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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Today President Biden will sign legislation that provides the most far-reaching infrastructure upgrades since the administration of FDR. The Greensboro News and Record marks the occasion with their editorial on “The bipartisan infrastructure deal.” which notes “The passage of President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, after months of wrangling and tough negotiating, is good news for everyone — or certainly should be. Our infrastructure has required attention for some time now, as we were first warned decades ago, when roads began failing and bridges began falling….And now, thanks to Biden’s deal, which he plans to sign into law on Monday, we’ll finally receive structural repairs and improvements that will put us on a better platform to grow our economy and compete with other nations….Here are some highlights of the bill’s provisions:…$110 billion to repair 173,000 total miles of America’s highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges that are in poor condition….$39 billion to expand transportation systems, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and buy zero-emission and low-emission buses….$7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel….$65 billion for broadband access to improve internet service for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities….$65 billion to improve the reliability and resiliency of the power grid — while boosting carbon-capture technologies and more environmentally friendly electricity sources like clean hydrogen….$55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure — including $15 billion to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to address water contamination from known pollutants….The deal is expected to bring billions in investments to North Carolina, both our urban and rural areas….“The jobs created by this legislation are jobs that cannot be outsourced. They will be performed here in the United States of America,” Rep. Deborah Ross of N.C.’s 2nd Congressional District said during a news conference Monday in Raleigh. “It will boost all of our workers, from the folks who pave the roads to the scientists and engineers who are designing 21st century transportation networks, water and sewer systems and cutting-edge electrical grids.”…It is a victory for Biden. It’s also a victory for his vision of bipartisanship. Best of all, it’s a victory for the American people as we compete to be the world’s marketplace, strive to provide our children with a world-class education and set the stage for a prosperous and peaceful future.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. asks “Why do Democrats let Republicans set the terms of debate?,” and writes: “Ever since the House passed the bipartisan bill to do lots of building and rebuilding around the country, Republicans have been at each other’s throats….Some Republicans said it was great to vote for roads, bridges and broadband. But most in the party — encouraged by Mr. Infrastructure Week himself, Donald Trump — said that voting for roads, bridges and broadband made you a traitor for helping President Biden, and maybe even a socialist. There are two lessons here. First, those who regularly pretend that polarization affects both parties equally need to reckon with a GOP so committed to obstruction that a majority of its House members and senators insist that party loyalty demands opposing new highways in their own districts or states….The more important lesson relates to the importance of controlling the terms of the political debate….Taking your opponent’s bait and playing on your opposition’s turf is the surest path to defeat. To succeed in politics, you need to make your opponent respond to you….This is what Democrats did by moving the infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk. The GOP’s internal bloodletting quickly followed. Approving Biden’s Build Back Better initiatives could have the same effect….Taking your opponent’s bait and playing on your opposition’s turf is the surest path to defeat. To succeed in politics, you need to make your opponent respond to you….This is what Democrats did by moving the infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk. The GOP’s internal bloodletting quickly followed. Approving Biden’s Build Back Better initiatives could have the same effect…….No doubt, the media typically gravitates toward eye-catching cultural issues that don’t involve the detailed explanations that, say, a tax credit or a health-care expansion require. And Democrats’ narrow majorities, coupled with the Senate’s arcane rules, make passing anything — not just voting rights — excruciatingly difficult….But alibis and excuses don’t win arguments (or elections), and if the bad news for Democrats in The Post-ABC News poll published Sunday doesn’t get their attention, I don’t know what will….The party, starting with the president when he signs the infrastructure bill on Monday, can use the power it has now to change the nation’s political conversation. Or it can resign itself to defeat at the hands of a GOP in which a majority is not even willing to fix the damned roads.”

At The Hill, Bill Press writes, “In itself, the BIF is the largest public works investment since President Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System in 1956. But its impact will be far greater. Biden’s bill is not just about roads, bridges, and tunnels. It also covers public transportation, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicles, ports and airports, water and wastewater treatment plants, the electric grid, and broadband access….But the BIF does more than pump money into the economy. It also serves a greater purpose: to prove, once again, that government can be a force for good and — as Joe Biden promised but nobody wanted to believe – that Democrats and Republicans, working together, can still get big things done….Our broken-down infrastructure’s not the only thing that needs a good fix. So’s the Democratic Party’s message machine. Democrats need to stop playing defense and start playing offense. Stop explaining process and start talking product….Their message should be loud and clear. You elected us to end the Trump chaos and get big things done and we delivered: the biggest public works program ever. And we’ll soon add, in the “Build Back Better Bill,” the biggest boost for families ever and the strongest action ever taken to combat climate change….Democrats have a great product. Now it’s time to sell it.”

“The bipartisanship that began with the passage of the physical infrastructure bill in the Senate could not have been extended to the House if the bill got yoked to the Build Back Better bill, as no Republican could tolerate a vote for the former being perceived as a vote for the latter,” Bill Scher writes in “With the Infrastructure Act, Washington’s Trust Gap Closes a Bit” at The Washington Monthly. “Meanwhile, moderate House Democrats wanted to replicate the Senate and keep a modicum of Republicans on board, so they would have an indisputable bipartisan success to tout at home….As she moved to bring the Senate infrastructure bill to the House floor, in the final hours, Pelosi managed to satisfy all camps—distancing the bill from Build Back Better to attract sufficient Republican support, securing enough commitment from the moderates on Build Back Better to hold the bulk of progressive support….Knowing that six Democrats were planning to vote “Nay” (and believing that only two of them could be flipped if necessary), Pelosi still needed a few Republicans to cross the aisle. Thirteen did, providing the margin of victory. In fact, without the 13 House Republicans and the 19 Senate Republicans who voted yes, the physical infrastructure bill would not have passed either congressional chamber….First, moderate Democrats have to follow through on Build Back Better. Manchin and Sinema have been busy shaping the bill to their liking, so they should support it. Besides, if they killed it, the Democratic circular firing squad would jeopardize the already slim Democratic chances in the 2022 midterm elections. Do Manchin and Sinema really want to doom Senators Mark Kelly, Catherine Cortez Masto, or Michael Bennet?…Trust needs to be trending for Congress to do anything next year. The cold reality is that once the Build Back Better process is finished, what comes next for Biden’s legislative agenda is unclear….to prematurely give up would be to take the wrong lesson from what just happened with infrastructure. The only way to overcome long odds is to trust and to try.”

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