Biden's Legislative Strategy Misreads the Increasing Polarization

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Joe Biden and a Bipartisan Group of Senators

Houston / June 25, 2021

US President Joe Biden announced an agreement with a bipartisan group of US Senators to pass his infrastructure bill. At a high level, Biden wants to pass this legislative initiative with an alliance between the center-left and center-right. Biden is doing this in response to the criticism that Barack Obama's healthcare legislation was adopted with no Republican votes in the House or Senate. This criticism stuck and many conservatives with top tier credentials in American politics still repeat this criticism in conversations. The perceived one-sided nature of "Obamacare" is sufficient reason for the conservative legal movement to keep challenging the legislation in the appellate courts.

I predict Biden's strategy will not work. If you look at the preferences of the center-right and far-right in the US Senate, it is very complicated to gather enough votes to pass legislation. Biden's legislative strategists believe they can do this because of Biden's relationships and experience in lawmaking, but these strategists do not understand that the US Senate is more polarized. This is a long-term trend. Already, Senator Lindsey Graham announced he will oppose the bipartisan legislative plan (link). More Republican Senators will oppose the bipartisan plan. Conservative media wants to shrink the infrastructure plan and Senators who feel they must respond to mainstream conservative preferences will oppose the bipartisan package.

Biden's legislative strategy is too idealistic. First, Biden should pass legislation using an alliance between the center-left and far-left. And then approach the center-right to form deals. The best political strategists are very practical and create leverage to move forward.

In 2009, Barack Obama initially tried to pass healthcare legislation using bipartisan agreements. That did not work. He lost time and used up the goodwill that every new President has when they enter office. Joe Biden is making the same strategic mistake. The Democratic Party must adapt to the long-term rise in polarization in US politics.