In the Rose Garden of the White House, where for four years Donald Trump raucously celebrated political victories with his allies, now it was the Democrats’ turn to take a victory lap, masked and physically estranged, of course.
Kamala Harris, the vice president, praised Joe Biden for signing a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill, the largest expansion of the American welfare state in decades. “His empathy has become a trademark of his presidency and can be found on each and every page of the American Rescue Plan,” Harris said.
Democrats approved the plan this week; now they have to sell it. Friday’s event with members of Congress fired the starting gun for Biden, Harris and their spouses to mount a aggressive marketing campaign, travel the country to tell Americans directly how hard-won legislation will improve their lives.
Salesmanship was always seen as Trump’s forte, but this is a golden opportunity for Biden, a once-unlikely savior. The oldest president ever elected, at 78, ranks high in opinion polls. His the rescue plan is endorsed by three out of every four citizens. His opposition is in disarray with Republicans struggling to find a coherent counter-narrative, fighting for Trump and obsessing over culture wars.
But Biden’s long career will have taught him the laws of political gravity: Presidents and prime ministers who start out on the rise inevitably fall. He has also spoken of the need to avoid the fate of Barack Obama who, having intervened to prevent financial disaster in 2009, was rewarded with a “beating” for Democrats in the midterm elections.
Politics is about momentum and, with vaccines coming fast, the economy poised to rebound and jump into the air, Biden has it for now. Ed Rogers, A political consultant and veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush administrations said: “In politics, the good gets better, the bad gets worse. Biden is on a roll right now, so it’s good for him to be a little more aggressive and be seen.
“They want to take the credit and he should. The tides will turn; there will be periods when it will seem like they can’t do anything right. “
In what the White House calls a Help tour is here, First lady Jill Biden will travel to Burlington, New Jersey, on Monday, while the president will visit Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will go to Las Vegas on Monday and Denver on Tuesday. Emhoff will remain in the west and make a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Wednesday.
At the end of the week, Biden and Harris will make their first joint trip in office to Atlanta, where Democrats’ victories in two Senate second-round elections in January were instrumental in passing the aid package against Republican opposition. unwavering.
The White House has recognized that the public relations offensive is an attempt to avoid a repeat of 2009, when the Obama administration did not do enough to explain and promote its own economic recovery plan. Biden, who was vice president at the time, he told his colleagues last week that Obama was modest and did not want to take a victory lap. “We pay a price for it, ironically, for that humility,” he said.
That price included a backlash in the form of the Tea Party movement and the rise of right-wing populism. But there were important differences both in substance and in style. Obama’s $ 787 billion bill, which followed the bailout of the banks, produced a recovery that felt abstract and icy. This time, the impact is more immediate and tangible: Some Americans will receive a stimulus payment of $ 1,400 this weekend, with mass vaccinations and school reopens on the way.
Bill Galston, A member of the think tank at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former policy adviser to Bill Clinton, said: “I underestimated the extent to which the experience of 2009 has burned into the memory of senior Democrats: the interpretation of going Too small and pay the price in a painfully slow recovery, spending too much time in the beginning negotiating with members of the other party who were never going to agree and never compromise, without telling the American people what they had accomplished for them.
“The list of lessons learned is very long and, to a point that surprises me, the administration is fighting and winning the last war.”
Despite avoiding financial collapse, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections, the biggest change since 1948. That fits a pattern in which the incumbent president’s party tends to having poor results in the first midterm elections, and so on Republicans are optimistic on his chances of winning back both the House and Senate next year.
Dan Pfeiffer, A former senior Obama adviser, argues that the Covid relief bill is the beginning of the battle for the 2022 midterm elections and warns that Democrats cannot take credit for granted as Americans “currently have the memory. long-term of a sea cucumber. “
He wrote in the Message Box newsletter last week that despite Obama’s speeches and factory visits, “it was almost impossible to break the avalanche of bad news.” But “the benefits of this plan are more specific, easier to understand and are likely to be felt widely in no time.”
Pfeiffer urged grassroots supporters to join Biden and Harris in the messaging effort through social media. “I spent much of 2009 and 2010 banging my head against the proverbial wall because not enough people knew how Barack Obama had helped prevent the economy from falling into a second Great Depression,” he added. “Let’s not do that again.”
The plan will also require strict oversight to ensure that money is not wasted or wasted. Donna Brazile, A former acting chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said: “It is a massive bill with massive consequences, but it requires not only that the president, vice president and cabinet, but state and local governments also work together to ensure that the vaccines are distributed fairly and ordinary citizens can take advantage of some of the wonderful initiatives found in the bill. “
There has been a striking contrast between Biden and Harris ‘disciplined approach to passing landmark legislation and the Republicans’ fixation on Dr. Seuss’s “canceling culture” after the children’s author’s publisher announced that it was discontinuing several books that contained racist images, to confusion over whether Mr Potato Head’s toy will still be a “Mr”.
The issue, which often receives more coverage in the conservative media than coronavirus relief, is seen as a way to perk up the grassroots in a way that attacks on Biden do not. The president is not black like Obama, not a woman like Hillary Clinton, not a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders, all of whom seem to have inoculated him against demonization by the attack machine on the right.
And despite its popularity with the public, all Republican senators opposed the US Rescue Plan, offering Biden’s team a chance to score political points. Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, said: “It will be interesting to see how much they make from the benefits of the plan compared to Republicans who have not voted for the plan.”
Chen, director of policy for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, added: “The challenge for Democrats will be that as elements of this emerge, they will be unpopular, it will be defined by things that are unpopular or things that are not. popular. would seem to be politically quite favorable? ”
The OECD predicts that the rescue plan will help the US economy grow at a 6.5% rate this year, which would be its fastest annual growth since the early 1980s. But as Bill Clinton, George W Bush discovered and Tony Blair, all political honeymoons come to an end.
Republicans are already exploring a new line of attack by accusing the president of ignoring the growing crisis of an increase in children and families trying to cross the southern border. The rare outbreak of unity among Democrats (at the Rose Garden, Biden thanked Sanders for his efforts) is not likely to last. And the next big item on the legislative wish list, infrastructure, is likely to be even tougher.
But it is America’s Rescue Plan and the political battle to define it that could make or break Biden’s presidency. Michael Steel, who was press secretary of the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said: “They are making a bet on economic recovery and I hope they are right because I want the US economy to recover quickly.”
But, he added, “I think people will continue to learn more about the things in this legislation that are not directly related to the Covid aid or the economic stimulus. There is definitely a real risk of pushback. “
Steel, now a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm, added: “We could be on the brink of some crazy new years with a booming economy and so much pent-up demand for people to travel, live and spend money. We could also be setting the pump for a devastating wave of inflation. In general, the economy is the number one problem before the elections and there is a very real possibility that we have a great advantage or some dangers ahead. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism