Political Realities Stall Biden Agenda
Has President Biden bit off more than our policymaking system can chew?
The demographic melting pot that elected him is getting restless as the gap between the “progressives” and the conservatives becomes apparent to all policy wonks. For Democrats, it looks like a bridge too far.
According to the Washington Post, “frustration is at an all-time high” accounting for Biden’s fall in the polls. Every minority group that supported him is disappointed that he hasn’t waved a magic wand to make all of their dreams come true.
The Post alleges the drop in polls has been most significant among Blacks, Latinos, women and young people whose expectations of quick action have been dashed by the political realities of compromise, something they are not willing to do.
The policy impasse magnifies the nature of our “status quo” system that requires massive citizen support and is otherwise designed not to permit change. The checks and balances, inside and outside of government, are numerous.
When candidates run for office in this environment, they are inclined to “overpromise.” They talk as though they will be able to master the policymaking process so their campaign rhetoric builds citizen expectations beyond the possible.
The electorate must share the blame. If an honest candidate said he would “try” to achieve their goals, he/she will be bested by the candidate who promises that he/she “will” do the job. Guess who the voters will support.
Voters are frightened by the cost of the Biden proposals ($3.5 trillion) which exaggerate the cost because the cost is supposed to be spread over a 10-year period. Even so, it is a pretty large carrot for the horse.
This peacetime proposal compares to the budgets of Franklin Roosevelt in the depression of the 1930s when 25 per cent of the workforce was unemployed. So how did Franklin get away with big spending?
Everybody recognized the crisis and, in desperation, deferred to anyone who would lead America out of the mess. For millions of people today there is desperation but it exists only in minorities. Biden is proposing to respond to these overlooked needs but he must fight the inertia of the status quo system.
Needs are academic
For those of us in the upper and middle classes, most of these needs are academic. And most of the people in legislatures and Congress have never experienced the kind of pain and hardship with which minorities have lived.
Solutions that take years to propose and implement are meaningless to many feeling the pain right now – today. Everybody gets only one life and, for many, that one life is trashed from the cradle to the grave.
Every informed citizen knows that the playing field is tilted to benefit the upper economic classes and the Biden proposals would help level the playing field by benefitting the economically deprived.
People who feel that our governmental structure is at fault are now proposing reforms, hoping to result in a more equitable society. Some want to abolish the Electoral College; some want to impose term limits on officeholders; some favor direct election of the president.
Unfortunately, all of these ideas require change and that is something the present structure will not allow. Public opinion, if it could reach 60 percent long enough to impact all three branches of government, could result in change.
Here again, the failure is in the electorate. There aren’t very many citizens who understand the impact of the status quo system to become excited about change. The benefits of change are too remote to stir the folks on the street.
Is the Biden program too big for a status quo government to accept? It’s uphill and against the wind both ways.
Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.