The Daily Beast

Biden Can be a Good President or Transform America, Not Both

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

We’ve reached the point in Joe Biden’s presidency and the Democratic party’s ascension when reality sets in. The honeymoon is over. We’re living in a cramped studio apartment, not the suite overlooking the beach. The kids are screaming, the toilet needs plunging, and my paycheck is stretched thin. You’re not dropping those ten pounds and I’m never going to get around to writing a great American novel. This is the real world, baby, and not the MTV version. That’s okay. The question is: how do we deal with it?

The honeymoon was Biden winning the presidency, Democrats winning both run-offs in Georgia, and living up to his promise not to be a mess like Trump, as he quickly steamrolled Republicans, passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, and restored a sense of normalcy. Bada bing, bada boom. He was on a roll, raising the public’s expectations even higher as he spent his first 100 days talking about major legislative accomplishments and putting points on the board a la FDR and LBJ. This conceit was fed by the surprising Democratic victories in Georgia, confirmed by historians he met with, and premised on the always-flimsy hope that nuking the filibuster and exploiting reconciliation rules might allow him to pull off miracles.

Now, reality is crashing down. Democrats are fighting with each other, including Jewish House Dems and Ilhan Omar (over her equating Israel and the U.S. with Hamas and the Taliban), as well as progressives who are angry at Sen. Joe Manchin (for refusing to nuke the filibuster). Democrats face a challenging mid-term environment next year, and between now and then, it’s not clear that they can even pass an infrastructure bill or criminal justice reform. Even if they do, it won’t be easy; it’s difficult to conceive of much more “landmark” legislation passing during Biden’s first term. Biden can certainly try to woo Joe Manchin, or just keep pretending that everything is fine.

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