New York Times Rains On Democrats’ Big Infrastructure Parade
Democrats successfully passed a major infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden will soon sign. Everybody rejoice! Well, not so fast, says the New York Times. This might look like a victory, but it's actually the opposite. These guys are terrible at parties. They see the Carrie ending in everything.
Perhaps the Times is cranky because they'd given Democrats up for dead just a couple days earlier. The Times editorial board declared: "Democrats Deny Political Reality At Their Own Peril." See, this week, Democrats lost big in Virginia and narrowly won the governor's race in New Jersey. This is the worst thing that could happen to a political party, which is why you never heard from Republicans again after they lost a Senate seat in Alabama (!) in 2017 and governors races in Kentucky, Kansas, and Louisiana during Donald Trump's first term.
New York Times
The political reality is apparently whatever the Times editorial board says it is, and what Democrats must do is "return to the moderate policies and values that fueled the blue-wave victories in 2018 and won Joe Biden the presidency in 2020."
This implies that the Democratic Party has dramatically shifted to the left, which isn't the case. Putting aside the general “Trump sucks" messaging, Democrats ran on fairly liberal policies in 2018, such as lowering prescription drug prices, breaking up consolidated corporate power like commies or just reasonable Americans who don't like a plutocracy, and massive infrastructure spending not far removed from Build Back Better. Democrats called their plan “A Better Deal," an obvious allusion to the New Deal, and Vox described the platform as a decisive populist turn for the party.
There's a collective gaslighting effort to paint Build Back Better as some progressive fever dream and not explicitly what Biden campaigned on during both the 2020 primary and general election. The Times also neglects to mention that it literally endorsed Elizabeth Warren, who's hardly “moderate," and Amy Klobuchar, who fully supports Biden's agenda. Although the Times considered Klobuchar the ideal candidate from the party's ideological center, the editorial board didn't define “moderate" as “non-Trump seat warmer."
[Klobuchar] promises to put the country on the path — through huge investments in green infrastructure and legislation to lower emissions — to achieve 100 percent net-zero emissions no later than 2050. She pledges to cut childhood poverty in half in a decade by expanding the earned-income and child care tax credits. She also wants to expand food stamps and overhaul housing policy and has developed the field's most detailed plan for treating addiction and mental illness. And this is all in addition to pushing for a robust public option in health care, free community college and a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Having met Republicans prior to 2020, I assumed they would oppose every one of these policies and scream socialism, but that doesn't magically shift Klobuchar and Biden's positions to the left of Castro. This was considered the mainstream Democratic platform and 81 million Americans supported it.
While Abigail Spangberger from the "please don't hurt me/seat warmer" caucus might claim that Americans didn't elect Biden to be "FDR" just “normal" and to “stop the chaos," that is arguably only true of Never Trumpers who'd prefer Democrats simply hold the ball for four years until they can get around to nominating someone superficially non-fascist. The rest of the Biden coalition, however, supports his agenda, which continues to poll positively.
The Times had egg on its face Friday night when Pelosi pulled off her latest feat of legislative badassery. She not only passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, she whipped the votes of 13 Republicans, exposing Kevin McCarthy as a feckless Boehner in waiting. Instead of hailing her, the Times was intent of painting this as failure. Peter Baker said:
Enough Democrats bucked their leadership that the infrastructure bill would have gone down without the 13 Republican yeas.
Jesus Christ. Pelosi's good but I doubt she could've convinced any Republican in good standing to vote for a bill that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar had also supported. What makes something truly moderate is that the far left and far right both oppose it. Also, Republicans are petty as fuck and it's easy for them to sell their constituents on backing a bill that AOC didn't like. It's far better that the bipartisan bill had Republican support at the expense of prominent progressive support. The more ambitious reconciliation bill is the time for a party-line vote. Pelosi understood this.
Maureen Dowd, whose retirement I'll celebrate, offered her opinion in a piece "cleverly" titled "A Woke-Up Call For Democrats." I put "cleverly" in quotes because it's not clever at all. It's trite, insulting, and slightly racist.
New York Times
She writes (please don't follow link): "At the end of the day, Democrats are going to get some good stuff for Americans, but voters may not realize that because of the big hash the Democrats made with the bills."
Look, the average voter doesn't follow tedious legislative sausage-making. Netflix exists. If voters are convinced that Democrats are so dysfunctional they can't find their couch in their living room, then it's because publications such as the New York Times insists on promoting that narrative.
Hell, the Democrats passed a fucking $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. They won! No one who watched Avengers: Endgame left the theater thinking, “OK, sure, the Avengers defeated Thanos but I could've done without the big hash the team made when they went back in time for the Infinity Stones." Maybe Maureen Dowd thinks every movie where the heroes triumphantly prevail at the last minute is actually a big downer. I'm not qualified to psychoanalyze her.
And she goes on like this:
Many who were sick of Trump chaos and ineptitude are now sick of Biden chaos and ineptitude. Scranton Joe was supposed to be the sensible, steady one
Who's the many? Oh, right, this is a Times opinion column; no data is necessary. The Times frequently interviewed Trump supporters who stuck by him now matter how low his approval ratings dropped. McAuliffe did relatively well among Black voters, and there's no evidence that Black voters, who propelled Biden to victory, are sick of him. But no one at the Times is taking two subway trains to go talk to Black Biden voters.
Maybe there are white Never Trumpers who think drama over a successful infrastructure bill is the same as Trump's kiddie jails, assault on minorities, and his over all corruption, but they are just looking for any excuse to vote for Republicans in 2022 and 2024. And the Times remains eager to enable them.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."