As has often been the case in his political career, President Joe Biden is on the precipice of spearheading legislation that would be extremely consequential — not only for its widespread political ramifications but also for the tens of millions of everyday Americans who would benefit from it. Biden, along with Congressional Democrats, is closing in on some of the biggest and most progressive pieces of legislation in modern American history. They are working to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill, just over seven months after passing and signing a $1.9 trillion rescue package. This is all being done with a bare 50-50 Senate majority, and a mere three vote cushion in the House.
These are realities that should make every progressive in America enthused beyond measure. Yet, unfortunately, looking in the political Twitter-verse and inside the political beltway, I have found a fair amount of progressives in a state of sheer disappointment over what Democrats are on the verge of getting done.
It is an unfortunate truth that Democrats and the White House have had to scale back some of their legislation. Groundbreaking policies such as free community college, paid family and medical leave and dental and vision benefits being added to Medicare coverage all had to be stripped from Biden’s originally proposed social infrastructure bill. These cuts are not ‘moderate Joe’ clawing back proposed progressive initiatives. In fact, it is abundantly clear these cuts are the last thing the president wants. Free community college, for example, is a policy Biden has long supported and is especially meaningful to his family, given First Lady Jill Biden’s history as a community college professor. Rather, these cuts are bound to happen when you not only start with an extremely bold topline but also are combatting having to cater to all 50 Democrats. The vast majority of cuts are a result of either Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two relatively moderate Democrats that Biden cannot afford to lose.
A problem with starting high and negotiating down is that it leaves the public feeling as though they are missing out on a lot. When all they hear about is widely supported and urgently needed policy proposals being axed, it leaves everyday Americans wondering why the president would choose to cut legislation he supported. Many Democrats have lamented just how important various policies were, and how crucial they would be in forming Biden’s legacy. When these energizing reforms are eliminated, it leaves voters questioning what good is left in the bill.
The answer: an overwhelming amount. Both congressional Democrats and progressive organizations need to champion what is left in this bill, because it can still affect an immense amount of positive change throughout the country. A big problem for Democrats is that the media are always keen to highlight when measures are cut from spending bills. It is dramatic, drives controversy and conversation and as a result is inevitably good for their programming. What isn’t so enthralling to the cable news producers is the mundane policy details that do stay in. So, Democrats nationwide must place a paramount focus on parading their policy to the public and in a digestible way. Polling shows most voters support much of the underlying policy within the bill, but are unaware of the specific contents of this plan. All they hear is that things are being removed, lots of money is being spent and the other party is criticizing the plan 24/7.
Without that communication, not only is the public ill-informed on the heroic effects Democrats have worked to achieve, but the party will also find itself failing to cash in on what should be a monumental political win. Anytime a party can pass a bill on a party-line vote that is filled with policies largely supported by the American public, it is an opportunity that you cannot fail to capitalize on.
Assuming that Democrats are able to pass the $1.75 trillion frameworks President Biden proposed to his party earlier this week, a Democrat trifecta would have overseen legislation that will help to halve child poverty and decrease costs of child care. They will have passed the biggest ever investment of its kind in infrastructure, and the biggest ever investment in clean energy. Democrats will have seriously addressed health care, the tax code and affordable housing, among others. These are things worth nothing but celebration, and for progressives to do anything other than that would be a grave mistake. In fact, if the reconciliation framework and the bipartisan infrastructure bill pass, Biden and this Congress will have overseen the most progressive first-year legislative presidency in generations. The benefits of the legislation are inevitable; it is now simply a matter of letting the public know how they got them and from who.
Devon Hesano is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.