President Biden has 53% approval in the RealClearPolitics average as his 100th day looms. That’s 12 points higher than President Trump at this point in his presidency—but still the second-lowest such rating for any president elected since modern polling of presidential performance began in 1945.
Yet the Biden administration acts as if it has a broad mandate to pursue the most ambitious left-wing agenda in history, involving a massive expansion of the federal government and unsustainable spending increases.
One example is the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, which goes mostly to new programs that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. Similarly, Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal would spend hundreds of billions on roads, bridges, ports, airports, utility grids and broadband—but almost $1.5 trillion on other things.
All this largess requires confiscatory tax increases that would punish savings by raising capital-gains tax rates, devastate small businesses that pass profits through to their owners by taxing income more heavily, and make U.S. businesses less competitive abroad by raising corporate rates well above those of foreign competitors.
There are also bills that would federalize elections, force unionization of America’s workforce, and make the District of Columbia a state. And of course the panel to study packing the Supreme Court and diminishing its power to curtail unconstitutional laws and executive actions.
This column is written before Wednesday’s presidential address, but the White House’s pre-speech “leaks” foreshadow $1.8 trillion in new child and education spending as well as huge additional outlays to shore up ObamaCare. This would bring Mr. Biden’s total in proposed new spending to $6 trillion in his first 100 days.
Then there’s last week’s extravagant climate pledge: By 2030, the U.S. will reduce carbon emissions by more than three times the rate they were cut between 2005 and 2019—while China and India can keep increasing greenhouse gas releases.
No wonder Mr. Biden is winning enthusiastic praise from the Democratic Party’s left, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But his aggressive progressive agenda could erode the president’s support and make his party more vulnerable in the midterms.
The president didn’t campaign in a way that created a mandate for the agenda he’s pursuing. His April 25, 2019, announcement and his Aug. 20, 2020, acceptance show a far different Mr. Biden than the one we’re seeing now.
Writing for Vox, Ezra Klein characterized Mr. Biden’s announcement this way: “Biden isn’t promising a political revolution. He’s not promising to drain the swamp, restructure the Senate, remake capitalism, or usher in socialism. What Biden is promising is a return to normalcy.”
In his debate performance and campaign stops, Mr. Biden didn’t foreshadow huge spending increases, big bump-ups in the debt, crushing tax increases, or transformation of the economy. He sold normalcy—Mr. Biden would be a competent, reassuring, bipartisan moderate waging “a battle for the soul of this nation.”
That was then. Now, he’s radical, aggressive and partisan, pushing the kind of political revolution he rejected during the Democratic primary.
He wants to make quick structural changes to American government that Republicans, courts and future Congresses couldn’t undo. He pretends to want GOP buy-in but won’t compromise to get it. By operating this way after not preparing voters for such a radical shift, Mr. Biden increased Democratic vulnerability next year. Americans often react to unexpected expansive changes by voting against the party in power.
To exploit this, Republicans must keep offering thoughtful compromises as they did on infrastructure. Even when ignored, they’re still useful, allowing the GOP to show it takes governing seriously. Pairing these with attacks on the president’s radical proposals can be a powerful one-two punch.
But Republicans can do more than react to Democratic initiatives—they should advance their own. House Republicans took a step in that direction at their Orlando, Fla., conference this week, appointing task forces to foster GOP ideas on subjects including jobs and the economy, technology, energy, climate, healthcare and China. But more must be done, especially out on the hustings.
The GOP should concentrate fire on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “the Squad.” All are far less popular than Mr. Biden. Republicans should foster the perception he’s along for the ride—which seems to be true.
The Republican response must be a persistent, patient blend of attacks on the Democratic agenda with advocacy of alternatives and a GOP agenda on issues swing voters care about. This can make 2022 into a check-and-balance election—a check on a very liberal Democratic administration balanced by common-sense conservative Republican ideas. That’s a winning combination.