Did We Mention This Is Urgent?

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October 27, 2021 1:46 p.m.

Democrats appear to be limping their way toward passing a slimmed down version of the President’s agenda. I don’t think we should be overly distressed that the final number is around $2 trillion as opposed to $3.5 trillion. You never get everything you want. And we can’t run from the reality that Democrats control Congress by the most tenuous of margins – in fact, no margin at all in the Senate. But Democrats should be asking themselves why it is that over the last three to four months the President’s public approval has fallen roughly ten points. In a highly partisan and polarized age that is simply a massive drop.

Why has this happened?

As I and many others have argued, the clearest explanation is the summer resurgence of COVID. Or more specifically, the whipsaw realization that COVID wasn’t done. A mix of the Delta variant, low vaccine uptake and some mix of declining vaccine efficacy meant that we weren’t really done with this. Combined with that you have various economic knock on effects – high prices for a number of important consumer items, at least the appearance (the reality is less clear) of a lagging job market, and all manner of shipping delays and shortages of all manner of things people want to buy. All the particulars add up to a simple thing: COVID turned our world upside down. And our world still isn’t right side up.

Critically during this period of time ending the Pandemic hasn’t seemed like the White House’s main focus.

That’s the other part of the equation: the last 4 or 5 months of bickering and infighting between Democrats in Congress. Many Democrats will point to the fact that this can’t be the reason because the bill they are trying to pass is very popular. Or at least passing it will solve the problem. But this is largely self-deception. The individual components of the President’s agenda are mostly quite popular. But most of the public doesn’t have a clear sense of what those things even are. And to the extent they do, they’re not what most people are focused on. They’re mostly focused on COVID and getting out of the hole we collectively fell into almost two years ago. Popularity isn’t the same as saliency.

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The only way forward is to pass the bill. Give Democrats something to be enthused about, show everyone else the President is able to get things done and then get about selling what’s in the bill and working and being seen to work nonstop on bringing the Pandemic to heel.

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