass) policies that have appeal to nearly all groups in their coalition, while assuring Blacks, Latinos, LGBT folks and others that they and their demands are respected and pursued. This has been a problem for the Democrats since the 1960s.”
Beyond those constituencies sits another that may be even more influential. “If Democrats come in with big majorities, the suburban, college-educated, liberal wing of the party is in the driver’s seat,” says Patrick Ruffini, a co-founder of the Republican polling firm Echelon Insights. “That’s true even if Biden improves the party’s standing among white working class voters. Trump’s defeat will be seen as the ultimate victory for the ‘Resistance,’ which grew as an upscale, mostly white movement in the suburbs.”
Mr. Ruffini argues that suburban liberals punch above their electoral weight in the Democratic Party, much like free-market conservatives in the GOP. “That’s who the donors and activists are, and it’s who drives policy,” he says. “That means uncompromising liberal stances on social and cultural issues.”
Inflexibly leftist stances on, say, reparations or defunding the police could crack the unity that Mr. Biden’s Democrats will need to pull the country out of its hole—to actually “build back better.” “Unless more robust economic growth resumes, Democrats will struggle to maintain unity as they make tough decisions about tax and budget priorities,” says the pollster Guy Molyneux of Hart Research Associates. Mr. Biden will surely remember the early years of the Obama administration, when the failure to produce a rapid recovery from the 2008-09 financial crisis fueled mounting opposition to the Democrats’ legislative agenda—and a wipeout in the 2010 midterms.
Could that history repeat? Harvard economist Larry Summers, a longtime adviser to Democratic presidents, is worried. “Once again, big picture, the risks of doing too little far outweigh the risks of doing too much,” he says. “This time, the hole is even bigger than it was in 2009, but I’m not sure that lesson has been learned.” And the pandemic makes the challenge even starker.
In this hour of crisis, the party should be able to unite around a grand bargain: leftist support for solving immediate problems, and liberal support for a long-term plan to advance other progressive priorities. Only shoring up the Biden coalition can produce inspiring governance that will improve—and save—Americans’ lives. Letting the coalition fall apart will probably lead to another surge of illiberal populism and more division and dysfunction, rather than the era of progressive political domination that Democrats now see as tantalizingly at hand."
Besides the WSJ essay, I have updated my blog homepage (link provided below) to include links to all my recent articles and reports. A handy reference for those of you who are so inclined.