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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: biden unity

Biden's Doing Very Well — But Here’s How He Might Do Better

Among right-wingers, there has been some delight about polls showing that Joe Biden's popularity at the 100-day mark is the lowest of any president since World War II. Oh, if you exclude Donald Trump. Undaunted by this detail, they note with satisfaction that Biden's approval rating, according to multiple polls, is somewhere between 52 and 57 percent. At this point in his presidency, Trump's approval was 40 percent.

Americans were far less partisan in the era of Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush and even Clinton than they are now. Large numbers of Democrats were willing to give high marks to Eisenhower when the economy was thriving, or to George H.W. Bush when we had just won a quick war, and a not insignificant number of Republicans approved of Clinton when we enjoyed balanced budgets and booming markets. But in recent years, negative partisanship has curdled our perceptions. One symptom of negative partisanship is the sharp decline in ticket-splitting. As the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter noted:

"After the 1992 election, for example, there were 103 split-ticket House seats; 53 that voted for George HW Bush and a Democratic member of Congress, and 50 that voted for Bill Clinton and a Republican member of the House ... Post-2020, there are only 17, or just four percent of the House."

Starting with the presidency of George W. Bush, the partisan divide in presidential approval ratings went through the roof. Some 80% of Republicans expressed approval for Bush, but only ten percent of Democrats agreed, and it was the reverse for Barack Obama.

The same pattern has been apparent in the past year. A Washington Post poll found that 49 percent of Democrats say the economy is doing well now versus only 18 percent who said that before the election. Among Republicans, 35 percent give the economy high marks today compared with 69 percent in September of 2020. Partisanship similarly colors peoples' perceptions of health care, race relations, and other issues.

So, in this environment, Biden's approval ratings are quite an accomplishment. That 33 percent of Republicans give him high marks for this handling of the coronavirus is a testament to something — maybe reality can sometimes penetrate our epistemic bubbles?

Biden ran on unifying and healing the country. His inaugural address hit all the right notes, and his low-key handling of the office has served to relieve the national migraine that the Trump years caused.

Biden is clearly gambling that putting vaccines in people's arms and deposits in their checking accounts will be enough to transcend whatever kulturkampf the Fox News ecosystem is currently spinning up. And that may work out for him.

On the other hand, since he ran to be a national healer, there are some pitfalls he might want to avoid. Several observers I spoke to cited Biden's race rhetoric, for example, as unhelpful. David French, a conservative who wishes Biden well, recalled that verbal excess on this subject has been a weakness for Biden. In 2012, he told an African American audience that Republicans wanted to "put y'all back in chains." His recent comment on Georgia's election law as "worse than Jim Crow" was ridiculous (though the Georgia law was passed for bad faith reasons and did impose some new burdens while lightening others).

Biden is passionate about racial justice and has included a racial element in many of his proposals, including clean energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and small business loans. His heart is in the right place, but is it politically savvy?

David Frum, citing a newly published study by Micah English and Joshua Kalla, agrees that toning down the racial appeals is advisable. English and Kalla tested whether pitching reforms as attempts to atone for past discrimination were effective or ineffective, compared with class-based or neutral appeals. Their results showed that couching reforms in the language of racial justice did nothing to increase support for the proposals even among Blacks and Democrats, but did provoke a backlash among Republicans. A class frame, by contrast, increased the likelihood that white voters would see the policy as "benefiting people like me." A class appeal was also linked with more respondents of all subgroups saying the policy was "fair."

There is no denying that racial discrimination has stained American history, but that doesn't mean that explicitly racial appeals are good politics. It wouldn't cost Biden anything to signal openness to Republican ideas. He could incorporate some of Sen. Tim Scott's police reform ideas for example. That might defuse some Republican resentment. (And even if it doesn't pacify Republicans, it's the right thing to do.)

Ben Wittes also stressed to me that the Biden administration should be meeting "on a weekly basis" with Republicans "if only for show." Biden met with a group of Republican senators to discuss the COVID-19 relief bill but has essentially disregarded Republican counteroffers. Negative partisanship may be at a boil, and yet 60 percent of Americans told The Washington Post that the president ought to be willing to make "major changes" to his proposals to gain Republican support, versus only 30 percent who thought he should try to push through his legislation as is.

Biden inherited a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Whatever criticisms one can lodge about this or that, he deserves our lasting gratitude for restoring decency, normal order and sanity to the business of governing. Whether it will be enough to reverse the slide into chaos remains uncertain, but defusing our deep mutual loathing, to the degree he can, should be a high priority.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Jen Psaki Gently Bombs Pat Robertson’s 'White House Correspondent'

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki again was forced to deal with a right-wing reporter trying to inflame American politics by dredging up old GOP talking points.

David Brody, a reporter for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, asked Psaki what President Joe Biden not yet meeting with House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says about "unity."

"I guess the question is," Brody said, President Biden "has not met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to Kevin McCarthy. What does that say about unity?"

Brody continued, "There are some other legislative issues as it relates to HR1 and a commission to study packing the Supreme Court as you would say."

The White House would not describe right-sizing the Supreme Court as "packing" it, that's a GOP talking point, just as is twisting Biden's remarks about wanting unity.

"And there's a lot of other lists as well, budget reconciliation, so there's a lot of folks who talk about, tens of millions of people, they're concerned about that this doesn't seem like unity at all," Brody complained.

Unfazed, Psaki asked Brody, "Do you think tens of millions of people are concerned about him not meeting with Kevin McCarthy?"

Brody pushed back, claiming "tens of millions of people are concerned about HR1, budget reconciliation, and going with a 50-vote threshold," he claimed.

"I don't think the polling bears that out," Psaki said, correctly.

At least two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) support HR1, the For the People Act, a voting rights and election reform bill. That number includes a solid majority, 57 percent, of Republicans. And a majority of Americans support killing the filibuster to advance HR1 and a $15 minimum wage.

"I will say that the President's view is that bringing the country together is bringing the American people together," Psaki continued. "So when I say he's, he is focused on bringing you know, bringing people together, bringing Democrats or Republicans together, he's not talking about solving bipartisanship in 'this zip code here.'"

Watch:

In Texas Storm Disaster, Biden Acts As A President For All Americans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Texas is being battered by a winter storm, causing rolling electrical blackouts while unplowed streets have people trapped at home without heat or water. At least 2.5 million people don't have power in the state, several times the number that lost power during Hurricane Harvey, with record winter demand in the cold weather and turbines and other equipment freezing.

In response, President Biden has approved an emergency declaration, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures," with 75 percent federal funding.

Oh. So this is what it's like to have a president who considers himself responsible for the whole country, not just the states that voted for him.

By contrast, Donald Trump repeatedly delayed disaster aid to parts of the country he didn't think were sufficiently pro-Trump. After Hurricane Maria, in 2017, Trump repeatedly whined about disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, assailed Congress for passing too much funding—when in fact it was inadequate—and only changed his tune as the election approached. When Puerto Rico was hit by an earthquake in early 2020, Trump again forced the island to wait for needed aid, while imposing harsh restrictions on how aid could be spent.

California, too, bore the brunt of Trump's contempt for anyone outside of his own base. In October, 2020, he initially rejected a request for disaster assistance as California fought six major wildfires, before reversing course days later. That came after a 2019 threat to cut off disaster funding related to wildfires. And after a similar threat in 2018. And a January 2019 attempt to cut off aid to victims of the 2018 wildfires.

Puerto Rico waited years, and never got the relief it needed. California got its aid in more timely fashion, but under constant threat and abuse, with the ever-present fear that Trump would really follow through on his threats. Texas got its emergency declaration basically as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott requested it. Because, as Biden repeatedly said during his campaign and in his inauguration speech, he wants to be a "president for all Americans." Even the ones who didn't vote for him.

Of course, it's not just Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) were right out with a letter echoing Abbott's request for aid—yet another reminder that both Cruz and Cornyn voted against relief funds for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

Texans are being asked to conserve energy by not running major appliances where possible—put off that load of laundry for a few days, for instance—and by turning their heat all the way down to 68, a number that is an indictment of the culture, because seriously, 68 is ridiculously warm, put on a sweater and stop wasting energy.

That said, it's important to understand that while this is weather that for many parts of the country would not be a particularly big deal, it's truly a serious problem in an area that does not have the infrastructure to handle significant amounts of snow or very low temperatures. This is absolutely an emergency. It's a good thing the United States now has a president who will respond appropriately, without threats and tantrums. It's unfortunate Texas still has senators who won't return the favor next time the state asking for assistance is one they find it convenient to level culture war attacks on.

A Conservative Proud Of My Vote For Biden

I've been getting a lot of mail from critics lately asking if I'm happy with the Biden administration. They point to some of the new president's executive orders — the one about the Keystone XL pipeline, or the one rescinding the "Mexico City" policy withholding funds from international organizations that perform or advocate for abortion. They ask, snidely, whether I'm proud of my vote for the Democrat.

My answer is a resounding yes. It's not because I think Joe Biden will pursue a policy agenda I will agree with most of the time. It's because we just came within a whisker of losing our democracy, and this presidency is a chance to rebuild it. We may yet blow it. Matters like the Keystone pipeline and even the Mexico City policy are trifles by comparison.

My correspondents won't understand this. Rightworld is in the process, once again, of bending reality to serve their leader, and in so doing, they are compounding the moral abdication that brought us Jan. 6.

The immediate reactions to the attempted coup sound strangely mature and responsible now that the right has regrouped and settled back into its accustomed posture of Trump-excusing. The new narrative is that an impeachment trial would be 1) unconstitutional, 2) divisive, or 3) helpful to Trump because it gives him a platform. How quickly they have capitulated. It's a mistake in this febrile era ever to assume you've taken the national temperature.

In the days immediately following the attack on the Capitol, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said the president had committed impeachable offenses and was unfit to serve. "I want him out," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told the Anchorage Daily News. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he would "definitely consider whatever articles" of impeachment the House might move. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) expressed his disgust on the Senate floor: "Count me out. Enough is enough." Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Trump provoked the mob by feeding them lies, and McConnell signaled that he might be open to impeachment. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Trump was responsible for the storming of the Capitol, and warned his caucus not to criticize members who voted for impeachment because it might endanger their lives. National Review published pro-impeachment articles, and The Wall Street Journal called for Trump to resign. Ten House Republicans, including a sulphuric Liz Cheney, voted to impeach. Even Ari Fleischer said: "At this point, I won't defend him anymore. ... He's on his own."

Oh, but he's not. Just a few days later, Fleischer was retweeting a Wall Street Journal editorial suggesting that we really ought to move on, and that "Democrats and the press are addicted to Trump." The Oregon GOP's official position is that the assault on the Capitol was a false flag operation, mounted to "discredit" Trump. Graham was back onside in a matter of days. Having weathered harassment by Trump fanatics at National Airport, he skittered back to the boss, telling Fox News that "I hope people in our party understand the party itself. If you're wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you're gonna get erased."

Like dominoes, the old gang began falling into line. Prof. Jonathan Turley, who's been saying that impeaching a non-incumbent is unconstitutional, was invited to the Senate GOP luncheon. All but five Republicans (Utah's Mitt Romney, Sasse, Murkowski, Maine's Susan Collins and Toomey) voted for a resolution introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) echoing the Turley view. Trump loyalists circulated a petition to remove Cheney from her House leadership post. National Review published a John Bolton piece arguing that the second impeachment was as "flawed as the first." Too partisan. Too hasty. It will give him a platform. You know the drill.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the impeachment is "stupid." Oh, and did he mention "divisive"?

The infinitely flexible Nikki Haley asks not whether former Trump attempted to steal the election, but how low the base would like her to sink. Appearing on the Laura Ingraham show, she offered up the expected persecution narrative: "They beat him up before he got into office. They are beating him up after he leaves office. I mean, at some point, I mean, give the man a break. I mean, move on."

See how this works? It was Trump who was beaten up, not Officer Sicknick.

The persecution complex is eternal — the sense that Democrats and "the media" are willing to do anything to "get" Trump and that therefore they must be ready to respond in kind. We've run the experiment and gotten our answer. There really is nothing Trump could do that would forfeit the support of the GOP. He didn't literally shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, but he sabotaged Americans' faith in elections, attempted to intimidate the secretary of state of Georgia into altering the election count, and set a violent mob against the Congress (killing one officer and four others). He has blood on his hands. But in the words of his No. 1 toady, Lindsey Graham: "He's going to be the most important voice in the Republican Party for a long time to come."

So, no regrets about voting for an honorable Democrat. I only pray that, with the reprieve we've bought, we can repair the awful breach in this country before it's too late.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Biden’s Vision Of Unity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

President Biden's unity pitch has gained steam since November, with fully 71 percent of Americans saying they would rather see Republicans in Congress find ways to work together with Biden instead of focusing on keeping him in check (25 percent).

The new finding from a Monmouth University poll shows a notable nine-point increase in the public's thirst for Republican cooperation with Biden since just after the November election when 62 percent said the same. But perhaps more importantly, the widespread support for GOP lawmakers working with the president to tackle problems suggests that Biden's unity push is very much in sync with the public. Biden recently clarified that to him, unity means coalescing around what a majority of Americans think will improve their lives, but not necessarily securing Republican votes for those policies. In short, it's about the public, not the lawmakers.

"If you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines, but it gets passed, it doesn't mean there wasn't unity, it just means it wasn't bipartisan," Biden explained this week.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was also asked to clarify what "unity" means to Biden. "Unity is about the country feeling that they're in it together, and I think we'll know that when we see it," she said, adding that Biden would be working on that at "every opportunity he has to speak to the public."

Now we know that more than seven in 10 Americans agree with Biden's vision—they like his pitch and want GOP lawmakers to join him in his effort to solve the nation's problems. That includes 41 percent of Republicans (up from 28 percent in November) as well as 70 percent of independents and 94 percent of Democrats.

The public's penchant for GOP compromise also seems to be at a high point, with several surveys over the past decade showing less appetite for bipartisan compromise. The questions aren't a perfect match, but an October 2017 Gallup poll found 54 percent of Americans wanted political leaders in Washington to compromise to get things done. That finding came after nine months of unified GOP control in Washington during which Republicans tried and failed multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And in November 2014, just weeks after voters handed Republicans control of the Senate, 63 percent of Americans wanted candidates who were elected to office that year to remain flexible enough to broker deals, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. What a cruel joke voters played on themselves by putting grim reaper Mitch McConnell in charge of the Senate and then hoping for bipartisan compromise.

Not this time around. Voters put Democrats in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress—albeit by very narrow margins—and now they're hoping against hope Republicans won't serve as the perennial destroyers of progress they always angle to be.

Perhaps part of that public sentiment is a function of the dire times we live in. As Civiqs right tack/wrong track polling shows, Americans across the partisan spectrum tend to agree on one thing: The nation is headed in the wrong direction. Nearly three-quarters of respondents feel that way, including 68 percent of Democrats (though their outlook is improving), 73 percent of independents, and 79 percent of Republicans.

But perhaps more than anything, Americans want results. And while the Monmouth polling suggests they want Republicans to be part of the solution rather than the problem, GOP involvement may ultimately not matter so much. The bigger takeaway here is likely that if Biden and congressional Democrats deliver, that will be far more important than bipartisan compromise as long as it measurably improves the lives of most Americans.