The president is quietly undercutting the exact brand of center-lane politics that he worked hard to enshrine as a senator.
On Thursday, at his first news conference as president, Joe Biden did more than just detail his plans and take questions from reporters.
He outlined what amounts to a new political ethic for him, suggesting that big ambition — rather than accommodation, or the “unity” he so often spoke of on the campaign trail — might be his guiding doctrine.
Biden repeated one particularly telling phrase three times in a row — “I want to change the paradigm” — and made it clear that he intended to move ahead with his policy agenda as uncompromisingly as he could, with or without Republican support. It’s a message he is likely to drive home this week, when he appears in Pittsburgh to unveil his proposal for a multitrillion-dollar investment in infrastructure and jobs.
In the process, he is undercutting the exact brand of center-lane neoliberalism that he worked so hard to enshrine, more than four decades ago, as a young senator in the Nixon and Carter years.
“This is an interesting story,” the historian Rick Perlstein, whose books detail the rise of late-20th-century conservatism in American politics, said in an interview. “The story is him turning his back on the ideological direction that he helped lead the Democratic Party into.”
“I want to get things done,” Biden told reporters on Thursday. “I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people. And in order to do that in a 50-50 Senate, we’ve got to get to the place where I get 50 votes, so that the vice president of the United States can break the tie, or I get 51 votes without her.”
It was an interesting innovation on a common Biden theme: pragmatism. “I’ve never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate,” he said.
As recently as the 2020 campaign, Biden was emphasizing the need for Republican support in order “to get things done” — but he is now arguing that savvy politicking and partisanship go hand-in-hand. By posting wins, he hopes to bring more voters onto his side.
Partly, that means embracing the possibilities that come with control of both houses of Congress — something Democrats had, almost without interruption, from 1933 to 1981, but that they have mostly lacked since the rise of President Ronald Reagan.
Jonathan Alter, who has written books on Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, said that Biden’s approach harked back to the economic populism of the New Deal era, when Roosevelt unified the Northern and Southern blocs of the Democratic Party around major liberal initiatives.
“I think ‘paradigm shift’ is an important way of saying that he is going to give new life to the social contract of the New Deal,” he said. “Roosevelt had these jobs programs. They had direct hiring. It wasn’t trickle-down economics; it was direct investment in the economy.”
He continued: “Democrats, I think, are trying to return to this idea that it’s not wasteful tax-and-spend liberalism — which is the label that they started using against Jimmy Carter and all the Democrats that followed — but prudent investments.”
Alter said that Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package already put him ahead of what Roosevelt had doled out by this point in his first term. “It’s hard to imagine, but in his first 100 days he didn’t spend nearly as much in constant dollars as Biden has,” Alter said, referring to adjustments that account for inflation.
When Carter ran for president in 1976, a young Senator Biden — a first-term moderate, whose star was on the rise — became the first senator to endorse him. Amid a sputtering economy and rising crime rates, Carter, a former small-business owner and Navy engineer, believed the Democratic Party was ready for a change of orthodoxy.
“He had a kind of deep distrust of the New Deal tradition,” Perlstein said, pointing out that upon taking office Carter canceled a number of infrastructure projects that would have expanded government-backed employment.
Biden’s message at the time was right in line with this approach. “In 1978, when he ran for re-election, he boasted that he was the most frugal senator,” Perlstein said.
Biden was also publicly ambivalent about many of the steps that Democrats were taking to protect the legacy of the civil rights movement, becoming the most prominent Democrat not representing a Southern state to oppose school busing — and later helping to craft the kinds of tough-on-crime policies that would lead to a huge spike in the number of Black and brown men in federal prisons.
Biden was “determined to be seen as a more moderate Democrat, especially on issues like busing,” Alter said.
By the time Biden mounted his first run for president, in 1988, the political tides seemed to validate that path. Four years earlier, Walter Mondale had lost in a landslide to Reagan after promising major investments in public services and higher taxes on wealthy Americans. Though Mondale framed his proposals through a lens of fiscal pragmatism — saying they would drastically cut the budget deficit — Reagan seized the opportunity to label Mondale a tax-and-spend Democrat, and he won re-election easily.
Raising taxes became a third rail in American politics, and the next time a Democrat won the presidency — Bill Clinton, in 1992 — he did it partly by shying away from big liberal promises. In his 1996 State of the Union address, ahead of a successful re-election campaign, Clinton declared in a triumphant tone, “The era of big government is over.”
But as Biden highlighted the economic impact of his $1.9 trillion relief package last week, it was hard not to hear echoes of a different Democrat’s campaign language from the 1980s: Jesse Jackson, arguably the most left-wing Democratic presidential contender in both 1984 and 1988. He had pledged to “keep hope alive,” at a time when American politics were turning rightward.
“I can say to you, the American people,” Biden said on Thursday, “help is here and hope is on the way.”
Public opinion polls have indicated that Biden’s first big salvo was widely popular: Upward of six in 10 Americans supported the relief package, according to polls conducted just before it was passed. And as he pushes for raising taxes on the richest Americans, he is speaking to a country that is now arguably more worried about inequality than it is knee-jerk opposed to taxation.
A Politico/Harvard University poll last month found that 73 percent of the country said Biden should make it an “extremely important priority” to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while lowering them for the middle class. Biden has said that raising taxes on individuals making over $400,000 a year would be critical to funding his investments in infrastructure and jobs.
For Perlstein, the president’s trajectory calls to mind the career of not Roosevelt or Carter, but Lyndon Johnson. “In 1960, when he was picked as the running mate for Kennedy, liberals were practically in mourning that this conservative, establishment, segregation-adjacent Southerner had been picked,” Perlstein said. “Immediately, when J.F.K. was assassinated and he picked up the ball, he became the guy who expanded the New Deal for a new generation.”
Perlstein added that only “those really closest to him, who understood how much his heart beat for the poor and how sedulously he’d been waiting for this opportunity to move America’s racial ideal in a different way, would’ve expected that.”
Why do Republicans want to punish Facebook and Google? That's not conservative. – USA TODAY
Don’t use Big Government to hammer tech billionaires. Do harness their platforms to push for conservative causes like gun rights and charter schools.
Since when did it become “conservative” to punish private companies for being successful? In recent years, a bizarre and ill-advised frenzy has gripped the right, which has focused intense efforts on breaking up or otherwise hamstringing social media companies. Conservative groups and their dedicated donors have spent vast amounts of money on these anti-“Big Tech” efforts.
Meanwhile, this war on Silicon Valley is distracting the right from once-in-a-generation opportunities to tackle longstanding conservative priorities – in ways that would only be helped along by effectively using social media instead of lambasting it.
What has social media grievance politics yielded for Republicans? Florida Republicans tried to ax the First Amendment rights of tech companies to moderate content but were swiftly rebuffed by a federal judge. In Washington, swamp creatures are supposedly making plans to repeal the Section 230 protections for moderating online content, which would be a strange victory coming from the onetime party of tort reform.
GOP once stood for choice and growth
There also seems to be a buzz of general complaints that tech billionaires – who spend most of their time backbiting and trying to outdo one another, as the Jeff Bezos-Richard Branson space wars make clear – are somehow not competitive enough.
The reality is that these people create a product that Americans can choose to use or not use. And Republicans used to be the party of free choice.
Attacking American innovators and job creators is usually a tactic of the radical left. The right has traditionally criticized its political opponents for this sort of grievance politics, which do not allow space for growth-focused policies. To justify taxing successful Americans, the left’s traditional playbook has been to vilify their success. Naturally, if you’re preoccupied with slicing the pie, you’re not focused on growing the pie. Republicans used to be the party of growth, too.
That’s why the right’s current sideshow struggle against Big Tech, which puts Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on the same side as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., makes so little sense. Instead of focusing on free choice for our citizens and economic growth for our nation, the right has made enemies of companies that specialize in sharing cat photos and vacation videos.
There are so many better things the American conservative movement could be doing with its time, by taking advantage of our post-COVID moment.
We need fair rules: Apple and Google totally control what you do on your smartphones
That’s hundreds of thousands of Americans who will, for the first time, butt up against brazen bureaucrats, unrelenting regulations and a torrent of blood-sucking taxes from federal, state and local authorities. This should be a treasure trove of new conservatives, the vast majority of whom also use social media to promote their businesses and sell their products. But they won’t flock to the GOP if they hear confusing anti-growth messaging that vilifies the online tools they use to promote their businesses.
Conservatives are a diverse group
Meanwhile, the debate over the Second Amendment shows no signs of slowing down, and it looks like conservatives are getting some new recruits. Online surveys of firearm retailers by the trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation indicated that in the first four months of 2020, 4 in 10 pandemic first-time gun buyers were women, and gun purchases by African Americans in the first six months of last year were 58.2% higher than the same period in 2019.
These demographics suggest that pro-gun rights Americans are a lot less “pale, male and stale” than previously thought. But these folks also use social media to share their photos from the shooting range, so why make them feel like “bad conservatives” for doing so?
Left-to-right mistake: Sen. Josh Hawley isn’t a censorship victim, he’s a free speech menace
We may also be on the cusp of major education reform. Education Week reported in late June that over the pandemic, America’s public school systems lost more than 1.4 million students, noting the “loss was spread out across the nation, touching almost every demographic group and concentrated in lower grades. It will likely have academic, financial and staffing repercussions for years to come.”
With alternatives like charter schools looking better and better, and teacher unions drawing ire from even liberal parents for holding up a return to normalcy in classrooms, parent groups should be organizing (on sites like Facebook) to take these issues on.
It’s often easy (and even cathartic) for conservatives to join in the ritual pillorying of some group that you may find annoying, like tech billionaires who, in their personal politics, do lean to the left. But if the American right stopped and took a collective breath, they’d realize that sticking to their tried-and-true message of free choice and pro-growth policies – and focusing on issues that matter, like small business freedom, gun rights and education reform – are a much better recipe for success than using the hammer of Big Government to give the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos a black eye.
Paul Quassa quits Nunavut legislature after 40 years in politics – CBC.ca
Nunavut Speaker Paul Quassa has resigned from his role as MLA for Aggu.
The news was first reported by Nunatsiaq News. Quassa confirmed his resignation to the CBC and said he is done with politics. He said he’s been thinking about the decision since the spring.
“I really cherish the time that I spent [in] my life here at the Legislative Assembly,” Quassa said.
“I knew that I could do at least two terms. And once … that term is up, I think it’s high time that we see somebody else there. And I have great confidence in in the next person that’s going to be elected.”
Quassa was elected as the Nunavut premier in 2017, but was ousted in 2018, though he continued in his role as MLA for Aggu.
He said he stayed on because he made a commitment to represent his community.
“No matter what happens, you just continue, keep going because you were elected … you’re representing your community. You cannot just stop there just because the other MLAs don’t agree with you,” he said.
His resignation, which will be effective as of Aug. 13, comes just shy of the end of his term, with Nunavut’s general upcoming election scheduled for Oct. 25.
Quassa said he wanted to give others the chance to be in leadership, and in particular, he encouraged young people to step forward and consider the opportunity of running for MLA.
“I thought this would be the right timing after talking with my family and my constituents, that it would be only right for me to step down and give other opportunities,” he said.
“I believe that our young people should really go for it, because again, we have to remember that at least 60 per cent of our population is under 25. So, you know, that’s a big population to represent. And I think it is high time that we start getting new ideas, new challenges, and then young people can make that difference.”
Though he didn’t say specifically what he plans to do next, Quassa hinted it might be something in the public sphere.
“I’m looking forward to do something else where I can speak my mind on behalf of Inuit and Nunavut,” he said.
N.W.T. Métis activist remembered as unfiltered politician, caring friend – CBC.ca
A leading figure in the Northwest Territories Métis community has died.
Clem Paul passed away on July 30. He was 64.
During his entire adult life, Paul was a champion of Métis rights in the Northwest Territories, specifically in the North Slave region. He is a former president of the old Yellowknife Métis Council and one of the founding leaders and a former president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, which was formed when three Métis groups in the North Slave region merged.
Trevor Teed was a friend of Paul’s since they were Grade 1 students in Yellowknife.
“Quite often in life you’ll hear somebody say in times of trouble, ‘I sure wish I had a friend to lean on’ or ‘I sure wish I had a shoulder to cry on’ — something like that,” said Teed. “That’s an experience I have never felt … because I always had a friend, Clem. He was always there for me.”
In 1991 Paul was awarded the Governor General’s medal of bravery for hauling Teed out of the frigid waters of Harding Lake. Teed and another man, who perished in the accident, had gone through the ice on their snowmobile. Paul used his gun case to paddle his sled out across 30 meters of open water, pulled Teed in, and paddled back to solid ice.
Teed said Paul was someone who spoke his mind, regardless of the effect his words had on those they were directed at.
“Clem was involved in politics but he wasn’t really a politician because he was point blank,” said Teed. “He often told people things they did not want to hear. If you were working with Clem on a project he was engaged in and weren’t putting in the effort he thought was warranted, he’d let you know about it.”
Taking time for strangers
Paul’s softer side was evident one of the first times I met him. On a paddling trip about 20 years ago, I stopped into an area on Great Slave Lake known as Old Fort Rae or Mountain Island, once a thriving community. My paddling partner and I were surprised to find a group of men building cabins there in the sweltering August heat.
They were led by Paul. He stopped his work and explained to us that they were revitalizing the community to re-establish it as a base for Métis in the region. Paul then told us about the history of the place, how it was an ideal location for a settlement because you could dock on either side of the peninsula, depending on which way the wind was blowing.
Paul spent the next hour giving us a tour of the remnants of the community and talking about the history of Métis in the area. He showed us where those who lived in the community were buried and talked about his plans for the place. He was obviously very busy, but took the time to show around two strangers.
Youngest certified journeyman welder in N.W.T.
Alongside his political activities, Paul initiated several high-profile court cases aimed at asserting and protecting Métis rights in the region, but his sister, Kathy Paul-Drover, said he was also very much a working man.
When he was 18, she said, he became the youngest person in the N.W.T. to be certified as a journeyman welder. He helped found Paul Brothers Welding, a longstanding Yellowknife business.
Paul-Drover said her brother got his work ethic and strong-willed nature from their mother, the late Theresa Paul.
One of Clem’s first political experiences was seeing his mother fight off an attempt by the City of Yellowknife to evict their family and others in a small Métis community that had settled in the School Draw Avenue area. The attempt happened in the mid-60s, shortly after Yellowknife was named the capital of the N.W.T.
“We had a fairly big Métis community here in the School Draw and she was the only one that maintained title to her land,” said Paul-Drover of her mother.
A difficult year
Paul-Drover said the past year has been difficult for her brother. He had fought off an earlier bout of cancer, but it returned.
“He was in and out of hospital for months, and with all of the restrictions with COVID he wasn’t able to see his grandchildren or children,” said Paul-Drover. “That was very difficult for him. That’s why he and his wife decided he should go home from the hospital despite not being able to take food or water. He was home for two days and he passed.”
A service will be held at the Yellowknife River on Thursday starting at 2 p.m. with a final viewing held shortly before. The gathering will then move to Lakeview Cemetery for the burial. Then it will return to the Yellowknife River for a celebration of life.
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