How a Complete Fake Person Got Elected to Congress

Who the f**k is George Santos? To be fair, I do this every time a new Congress comes to town. I don’t have the bandwidth to know or care who all 435 members of the U.S. Congress are, especially the ones I don’t care for much. Santos was going to be an irrelevant nobody that helped elect the worst Speaker in U.S. history this coming January, but now he’s getting lots of recognition, for all the wrong reasons.

Basically, George Santos life looks to be fraudulent. His business life, education, and past behavior is all in question, because you can’t substantiate that he did any of it. I will spare you the details, the guy is a weirdo and appears to be a fraud. When he surprisingly won his race in November, that wasn’t a good thing. Now we’re finding out the details and wondering what Long Island was drinking before they voted. You get your mea culpa in 2024.

The real question is how did this happen? The media wanted to dunk on the Democrats for ineptitude, Democrats wanted to dunk on the media for not investigating him. Welcome to the weird world of opposition research, one of the only areas of campaigning I never did before, so I asked some actual experts. A Congressional manager from a DCCC targeted race this cycle, an opposition research professional, and a former DCCC staffer made it make sense for me.

First off, you can criticize Robert Zimmerman for losing this race, but literally all three of them agreed that his campaign isn’t really at fault for this. Targeted DCCC and NRCC campaigns generally get their research book on the opponent from the campaign committee, usually. For instance, the bombshells that destroyed the Republican opponents of Rep. Craig and Rep. Kaptur were likely done by DCCC staff. The way it sets up is that the committee has a national director leading the department and a series of regional “desks” overseeing several states underneath them. Under them they will either hire junior level staffers or an outside firm to go do the research on both the opposition candidates and their own nominees, in the most competitive districts. They can’t do every candidate in every district, so they have a basic template they send staffers out with to start with in each district, based on what issues polling suggests are on voters minds, and the obvious things like looking to see if your opponent killed someone, or something else nuts. So, for instance in 2022, DCCC researchers likely were starting out by looking for documented evidence of extremism on abortion or guns, ties to January 6th, and ties to bad foreign governments, like say, Russia. In this case, they found some very real hits from this bunch, and some of the stuff now alleged in the New York Times piece. Santos managed to avoid most of the scrutiny, and won this district by a massive margin, considering how blue it was. With that said, I think you could fairly question what the DCCC sent their staff looking for (Long Island voters were clearly fine with this guy hanging out with domestic terrorists on Jan. 6th), but not the process as a whole- they found a lot of what they looked for, they couldn’t imagine all of this nonsense, or go looking for everything.

So then the obvious question is, if they had a good chunk of this stuff, and we’re fairly certain Democratic press staff was pitching it to reporters, why did the article come out a week before Christmas? How did Santos essentially make up his life, and get away with it? I give the media a little more charitable read than Democratic activists here- it’s not their job to print whatever smut the parties tell them to. Maybe the reporter didn’t find the pitch credible. Maybe Democrats couldn’t quite substantiate everything. To be fair, egregious hatchet jobs are unfair. If Democrats had all of this, and reporters wouldn’t print it, they always had the option of putting it out through paid comms (TV, digital, mail). They didn’t.

Santos is a national disgrace, and he should leave Congress before it starts, but he won’t. A lowlife who fabricated the majority of his story to get here isn’t going to feel shame now. The moral of this story is there ain’t such things as halfway crooks. If you’re going to be terrible and still run for office, I guess you do better by going to a level so far bad that no one even believes the story. It worked for Santos.

What Sinema May Have Got Right

As I said before, Kyrsten Sinema’s switch from Democrat to Independent was a cynical move to protect herself, but that doesn’t mean there was no genius to learn from it. She can’t be primaries without a party and a Democratic candidate may hopelessly divide the electorate and insure even a weak Republican victory. It was a skilled power play that probably wins. If a half decent Republican enters, Democrats will have no choice but to acquiesce to the gun at their head. She’s a rotten SOB, but a damn smart one.

On a larger level, Sinema took advantage of a political reality that neither party can fully admit- nobody likes either of them. This is true nationally, but very much so in Arizona. The largest “party” in Arizona is independent, and that is growing through registration. Voters nationally tend to see both parties negatively, and that is true in Arizona too. Democrats tend to see recent wins for statewide offices there as a sign the state is moving there way, but it’s probably better to see it as the less partisan/ideological voters being less repulsed by semi-normal people than loving Democrats.

The two parties can’t speak truth to the folks giving consistent small dollar donations and volunteer hours, as the parties would cease to function, but “activists” in both parties (more so the GOP, to be clear, but both) are further and further detached from where most voters are politically (hence, Joe Biden is President), but activists make everything work inside the parties. Rather than confront their soldiers and pull them closer to the population, both parties would rather gamble on “the algorithm”- the bet that no matter how unhappy “normy” voters are with politics and government, they will typically come out and vote for the side that more closely fits to them, because functioning adults understand it’s important. As a result, you have a new Republican Congress that should be logically moving towards the middle, but instead is promising nonsense investigations into Hunter Biden, the border, and liberal parents pushing their kids to “go trans” (don’t even get me started on this bullshit) and a Democratic administration that basically messages everything towards the base groups that most loyally support them.

As I said, Sinema is sly like a fox. She is gambling that in one of the few states left that has swing voters, she can pick up a few political points by essentially shitting on how unsatisfying our political system is. I don’t think it’s certain, because people have had years to watch her evolution and absurd behavior, but this is her best chance to be right. When she wrote that most voters struggle to identify with our political parties, I think she’s right. I think that less politically active, “offline” voters who read her op-ed or watch her spend the next year campaigning on these messages, will probably be far less offended by this move than the rest of us. Will they get over her diva behavior and crappy inaction on things they voted for her to do? In a just world, no. I don’t think we live in that world though. Sinema may have just outfoxed all of Washington by coming outside “the house” and telling the town people that everything they think is going on inside is true. If so, you can curse her all you would like, but don’t ever doubt her political calculus again.

Nonsense and More Mavericky Nonsense

If you still put Joe Manchin in the same sentence as Kyrsten Sinema, stop. There is plenty to debate about him, and certainly votes to dislike from him, but he knows what he is and behaves like it- a conservative Democrat representing a ruby red state. He is authentically not in line with most of the Democratic Party, especially the online activist type. His “bad behavior” is simply more authentic and honorable than Sinema’s though, and it makes more political sense.

Arizona is not a “blue” state at this point, and it has a history of electing “maverick” Senators. It is a swing state though, and it just elected nearly all Democrats at the statewide level. Mark Kelly, the state’s junior Senator, is certainly a moderate in brand too, but his voting record and political affiliations make sense. Sinema on the other hand is all over the map, sometimes killing Democratic priorities from the left, other times from the right. She stakes out positions that make little sense on legislation, often times making passage hard or impossible. Sometimes she even contradicts her own votes from the past with nonsensical switches literally just for the sake of doing it.

My real problem with Sinema though is she has no political soul, no authenticity, and no values or identity. The former Green Party member lefty, who sold herself as a leftist progressive woman while ascending to state legislative leadership, then Congress, and now to the Senate, has gone out of her way to now rebrand herself as the Senate moderate. Out of principle? Yeah right, she still insisted on some of her former priorities, like fighting climate change. She doesn’t contradict herself to serve some bigger principle, like freedom of speech or individual liberty, but mostly just for attention and political positioning for her re-elections. Sinema must have determined in recent days that the likely primary challenge in 2024 from Congressman Ruben Gallego was highly likely to beat her, either because of a bad poll or former allies telling her they are out, and so today we got the nonsensical announcement from her that while she is still caucusing with the Democrats, she now identifies as an independent. It is a highly cynical move to avoid losing a primary, one that she believes boxes in Democratic opponents- if she runs as an independent, she will likely siphon off enough votes from the Democratic nominee to insure neither she or they can possibly win. She set up a suicide pact, and is essentially willing to hand the Senate to Republicans that literally hate who she actually is, all to try and desperately hang on to power.

I usually am fiercely defensive of moderates. I have my fair share of grievances with where far-left progressives want to take the party. It is imperative though that Democrats, moderates, and frankly any people with any values or decency in them reject this cynical act. Kyrsten Sinema has had her time, had her chance, and had her attention. It’s time to end the temper tantrum in 2024.

Why I Don’t Like the New DNC Calendar

On Friday the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee formally adopted a new primary calendar for the 2024 Presidential race. The big highlights are replacing Iowa as first in the nation, instead having the South Carolina Primary go first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada, then Georgia and Michigan. Already there are problems, including Iowa and New Hampshire saying they won’t go along, and Georgia officials saying their primary won’t move. The order will be finalized next year.

The rationalization behind the President and the DNC’s decision is actually pretty strong and realistic. No group has been more loyal to Democratic candidates than Black voters over the last 40 years. Since South Carolina began moving up the calendar, it has been growing in importance, catapulting Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden toward the nomination, and three of them towards the White House. Joe Biden said having more diverse voices pick the nominee is the principle he values. That is a very good principle to have.

I have two main problems with the new primary calendar. The first is that making changes presumes there is something broken that needs to be fixed. There isn’t. Democratic nominees have been extremely competitive in recent years, which every nominee since 1996 getting at least 48% of the popular vote. Since 1992, Democrats have won five of eight Presidential elections, and won the popular vote 7 of 8 times. None of the nominees were crackpots that took embarrassing positions either. Democrats nominated fairly solid candidates under the existing calendar.

My second problem is that there is a perceived second problem being answered with the new calendar, that the current calendar doesn’t give voice to non-white voters. It’s true that Iowa and New Hampshire are super white. It’s also true that going first and second hasn’t increased their influence. South Carolina is the undisputed kingmaker in Democratic politics. Voting fourth has allowed them to effectively end many candidates’ pathways who could not connect to the large Black voting population there. Since 1992, every Democratic nominee for President except for John Kerry, who lost to North Carolina’s Senator, won the South Carolina primary. Most of them won decisively and walked out with significant delegate leads. In Nevada, Hillary won in 2016 to get back on her feet after New Hampshire, and in 2020 Joe Biden’s 2nd place in Nevada saved his campaign. The more diverse states are already the decision makers in the Democratic Party. There’s no disputing that.

Sure, one can argue the new calendar is a bow to “new realities,” and that’s true. Iowa doesn’t look like a swing state anymore. The party is simply more diverse. The new calendar accelerates the reality we live in. Again though, why? This current early state structure nominated Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. It elevated voices from people of color. Sure, the new calendar does that more. Are we fixing a problem by doing that though, or creating one. Leftist Bernieland voices will perceive this as an attempt to insure they can’t win, and while they should look inward and realize why that is, is that a conversation we need. The media will point out that Democrats want their nominee picked almost entirely with no input from the central and mountain time zones, or by coastal states, basically. Swing state New Hampshire and quasi-swing state Iowa will almost certainly rebel and lose a chunk of their delegates. And frankly, if Michigan and Georgia are in for being swing states, why aren’t Pennsylvania and Arizona? We’re opening a lot of cans of worms here, for marginal improvement in the process.

I love the principles being displayed by these moves. I can’t find the problems they’re trying to fix. I can clearly see the problems they will create.

Political Gravity

America has a two party system. I don’t think there is much disagreement there. Most Americans are pretty entrenched in one of the parties. Every Democratic nominee for President from Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign through Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign (seven elections) has received a minimum of 48% of the popular vote. Every Republican nominee for President from George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign through Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign (six elections) has received a minimum of 46% of the popular vote. Not every nominee from each party is a perfect match with every other, but one can probably venture 85-90% of the voting population has stuck with their party every time they’ve voted for President in this century. A very small sliver, single digits apparently, are up for grabs in any given election.

It would take a relative idiot to assume though that either party is a monolithic block. The last two Presidents have both polled below those 48-46% starting points in their terms, despite not underperforming in general elections. There is a clear separation in 2022 public polling between Joe Biden’s approval in swing states and the polling numbers of Democratic Senate and Governor nominees in those states. Donald Trump consistently polled below his ultimate outcome in both of his Presidential runs. There are clearly partisans in both camps unhappy with what their parties are giving them to vote for, but unwilling to vote for the alternative party.

The easiest way to understand the current Democratic Party’s divides is through the 2016 and 2020 primary battles between Hillary or Biden and Bernie Sanders. In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Sanders 55.2-43.1%, or by 12.1%. Joe Biden beat Sanders 51.8-26.3%, or by 25.5%. If you awarded the “Sanders wing” the additional votes received by Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard they get about 34.7% of the vote. If the “Biden wing” also gets the votes of Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, they get 62.5%. For easy argument’s sake, the split averages out to 58.9-38.9%. The party is split 60-40 towards the more “establishment” wing of the party’s voters, which is why Joe Biden was able to be nominated with a more moderate, long voting record, while rejecting the “Green New Deal” and “Defund the Police.” The “bold progressive” wing of the Democratic Party that wants to change America is substantial, has the “activist energy,” and has a loud voice in the party, but they do not represent a majority within the party at this time, so they don’t win.

The best way to understand the Republican Party in 2022 is through the depths of the polling on Donald Trump. If you go through polling on the 45th President, his causes, and the issues associated with him, you find a floor of around 30-35% of the country. If you look back to his 2016 primary win, when his movement was in it’s infancy, Trump received only 44.9% of the vote. However if you combine his vote with that of fellow conservative firebrand Ted Cruz (25.1%), you get 70% of the vote. Trump/Cruz beat Rubio/Kasich by just over 2:1 in that process. Even when Trump and his issues and causes are at their weakest in polls, he keeps about two-thirds of the Republican 46% base in every Presidential race this century. The Trump base of the Republican Party is about 2/3 of the Republican Party. This is why their portion of the GOP tends to win Republican primaries against more “moderate,” “electable” Republicans that tend to be less “offensive.”

It’s very important to understand first and foremost that “Sanders wing Democrats” and “moderate Republicans” both overwhelmingly came home to vote for their party’s nominee in 2016 and 2020, hence why neither party underperformed in the results. Secondly, it’s important to remember that whatever small slice of left-wing Democrats Biden lost in 2020, or “respectability” Republicans bailed on Trump in either race, they both made up on the other end of their party by pulling in party skeptic voters. Third, it’s important to understand the Republican divide as mostly about style and stage craft (Was there huge differences on policy between Trump and Bush besides war?), and the Democratic divide as mostly being about how far the two wings want to go in implementing their ideals- Bernie and Biden both want to give more access to health care to the uninsured, they have different ways of “how.”

For a while, Joe Biden seemed to be able to float above the political divides. Before he ran for President in 2020 he seemed to have some good will from the “respectability” Republican wing. Despite running a primary campaign largely in opposition to stereotypes of the post-Obama Democratic Party, Biden never suffered the levels of scorn from “the left” that Hillary did. As President, that is all done. He was absolutely the only candidate who could have beaten Trump in 2020, and possibly in 2016 too. Today he is nearly universally hated by the Republican Party. The largest reason his approval is over 20% below his 2020 vote share is erosion in Democratic support. It’s more complicated than purely a run of Bernie voters rejecting Biden’s more “procedural” brand of politics, some of it is more “normy” Dems mad about gas prices and inflation too, but the mix is probably more the former.

In the Republican Party you simply cannot win most national and statewide primaries without at least sizable support from the more conservative activist base types. In the Democratic Party, you certainly can, but an antagonistic relationship with the progressive left base can sink you in a general election, just ask Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately for Joe Biden, he doesn’t get the only say on the matter. Whether he can actually do the things that Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren call on him to do or not is clearly less important than the fact that they call on him for it. While Sanders has actually been a pretty decent team player in the Biden era, the fact remains that a third to two-fifths of the Democratic Party didn’t want Joe Biden, and they are blaming him and his style for everything they perceive as going wrong. In short, gravity remains a thing.

Blame Democrats for What They’re Actually Bad At, Not Roe

I’ve been quite frustrated by the progressive-left’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Blaming the Democratic Party for five Republican appointed judges, confirmed by Senate votes almost entirely from Republicans, doing damage to the constitution is insane. All three Democratic appointees to the bench opposed this madness. Joe Biden’s lone appointee hasn’t been seated yet. I get it, you want him to react as angrily as you are, but you knew that wasn’t him when he ran. Besides that, Presidents shouldn’t compel the most angry among us to converge on the Capitol to enforce our will- we saw that in the last Presidency. The guy appointed a pro-choice judge to join the court this Fall. He just doesn’t have the power to do more. As he has said, he would need more pro-choice members of Congress to codify Roe. He’s right. Presidents can’t lead revolutions.

There are two rather clear and obvious critiques that could be made about Democrats based on what I said though, and both criticisms would be fair. First off, maybe our reliance on “the system” doesn’t work. The majority of the country supports Roe and gun laws, as does the President, Speaker, and Majority Leader of the Senate they elected. The court still just struck down popular precedent on both, and there’s not a damn thing the President can do about it within our system. One could argue that it’s at least partially a lack of real support that gets you here, but one can’t deny that most of the country did vote for the popular position and the system flipped them the bird anyway.

The second critique I’d not only support, but agree with, is that we’re here in part because the Democratic Party is not overly good at doing the thing it’s supposed to do- win elections. Since Clarence Thomas was appointed to the court, supplying the first anti-Roe vote from this crew, Roe has been under constant assault because Republicans have controlled the levers of power. I’m the last 30 years, Republicans have controlled the House for two-thirds of that time, and the Senate for 16.5 years (a bare majority). While much has been made of the two actual legislating months or so that the Obama Presidency also had a 60 seat majority in the Senate, people forget the multiple independent members and pro-life Democrats he had in those coalitions. The state level is even worse- for example Democrats have not held the Pennsylvania Senate since 1994, and they actually have held the New York Senate for less time than the GOP has in those 30 years.

Democrats simply don’t win enough elections to govern in America. When you say there aren’t enough votes to overturn the filibuster and pass Democratic initiatives, you’re implicitly acknowledging that. Yes, having a moral pluralistic party to start with makes this harder, but it’s a party’s job to figure that out. Is the Democratic messaging bad? Does the consultant class that dominates the campaign committees fail to understand how best to reach voters? Do they spend poorly? Do the major donors and independent expenditures that dominate the conversation in the party fail to talk about things that matter? I think it’s fair to question any tactical decisions the party and their supporting organizations have done over the past few decades. Republicans win more elections than we do. That’s not opinion, it’s objective fact. I’m hesitant to put it on people like the Biden-Harris ticket, who managed to win, but I didn’t see many defenses of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama after losses, so you almost have to.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that there are boundaries to what elected officials can do with their powers. I’m reminded though that when LBJ told MLK Jr. he lacked the political capital to do more on Civil Rights, King’s response was to tell his inner circle it was their job to go out and get it for him. I don’t think marches and protests are going to move today’s GOP, but clearly the Democratic Party needs a jolt of something to go get the seats it needs. If the punditry and majority of polls this year are right, Republicans are about to roll them this year, like 2010 and 1994. Accepting quick boom to bust political cycles is not acceptable. Some self-examination is more than a little fair.

There’s no real alternative to Biden or Harris for Democrats in 2024

The year was 1946 and things weren’t going so well for President Harry Truman. His party got beaten so badly in the midterm that his fellow Democrats were even floating that he should resign, not just not run in 1948. Truman resisted those calls and was elected President in 1948. In 1979, President Carter faced criticism from within his own party and also managed to at least beat back a primary challenge in 1980 from Ted Kennedy. Presidents Clinton and Obama faced critiques from within their own party after midterm beatings. Basically, Presidents don’t lose re-nomination in the Democratic Party.

If Joe Biden wants to run again in 2024, he’ll be the Democratic nominee for President. There is no one in the Democratic Party with the standing, fundraising prowess, broad support within most wings of the party, and pathway to the nomination. Yes, President Biden has definitely seen some slippage in the polls, even within his party. No, he’s not beatable in any sane campaign. The scorched earth campaign anyone who beat him for the nomination would have to run would be utterly divisive and disqualifying in a general election. A serious primary challenge, from literally anyone you would like to mention here, would leave the party unelectable and in ruins. The Republicans would use the attacks and wreckage to damage that person out of the gate.

None of this means President Biden should or should not run in 2024. He’ll be 82 years old. His polling numbers are objectively awful right now. He could recover, as Presidents Clinton and Obama did (or not, as Carter). There’s a decent chance that in early 2024 Covid is well in the rear view, interest rate hikes halted inflation, and job creation is booming- in which case Biden will be putting the GOP to bed with a beating in November. He also could get lucky and get to run against someone weak like Ron DeSantis. There’s at least a decent argument that he’s politically damaged though, or that his age is such that he should consider retiring. But we just don’t know about any of that in the Summer of 2022.

For the sake of the nonsensical though, let’s entertain the idea that he doesn’t run. If there is a vacancy to be filled on the ticket, I’d there a realistic world where Kamala Harris isn’t the Democratic nominee? My answer is that it is unlikely. What damage would the Democratic Party do to it’s most faithful voting block, Black women, to deny the first Black woman to serve as Vice-President the nomination to succeed her boss? I won’t totally deny the possibility of another candidate that may be popular with Black voters (aka- Senators Booker and Warnock, maybe Mayor Adams, or even *gasp* Hillary again) being able to win the nomination and credibly unite the party against Trump or a similar GOP nominee, particularly with the VP’s polling numbers looking rough. Again though, which of the names I just mentioned is likely to try it or do it credibly? Every Democratic Vice-President from Truman forward has ascended to the Democratic Presidential nomination. Now we’re going to entertain denying it to her in favor of what would likely be a white candidate such as Warren (lol), Sanders (for real?), or Buttigieg (who to his credit is doing everything right to be nominee, someday) that is far less popular with Black voters right now? Even if everyone made up afterwards and said the right stuff, a very small drop in raw Black voter turnout or in the percentage of said voters voting Democratic would be enough to destroy Joe’s entire margin of victory from 2020. Vice-President Harris is almost as likely as President Biden to win a 2024 primary fight to begin with, and the train wreck necessary to stop her might even be more damaging than a primary challenge to the President.

The only two times a sitting Democratic President faced a credible primary challenge in the last century were 1968 and 1980. Both times, Democrats lost the general election. Both of those elections contributed to the fall of the party as the dominant political party in this country post-1994. Running a primary against Joe Biden would be a stupid and likely fruitless fool’s errand. Running a primary against Kamala Harris could do generational damage to the party. I’d certainly never say absolutely never, but I personally have almost no appetite for this talk.

The Impossible Presidency

I’m not saying things were easy for Bill Clinton, being President is hard. It was easier than it was for Barack Obama though. Being President was hard for Barack Obama, I’m sure of it, but it was probably easier than it is for Joe Biden though. You probably are scratching your head and asking how I came to this conclusion, and where I’m going with this. The fact is, foreign relations are considerably harder today than they were right after the Soviet Union fell. The federal courts were much easier to navigate pre-Trump. The steady decline of Congress is 30 years further along than they were when Clinton came to town. The Republican Party’s decay is accelerating in the post-Bush world. And yes, Joe Biden faces more opposition within the Democratic Party than any Democratic President in my lifetime.

It’s amazing the guy wants the job.

In the moment after the Berlin Wall fell, America was the lone super power to shape the direction of the world. In the time since a lot has happened. Globalization has accelerated. Terrorist groups replaced foreign nation-states as the chief threat to our borders. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drained our treasury, lost us lives, and diminished our global standing. Maybe most important though, China emerged as a super power and Russia took a newly aggressive posture towards us under Vladimir Putin. A new anti-democratic consensus emerged among our rivals, challenging our world view. Attempts at more normal relations with Cuba and Iran didn’t go very well. Amidst all this, we had our first post-World War II Presidency where the United States questioned our own commitment to our European alliance. In other words, the world just ain’t what it used to be, and I’m not even diving into global issues like climate change.

Presidents Clinton and Obama faced Supreme Courts that were at times adversarial, but they had 5-4 conservative majorities. During their Presidencies, the Solicitor General could defend government actions at the court by focusing on one or two potential swing justices. Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy could be persuaded to allow the government to act on legitimate issues and even to protect the rights of the marginalized on some matters. President Biden faces a Supreme Court, and federal court system radicalized by Donald Trump. There are now six Republican appointees on the bench, and the Biden Administration needs to win over two of Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The court is showing an open willingness to ignore precedent and act from the bench that we haven’t seen in generations. Worse yet, four of the six Republican appointees are likely to be there for decades to come, so change is very unlikely to come to that branch. Civil rights and government power are likely to be seriously narrowed, and the only option President Biden and future successors have to push back is to eventually either try to get Congress to expand the court (dead end right now) or provoke a Constitutional crisis. This is not workable.

Congress no longer works. There simply aren’t dealmakers on the Hill to get much done with anymore. Like his recent Democratic predecessors, President Biden got a stimulus bill through to deal with the economy, and one major generational bill (infrastructure), and then everything ground to a halt. Even consensus issues like insulin prices, gun safety measures, and raising the minimum wage to at least $12 go to Congress to die. Narrow Democratic majorities are undone by both the filibuster and more aggressive House progressives forcing demands on bills that can’t be squared up. The reality is that Democrats are unlikely to see massive majorities into the future either. With the Rockefeller Republicans long dead, and the Blue Dog Democrats close behind, there’s simply no one to make deals with on Capitol Hill, no way to build legislative consensus. Democrats can only pass legislation where they either have near unanimous support in their own caucus of both houses, or where the bill is so non-controversial that everyone is ready to go along. This is a problem for a nation facing crises with climate change, guns, public education, immigration, and health care. The main goal of many new members of Congress is to get a seat on an oversight committee where they can yell at witnesses and use props to get internet attention, not to get a seat on Appropriations where they can find actual solutions. In short, Congress doesn’t work.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party was an actual governing party. No Child Left Behind was their education policy. Welfare Reform was an actual bill. There was a bipartisan “Gang of 8” immigration bill that John McCain and George W. Bush tried to pass. President Nixon (!) created the EPA. When deficits soared after the 1981 tax cuts, Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 accepted the reality that some tax increases were necessary. President Bush 43 sent record funding to Africa to fight the AIDS epidemic. Some of this was good policy, much of it in my opinion was bunk- but these were policy positions. A political party must have some ideas if they want to be a political party. Basically since President Bush’s failed 2005 attempt at reforming Social Security, the Republican Party has completely abandoned any sort of coherent policies in favor of slogans and “own the libs.” The GOP of today is a grievance party, nothing more and nothing less. They want to cut off immigration with a wall on the border, shame transgender athletes, and make voting harder if they don’t win elections. During the Trump White House their only major achievements on Capitol Hill were a massive amount of federal judges, a major tax cut bill, and “phase 1” of criminal justice reform, which was basically all the really easy stuff nobody objected to. While they talked about major changes to NAFTA and trade agreements, the changes we got were virtually nonexistent. They promised a border wall, but never delivered it. Basically, you got infrastructure week, on repeat, with no infrastructure bill. It should come as no shock that they are proposing no solution to get more workers into the supply chain right now, or that their plan for gas prices is “drill baby, drill,” when we drilled more in 2021 than we did in 2017. They are not a serious party. Their most “successful” policy in implementation was banning Muslims from entering the country for no reason. This is our “partner” party to negotiate with, a party that idolizes Jim Jordan and nominates Herschel Walker and Dr. Oz for Senate. The GOP is completely broken.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Joe Biden contends with a Democratic Party that more accepted him than wanted him. Had it not been for the wisdom of Black voters coalescing behind President Biden in South Carolina, would white moderate Dems have got their act together and coalesced behind the only electable candidate in the field? While the party rallied behind the Biden-Harris ticket during the election, the White House has faced more attacks from inside the party than any in recent memory. Congressional Democrats and Vice-President Gore had a rally for President Clinton when he was impeached, while Joe Lieberman’s career ended after he opposed Barack Obama in 2008. Today, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer take to Twitter regularly to criticize President Biden for not using an executive order to forgive student loan debt at levels he never promised to during the campaign. AOC and “The Squad” mostly voted against Biden’s biggest achievement as President, the infrastructure bill. Vice-President Harris routinely faces tough articles from “inside sources” at the White House, criticizing her work and staff members exiting the building. There is open talk of who should run for President in 2024, from Democratic sources, if President Biden does not. When the President speaks on matters of policy, as he recently did about Taiwan, anonymous White House sources race to the media to “correct” what he said to meet their policy objectives. In short, the President and Vice-President do not enjoy unanimous support from their party, far from. Some of this is kind of obvious- in an era where identity and “self expression” drive our politics, an old, straight, white man is leading the Democratic Party, and a chunk of the party wishes they had a different voice. The bigger problem that President Biden faces that President Clinton never really faced, and President Obama only kind of faced, is a shifting geography of Democratic elected officials and activists. The large bulk of Democratic members of Congress, state legislators, and municipal leaders represent super blue urban areas and very diverse suburbs. Most Democratic votes and donations come from those districts. Unfortunately there are not enough of those districts to build a working majority, and people who want White Houses and Congressional majorities need broader electoral appeal than these folks want. When you combine those geographic tensions with a louder, more independent critics class inside the party, you get a President facing larger scale defections in his party than we’ve seen since the 1980 primary season. There is simply now a chunk of voters left of the political center now who demand either a more leftist ideology from the party, or an identity for the party that matches their view of where the votes are from. Joe Biden doesn’t really meet either of those demands, and so he lacks the rock solid support of Democrats in the recent past. While the reality is that these demands make the party unelectable, trying to convince some people of that is seemingly impossible.

Joe Biden inherited a pandemic, a government rocked by scandal, an economy that was shut down, a Capitol that had just been the victim of an attempted coup, and a job that was already extremely difficult because of trends facing our nation that I outlined above. Some of the problems he’s had were predictable, others were not. I have to wonder out loud if there was ever going to be a way to appease the nation in his position. Governing is hard enough, doing it while at the center of a hurricane is nearly impossible. I think he’s doing a good job, I’m just increasingly wondering if anybody cares.