How did people convince themselves constraints weren't constraints? It's a bit of a mystery. Charlie Cook:
"While there is still a chance that Biden and maverick Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin can reach some agreement early next year for a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act, the budget reconciliation package with major social spending and climate-change funding, the reality is that Biden and Democratic congressional leaders badly miscalculated what was realistic given the circumstances of the 2020 election outcome. Not to beat on a dead horse but while so many Democrats are pointing fingers and cursing Manchin, or trashing him to sympathetic reporters, their time might be better spent trying to learn something from this debacle of a year.
Quite simply, if you want to do big things, you have to win elections big. The ambition of a party’s legislative and policy agenda should be commensurate with the magnitude of their victory. A meager victory won with the smallest of majorities demands a more modest agenda. Notwithstanding many worthy elements in what Democrats sought this year, proportionality was not to be found when comparing how Democrats did in 2020 and what they tried to do in 2021.
Biden’s 5-point popular vote win masked the fact that the relationship between the popular and electoral vote has been severed. Democrats running up the score in California and a few other populous states distort the picture about what really matters: the swing states. By that standard, this was an extremely close election, decided by a combined total of fewer than 126,000 votes scattered across four states. That is a long haul from Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson’s 44-state sweeps, with popular-vote wins of 23 and 18 points, respectively.
Looking at Congress, 59 of the Senate’s 96 seats were occupied by Democrats when FDR took office. LBJ had 68 out of 100. Democrats had 313 seats in the House for FDR, 295 for LBJ.
For this Congress, Democrats won their 49th seat on Jan. 5 with Raphael Warnock’s win of just under 94,000 votes over Kelly Loeffler in one Georgia runoff. The 50th came days later, as Jon Ossoff was declared the winner, by just under 55,000 votes over David Perdue. This is about as underwhelming as Senate majorities come.
The 221 seats that Democrats have in the House represents a 13-seat loss in the 2020 election. Their very majority was saved by fewer than 32,000 votes in five districts. Simply put, this was a very ambiguous election result and not one from which to claim a mandate."