If you want to get a feel for how well the Republicans are managing their razor-thin minority in Congress, keep an eye on how viciously radical leftist Democrats attack members of their own party who compromise with their GOP colleagues. Even The Washington Post is finally coming to the realization that its party of choice is coming unraveled.
While President Biden cavorted through Europe last week gathering photo ops if nothing else — his new-found buddies gave him nothing on China, trade and increased defense spending — his American Jobs Plan (AJP) was being turned into a real infrastructure bill through compromise at a more manageable bill in the $1 trillion range. The $2.3 trillion AJP was being shorn of its climate change pork and crafted into something resembling infrastructure legislation that concentrates on roads, bridges, railways and intranet connectivity. The squealing from the far left of the party sounded like a remake of “Deliverance.”
As the momentum for compromise built, the Republicans deftly cultivated partnerships with moderate Democrats that have forced Mr. Biden into a choice between two suboptimal alternatives.
First, he can try to ram the discarded progressive portions of the original AJP — particularly climate change pap such as electric car charging stations — through reconciliation where only 51 votes are needed. This is the option favored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The disadvantage here is that he may not have enough votes to hit even that number. This would destroy any hope that Mr. Biden has of creating a bipartisan consensus on common sense issues.
Second, the Democrats can bundle the discarded green initiatives into a separate legislative package; it would surely fail but it would give Mr. Biden a form of infrastructure legislation while being able to say “at least I tried” regarding the progressive agenda.
In all of this, the Republicans have been truly Machiavellian; and I mean it in the best sense of the word. They have played a weak hand brilliantly. The party of “no” has become the party of bipartisanship and are dividing the opposition in the process. The elements of AJP that reflect real infrastructure are indeed bipartisan in nature. Potholes do not recognize party affiliation and bridges do not question the political registration of motorists crossing them before they collapse.
In actuality, the Republicans have adopted a political version of the Fabian strategy used by George Washington against the British during the Revolutionary War; they are playing for time. Washington had an inferior force much less well equipped than the British; but he knew that by keeping his army in existence, he could wait until the pro-war faction in London fell apart. The Republicans know that if they can limit the damage done by the far left of the Democratic party and split it in the process, their chances in 2022 are excellent.
Meanwhile the Democrats’ cheerleaders in the mainstream media continue to obsess over former President Trump and the Jan. 6 circus at the Capitol. Mr. Trump is not running in 2022. Even though Mr. Trump may try to punish Republican incumbents who he feels betrayed him, no Republican candidate who wins an election will be particularly good for the Democrats.
The fissures in the Democratic Party are becoming chasms. The mainstream media is becoming concerned. Israeli-Hamas fighting was the first crack with Jewish members of Congress pitted against the multi-ethnic “squad” in trading charges of racism and anti-Semitism. The infrastructure battle is pitting moderates against the climate change fanatics. Things will get worse.
The growing grassroots movement against critical race theory (CRT) — particularly in normally progressive suburbs — will likely further frighten moderate Democrats.
If Republicans are smart, they will introduce legislation banning CRT and the teaching of Project 1619-style history in schools receiving federal funding. It will fail, but some of these frightened Democratic moderates would feel compelled to support it to mollify constituent parents. Elections in 2022 will be about culture wars. COVID-19 and infrastructure will be forgotten; and if inflation becomes stagflation, the Democrats will be in extremely hot water.
Perhaps the biggest loser in all of this is Sen. Bernie Sanders. For years, Bernie took pride in being the outside agitator shouting at the tent. Now that he is inside, he is finding the tent to be a prison; worse, he is having to defend the warden. When he gets up in the morning and looks in the mirror Mr. Sanders may still see a young Sixties radical, but everyone else sees just another establishment geezer.
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.