Alan Zendell, November 3, 2021
Getting bills passed with a nearly evenly split Congress and the opposition party determined to prevent any of the president’s agenda from becoming law is a difficult, slow process. That’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way our Congress functions, when it functions at all.
Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here,” meaning that success or failure in any branch of our government will always be a measure of a president’s effectiveness. After a couple of decades of Congressional deadlock, the current Congress appeared to be on the same get-nothing-done trajectory, the handiwork of Mitch McConnell, who is fighting to keep the Republican party relevant, and Donald Trump, who will do or say anything to make Biden look bad.
The Democrats were backed into two corners – one concerning the filibuster and the other, Congress’ reconciliation process. To pass anything, they would have to either abolish or suspend the filibuster so they could move forward with simple majorities. Failing that, they’d have to convince the arbiters of this madness that everything could be passed in a massive reconciliation bill, a device invented for budget resolution that requires only 51 votes for passage.
Enter Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who has been engaged in a valiant attempt to revive the notion of bipartisanism, without which, our Congress is destined to self-destruct. President Biden, while arguing passionately for what he believes the country needs, has brought rational adulthood back to the Oval Office. Instead of ranting and calling people names, as his predecessor did whenever he didn’t get his way, he has remained calm and stolid during months of political gamesmanship by everyone else. His message is always one of calm reason, reminding people that difficult tasks take time.
Unfortunately, that message is undermined, not only by the antics of Congress, but by their unintended ally, the media. Whether you’re a fan of Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, A01, or Newsmax, you’re being propagandized every day. All media outlets are beholden to their sponsors, which means even in that sector we are being influenced by the interests of big money. They all depend on ratings, which gives them an incentive to keep viewers agitated and angry. What better way to keep an aroused public engaged than by hyping the admittedly frightening stalemate in Congress?
Concern over ratings is the mortal enemy of patience. That’s a huge problem, and it’s disingenuous for the media, all of them, to keep beating on the theme that since the government can’t get anything done, the president is failing in his job. Trump proved that Americans too lazy to research their own facts are easily led astray by politicians with personal agendas, and the media are doing the same thing. The constant braying of no progress has brought Biden’s approvals rating down so much, they’ve dropped to Trump’s level.
Biden, to his credit, doesn’t give a damn about approval ratings. But his calm, polite demeanor isn’t enough to stop the media’s ratings bias from hurting his administration and the country. There are several reasons why Trump’s candidate, Glen Youngkin won the Virginia Governor’s election yesterday, but most analysts believe the principal element was the perception the country was stagnating under Democratic leadership, and that’s simply not true – yet.
It’s possible the Democrats will fail, but it’s more likely that they will ultimately get their act together enough to pass some kind of infrastructure, build back better, and voting rights bills after months of excruciating negotiations. The longer it takes, the more the media will broadcast the delays as Biden’s failure. That didn’t help Biden in Europe last week. Every leader he spoke with understood that our dysfunctional politics is making the United States a risky place to invest their resources.
Yet, Biden persevered, looking extremely statesmanlike in the process. How classy was it to admit at an international media event that America badly mishandled the nuclear submarine deal with Australia that so angered French President Macron and to do so to Macron’s face with the camera’s rolling? Despite all obstacles, Biden left Scotland with a real victory. He reached an accord with the EU to ease Trump era tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, which resulted in harmful retaliatory tariffs on American exports, especially farm products. With the stroke of a pen, Biden erased much of the animosity felt by our European allies over their treatment by Trump.
Despite the arrows being thrown at Senator Manchin for stalling the legislative process long enough to return Virginia to Republican control, Biden calmly addressed the Senator with the whole world watching, praising his efforts and saying he was confident that in the end, Joe Manchin’s vote would put his agenda over the top. Whether or not he’s right, it was wonderful to once again see grace in an American president.