“You’re not a wartime consigliere, Tom.” So said Michael Corleone to his advisor Tom Hagen. Flipping the situation inside the Washington, D.C. “family,” Democrats seem to be proving that their skillset, honed over the last four years in a war against Donald Trump, is unsuited to peacetime lawmaking. The party has been unwilling – or unable – to let go of its wartime mentality.
Blame and recriminations are on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Swamp. Who is really at fault for Joe Biden lurching from crisis to crisis? Is it the White House team who supposedly answer directly to the president and his appointees, or is it the party as a whole that elevated him to power and then expected him to back play after play in what seems more like a vendetta than a functioning legislative branch?
If the systems of government were working correctly, the president would be playing the role of Don Corleone, Vice President Harris as his consigliere, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Leader Schumer would be his captains, and the elected Democrats foot soldiers on the street dealing with the family business. Yet things are not functional. Whether it is the border disaster, the eviction moratorium, or embarrassments on the world stage – instead of attacking the Republican Party, Democrats would do well to look closer to home for someone to blame.
On a Wartime Footing
The congressional Democratic Party spent four years fighting a political war against President Trump. A determination to frustrate and impeach the president was the driving force for the opposition party. It was a stance that served the lawmakers well in terms of polarizing the nation and coalescing support in House and Senate races. That particular war is over for now, and yet the D.C. button men and women and their captains seem not to have gotten the memo.
When a party is in opposition, it attacks the majority and attempts to halt any progress that could give it a win – especially after the starting pistol has been fired on the next set of elections. And when the victory is won, it is time to start governing and accept that the new opposition will be playing the same games. However, the Democratic Party machine’s failure to move on from 2016 has left its leader floundering from one disaster to another.
Unable to let go of the “warrior spirit,” Democrats now seem unable to resist a fight – whether their aggression is directed at the minority Republicans, or members of their own party.
Biden Attempts a Rebrand
Faced with divisions in his party, Joe Biden made efforts to regroup. In a message that was ostensibly aimed at the American voter – but in reality, more likely at his own wayward party – the president painted a picture on Monday, August 2, of a dangerous enemy on the horizon. He lamented that work was not being done on voting reform, saying, “The single most important thing that we have to do is we have to protect the voting system, protect the sacred right to vote … It’s under assault in ways that I haven’t seen in my entire career.”
He went on to lambast Republicans and their efforts at voter reform in red states, arguing that, “It’s outrageous. We’re going to fight like hell so that doesn’t happen. That’s one of the most important things we can do.” And naturally, he peppered his speech with talk of the oh-so-elusive unity so lauded during his campaign. He said:
“We won in 2020 as a unified party. As we look to 2022 … the question the American people are going to be asking is whether we’re helping them and their families and do we understand what they’re going through. Can we deliver?”
This speech was never meant for the voter; it was meant to remind his wayward troops that when they unite, they can win elections. With congressional Democrats fighting among themselves on issues like the COVID eviction moratorium and infrastructure spending, will Biden’s message fall on deaf ears or bring much needed leadership to a party in disarray?
Missing the Mark
Biden’s chief problem appears to be that Democrat lawmakers still feel as though they are fighting the ruling party – rather than governing as the new ruling party. Even the commander in chief is falling into the trenches, failing to provide a big picture strategy. He is instead trying to direct his soldiers’ focus toward what Republicans are doing in their own state legislatures rather than dealing with federal issues and taking advantage of congressional majorities. The party is locked in a mindset in which members are the perpetual victims battling against an all-powerful enemy … yet do not realize that they themselves hold the power.
As the Godfather Vito Corleone himself lamented, “I never thought you were a bad consigliere; I thought Santino was a bad Don.” Perhaps the fault lies with those on the lower rungs of the ladder, but it is equally possible that Joe Biden himself is just not the right leader for a party that is trapped in its own past.
Read more from Mark Angelides.