Biden’s self-imposed ceiling

Joe Biden is doing fine. But he should be aiming for better.

Just past the 100-day mark, Biden’s approval sits at 54 percent. That’s quite a bit better than Donald Trump’s anemic 42 percent at the equivalent moment of his presidency. But as FiveThirtyEight notes, Biden’s approval is nonetheless “lower than any other newly elected president’s going back to Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1953.”

Yet Democrats seem increasingly willing to accept that this might be the best they can reasonably hope for. The country is sharply divided, they say, and so is Congress. Democrats control both chambers, but by the narrowest of margins. Given that underlying reality, the president and his party have no choice but to try and ram through their agenda any way they can. Maybe legislative achievements and the enactment of new programs that benefit ordinary Americans will change the dynamic and get people to start switching sides. But other than that, there’s no hope for breaking through the ceiling that caps support for Biden and limits possibilities in Congress.

I usually appreciate a willingness to accept the constraints that reality imposes on political actors. But in this case, I think Democrats are giving up too easily because they’d prefer to avoid the internal arguments that would be provoked by trying to break out of the electoral cul-de-sac in which they find themselves.

The truth is that Biden and his party have placed a ceiling over their own heads by choosing to talk about the country in specific, unpopular ways. Their position seems to be: This is what any progressive must say and stand for, even if it limits our own popularity and therefore decreases the likelihood of enacting policies that will benefit a large swath of the country, because inviolable moral principles demand it.

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Those principles all have to do with American national identity.

Consider the Department of Education’s proposed rule for the teaching of American history and civics education. In keeping with the priorities of Black Lives Matters activists, the rule builds on the arguments of author Ibram X. Kendi and others to advocate the teaching of “antiracism” in schools, in part through the use of The New York Times’ “landmark ‘1619 Project'” to explain American history.

If the idea were merely to incorporate slavery and its myriad legacies — and the contributions of Black men and women to American history — into classroom learning, there would be nothing controversial about the proposal. Indeed, both have already been done for decades. Yet the proposal has drawn fire from, among others, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because Kendi and the “1619 Project” do not merely aim to direct attention to racism and the legacies of slavery. They aim to place racism and slavery, in the words of New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein, “at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.” The idea is to view American history entirely through the lens of racial …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics

      

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