In his article, “Why Moderate House Democrats Torture Their Colleagues—and Why They’re Wrong: They’re Going to be smeared as socialists no matter what size the reconciliation bill is. The only option here is to pass the bill and play offense,” Michael Tomasky, the new editor of The New Republic makes the case for a bold strategy for Democratic moderates in the weeks ahead:
I have more sympathy than most coastal liberals for the plight of the swing-district Democratic House member. I guess that comes from being from West Virginia. I know what those places are like, and I understand the pressures that moderate Democrats can face. As I’ve written many times, it’s exactly those purple districts that Democrats have to win to get to 218 seats. Nancy Pelosi is right to keep them top of mind, because without Democrats representing districts like Iowa’s 3rd and Wisconsin’s 3rd and Arizona’s 1st and Virginia’s 7th, the Democrats are in the minority. And then the debate isn’t between $3.5 trillion and $1.5 trillion. It’s between zero and zero.
Tomasky reasons, “Swing-district moderates worry that if they vote for $3.5 trillion, they’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads. They’re not wrong. But guess what? They’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads if they vote for $1.5 trillion, too. No one should be surprised if they get attacked as socialists even if they block every dollar from being spent. That’s the nature of politics these days.” Further,
“And so midterm elections now are just like presidential elections: The same issues are at stake. Turnout may be lower, but not by much. Turnout in 2018 was almost 50 percent—the highest in a midterm since 1914. We’ll see next year if that was a one-off. I’d wager not.
What this means for moderates, I believe, is two things. First, like it or not, it’s a lot harder now to distance oneself from the national party. The whole country watches the same cable news shows. Voters know more than ever about what the parties stand for. Whatever the national party does, the local member of Congress is going to be tagged with it, for good or ill.
Second, I’d argue that there is far less benefit to distancing from the party than there used to be. There are fewer true swing voters. But there are a lot of potential base voters out there to be registered and urged to the polls. And the best way to get those people to register and vote is, without question, to be able to go to them next year and say: Look, I got you paid family leave! Dental coverage in Medicare! Free community college! Child tax credit! I voted for these things. My opponent would have opposed them.
I understand that moderates want to negotiate the number down a little, just so they can go home and say, “Hey, I negotiated it down a little.” But they have to commit to a yes vote, and then they have to go back to their states and districts and spike the damn football. They need to boast about what they voted for, show some pride, and play offense. This applies even to Manchin. He’s a special case because he’s not just in a swing state; he’s in the Trumpiest state in the country. But the people of West Virginia can make great use of the things in these bills as much as people from anywhere else. Perhaps even more so.”
Tomasky concludes, “Hopefully, moderates will cotton on to these new political realities and join a unified Democratic team. Otherwise, this is going to be four or however many weeks of torture, inflicted on the party by moderates who are operating according to a model that I believe no longer applies. Keeping the Republicans from winning the House may be a long shot. But we’ve entered a new era of hypernationalization, when distancing from one’s party is impossible and even inadvisable. The things in that bill are very popular, so pass it, and own it. It’s the Democrats’ only shot at keeping their majorities.”
That model never applied. Going home to argue that at least you didn’t do anything has never worked.
Also, “the whole country” doesn’t watch any cable news. Cable news viewership is quite small and I’d wager a substantial number of viewers are other journalists looking for something to write about.
If we could reliably depend on increased economic growth, higher taxes and spending cuts elsewhere to pay for the $3.5 trillion spending plan, there would be no need to borrow any of it. As it is, though, the reconciliation instructions say that as much as half of it can be borrowed. If even the authors of the proposed spending bill question their own fiscal assumptions, shouldn’t everyone else question them, too?