by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
During the transition, Biden has often seemed as if someone affixed a “kick me” sign to the back of his suit jacket. The transition, which has seen prominent Democrats openly carping about Biden’s process and several of his decisions, risks creating a dangerous dynamic for the incoming president. In the Washington context, Biden’s peril is that he is sending the message that there is not a penalty for publicly pressuring him, and is likely a benefit. In the national context, any president should wish to project a leadership vision that transcends party and clamoring constituencies.
In recent days, POLITICO compiled a list of stubbed toes in the transition as Biden’s team sought to navigate conflicting demands from interest groups (“Way more chaotic than it needed to be,” scoffed one insider), and the Washington Post documented “frustration from liberals, civil rights leaders, and younger activists.” The New York Times said the “factionalism and fierce impatience” Biden is confronting highlight his likely challenges in governing. That article included a puff of smoke to Biden’s face from Ocasio-Cortez, who said his moves do not add up to an inspiring vision: “You have an individual appointment here, an individual appointment there. What is the overall message from the big picture in this entire Cabinet put together?”
What gives? Isn’t AOC worried she will get in trouble with her party’s leader, or, at a minimum, with his presumably less good-natured staff? No, she isn’t. No more than Sanders or Rep. Jim Clyburn, both of whom coughed and brayed to reporters about what they saw, respectively, as the cautious ideological tilt of Biden’s appointments or the insufficient racial diversity of the first wave of picks. Plenty of politicians and activists have followed their cue.