by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nearly 100 days into his administration and several trillions of dollars in proposed federal spending later, President Joe Biden is starting to tap the brakes on the whims of the left wing of his party.
Biden is on board with big spending bills and transformative presidency talk but is going slower on cultural flashpoints such as guns and immigration than some Democrats would prefer. The White House sounded an uncertain trumpet on packing the Supreme Court with new liberal justices and getting rid of the Senate filibuster.
This could set up a fight that will define Biden’s presidency. In his Democratic convention speech, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich made an appeal to fellow Republicans who “couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat. They believe he may turn sharp left and leave them behind.”
“I don’t believe that,” Kasich responded. “I know the measure of the man.” The next few weeks will determine whether the high-profile GOP Biden endorser was right.
There was an obvious tension in Biden’s appeal in last year’s presidential campaign. He needed to turn out liberals who stayed home, backed the Green Party, or even voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But he also needed to continue the Democrats’ inroads in the suburbs, winning over college-educated, affluent voters who often supported Republicans in the past.
On the trail, Biden talked about bipartisanship. Even in the Democratic primaries, he gently distanced himself from defunding the police while lower-tier candidates talked about “white fragility” and transgender abortions. …
… By going big on spending and embracing expansive definitions of what constitutes infrastructure or COVID-19 relief but going slower on issues that poll less well or motivate conservative voters to turn out, Biden is betting he can keep these liberals in the fold without immediately triggering the kind of backlash that cost Bill Clinton and Barack Obama control of Congress in their first midterm elections.