January 17, 2022

OLD AND BUSTED: We Are All Socialist Now.

—The Washington Post, through then-subsidiary publication Newsweek, February 16th, 2009.

The New Hotness? The left dreamed of remaking America. Now, it stares into the abyss as Biden’s plans wither.

The uncertainty has become ever more urgent as Democrats weigh their campaign message in the 2022 midterm elections. Leading Democratic campaign officials have called for the party to revamp its message to avoid a wipeout in the midterms, forcing the party grapple with whether it will jettison the far-reaching ideas that helped define it now that Republicans appear in the ascendancy.

Long gone are the days when Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sparred across Iowa and New Hampshire over whose policy platform was most transformative, motivated by a sense that they had a chance to usher in a new era of American politics.

Instead, Warren, Sanders and the rest of Washington’s liberal policy apparatus sit by without recourse as Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) decide the fate of Biden’s Build Back Better Act — either by paring it back dramatically or defeating it altogether. Manchin and Sinema have final say over the Build Back Better legislation because Democrats have only a one-vote margin in a Senate evenly divided between the parties, which allows them to dream of change while having little room to actually achieve it.

The ossification of Biden’s legislative agenda underscores the long-term structural challenges facing the party’s left-flank, highlighting how difficult it will be to enact liberal policy change even with Democratic control of Congress.

Compounding liberal disillusionment is conservatives’ grip on the Supreme Court, which acts as a backstop against left policy change even if the obstacles to legislation are eventually overcome. The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s vaccination-or-testing requirement for the country’s biggest firms, a devastating blow to the White House’s efforts to fight covid.

The federal government’s uneven response to the pandemic has also exposed the lack of U.S. administrative capacity to implement new programs. And the reemergence of inflation this year as a defining economic threat — a policy challenge that liberals had not been preparing to confront — appears at odds with the left’s vision to usher in a new paradigm with transformational spending programs.

—The Washington Post, today.

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