One thing that most Democrats–or at least those of us who are not in denial about last year’s election results–seem to agree on is that we must become known as a “party of reform.” “Reform” may mean different things to different people, but as regular readers of this blog know, for me it means a commitment to a complete, root-and-branch progressive agenda for fixing our political system, our budget processes, our tax code, and generally, a federal government that has descended to Harding-era standards of special interest-tending and partisan featherbedding under the stewardship of George W. Bush’s GOP. For us New Democrat types, embracing this kind of reform agenda represents a return to our insurgent roots prior to the 1992 Clinton campaign, and that’s the subject of an interesting article published today on the New Republic site by by Kenny Baer.As Kenny suggests, New Dems got a little fat and happy during the Clinton administration, and also got a little too loose about loaning the “brand” to Democrats who were more interested in positioning themselves to get business contributions than in supporting any real agenda for change. But that’s all over now, and for those of you who are more interested in what we stand for as a party than in the usual Kabuki Theater of left and center stereotypes, give Baer’s take a close look.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.