Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Not a moment has passed since President Biden took office that somebody, somewhere is making a political doomsday prediction that Biden will fail. There are endless stories about how he and the Democrats are in trouble and will lose big in the November 2022 primaries. Biden’s plunged approval ratings are endlessly cited as proof of his and Democrats’ supposed pending political Armageddon.
This is the same sorry template that the GOP and conservative media used during virtually every moment of the Obama presidency. That was to create a strawman argument that Obama’s policies were a failure, that he could get few if any political initiatives through, and those he did get through such as the Affordable Care Act were bad. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down on this by famously declaring that his and the GOP’s goal was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. When that didn’t work, McConnell simply switched gears and declared that he would make Obama’s presidency a failed presidency.
It’s the same game plan with Biden. Play up big every supposed Biden misstep, gaffe, or policy fumble. At the midwinter meeting of the Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington DC in March, Biden sounded the alarm. He warned Democrats to get doubly busy and get a massive Democratic voter turnout in November. The loss of the House or the Senate or both would be catastrophic. It would guarantee that Biden’s remaining two years of his first term would be neutered by the GOP.
McConnell and nearly all the GOP senators gave a preview of the hardball game they’ll play with Biden after his nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the SCOTUS. The near-universal consensus was that she was one of the most eminently qualified jurists to come down the pike in years. Her confirmation as the first Black woman on the high court would not just be a historic first, but also a neat, and fitting testament to the nation’s diversity and commitment to racial equity.
McConnell and nearly all the GOP senators had other ideas. They hectored and impugned Jackson with every nonsensical, and plain silly question and assertion at her committee hearings. Then with three exceptions voted against her confirmation. Then with only one exception, Mitt Romney refused to even give polite applause when her confirmation was approved-mostly by Democrats.
McConnell and the GOP will kick things into even higher gear going forward. They will mount a relentless and ruthless yearlong campaign of hectoring, harassing, dithering, diddling, and obstructing many of Biden’s major initiatives. McConnell will continue to have an almost totally united, lockstep GOP behind him. He’s armed with total mastery of all the parliamentary and legislative tricks of the Senate trade to stonewall Biden.
He will have plenty of opportunities to use all of them. Biden still faces a continuing clean-up job ahead of him. There’s still the COVID battered economy, and worries about a still dangerous public health crisis, soaring gas prices, and a dangerous, and unpredictable course Russian war against Ukraine.
Biden has scored some notable wins. He got an agreement between Congressional Democrats and Republicans on a stimulus deal. He has got his massive Build America infrastructure bill through.
However, Biden will almost certainly be thrust into the brewing battle over the pending SCOTUS case on Roe v. Wade. This has ignited a public firestorm on both sides of the battle lines on this perennially hyper volatile issue. Biden will be tugged hard to act. The question then becomes just what action to take.
McConnell and the GOP, fortunately, can’t do to Biden what they did to Obama. That’s hamstringing him on confirmation of his nominations and appointments to federal courts and administration posts. But only because the confirmation process is by a simple majority. Democrats for the moment still have that razor-thin Senate majority.
Yet, there’s the array of housing, education, foreign policy, and spending decisions that are on the table.
Biden will be forced to sign off on a rash of executive orders on education reforms and enhanced environmental and consumer financial protections. These were reforms Obama penned by executive order and Trump moved quickly to try and wipe them out. When Biden uses his executive pen, he will evoke the same howls Obama got from McConnell and the GOP that he is a tyrant, dictator, and abusing the power of his office by usurping Congress.
Then there’s the issue of criminal justice reform and voting rights protections. Biden is walking a continuous tightrope on these issues. He’s pushed hard by Black Lives Matter, criminal justice reform advocates, and civil rights groups to make good on his promises for reforms in community policing, police-community relations and to rein in police abuse. This stirs fierce backlash from police unions and conservatives that he’s encouraging lawlessness and weakening law enforcement. He’s backed far away from any advocacy of Defund the police.
There’s little he can do about getting the stalled voting rights protection bill moving in the Senate. McConnell has effectively shut that down.
It’s not a pretty picture for Biden. One that’s made even uglier by the GOP and the conservative media. Biden is a skilled and seasoned politician though. It will take all his skills and the firm backing of the Democratic party to keep the GOP from destroying him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is author of the forthcoming A Young Person’s Guide to Classical Music (Middle Passage Press) He hosts the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on thehutchinsonreport.net.