Get Real, Folks

Especially since the withdrawal from Afghanistan the insider sheets have been relentlessly hostile to President Biden. Last night the Axios evening headline was “Biden’s China Fail”. Tonight it’s “Scoop: Biden Bombs”. Apparently Biden didn’t convince Joe Manchin to drop his opposition to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package in their well-publicized-in-advance sit-down at the White House.

Axios’s gloss aside, this does not surprise me. At the most optimistic this is Manchin’s bargaining position going into a critical 6 weeks or so of negotiating within the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate. Manchin’s just going to give way in advance because Biden asks him to? That makes no sense to me at all.

At our Wednesday event there were a lot of calls for Biden to drop the hammer on Manchin and Sinema to get a vote on the latest version of the For the People Act. As I said at the event, my great worry is that he’s not dropping the hammer because he knows it won’t work. If a leader says something has to happen and then it doesn’t happen the leader is much off worse than he started. The thing he wanted to happen didn’t happen in any case.

We keep hearing about LBJ and how he knew how to bring the power of the presidency to bear. But wow … this is just bad history. How did LBJ get people to fall in line? In the 89th Congress, which was sworn in in January 1965, the Democrats held 68 senate seats. Just think about that for a second. 68 seats! Sure, there were a bunch of pro-segregation Dixiecrats. But LBJ had plenty of votes to spare. And there were only relatively few of them who opposed him in the way an opposition party might.

Frankly, I don’t know why the White House announced this meeting in advance. You don’t have to publicize it. This result doesn’t surprise me. But it doesn’t help to have these sit-ons and have Manchin stiff the President. But I hope people get that this idea that the President can compel obedience in a situation like this is just false. Thinking otherwise leads to bad things.

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