Tonight I happened to stumble on a MyDD post by Matt Stoller that tries to grapple with a Zogby poll indicating that a majority of Republican and Democratic voters, and virtually all Independents, support politicians willing to compromise their principles to get things done.Matt writes an eloquent and agonized essay on these findings, but somehow winds up deciding that progressives should ignore them, and in fact, gird up their loins to change the minds of such voters by demonstrating that principles are more important than getting things done.My first impulse after reading this post was to cite Bertolt Brecht’s famous sardonic suggestion to the East German government in a time of turmoil that it “dissolve the people, and elect another.” But that’s probably not fair. Matt’s trying to figure out why Democratic voters in particular, despite all the polarization of the last few years, still support the idea of compromise with the hated partisan enemy.I think this is a matter of placing the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble. Matt’s worried about the willingness of voters to “compromise principles,” and should be focusing on their desire to “get things done,” which in the end, is what politics is all about.”Getting things done” is a yardstick for contemporary politics that’s just as damning to George W. Bush and the Republican Party as all the partisan rhetoric you could hope for about their evil motives–rhetoric I engage in myself all the time.It’s actually very good news that a majority of voters in every category seem inclined to apply that yardstick to their political choices. That’s a competition progressives generally, and Democrats specifically, ought to be able to win. And in fact, using the public sector to “get things done” on the vast array of national challenges that Republicans are ignoring or screwing up is a pretty important matter of principle in itself.
TDS Strategy Memos
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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.