Political Poverty is a Choice

Political drama was about to happen and then it didn’t. Across the country, deep and insightful thinkpieces were left unfinished, relegated to the folder for things writers hope will become future brilliance but definitely never will.

The Big Covid Stimulus Bill was about to fall short by a single vote, with Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) threatening to break against party lines. It was a disaster… until it wasn’t. A political catastrophe, evidence that the Democrats were a failed coalition once again humbled by their ruthless coordinated opposition… until it wasn’t.

So what was the source of this unforeseeable political miracle? Joe Biden’s long-running political strategy of asking people what they wanted, keeping promises, and not being a d*ck.

As much as I want to roll with three paragraphs of clever wordplay referencing stratagems and gambits, the obvious point to be made is that Biden has decades of political capital that the entire Democratic party is currently able to leverage. In contrast, the Republican Party is currently fronted by a Senator who has broken every political norm for short/medium run political gain, while bearing the brand of a career grifter who spent decades opting not to pay his contractors, employees, or lenders.

I’m not much for making forecasts or predictions, so here’s my predictive forecast for the Republican party: they don’t matter and won’t for years.

Make no mistake: their politics still matter a great deal. White ethno-nationalism has a real foothold in chunks of the electorate all over the country, evangelical Christians remains one of the most influential voting blocks, and the US system remains weighted towards the preferences of rural voters. Rather, what I mean is that the institution of the Republican Party no longer brings much to the political bargaining table. The party has spent down decades of political capital and no recourse to trust in their reputation to solve collective action problems. The bill has finally come due for their spendthrift and short-sighted culture. As much as it may hurt our sympathetic sensibilities, we owe it to them to let them learn from this experience and, after a few decades of trustworthy behavior and political saving, they should be able to pull their party up by their bootstraps.

In four years, two with control of all three branches, the GOP was never ever able to pass legislation as impactful on the US landscape as what the Democrats pulled off this week. The Republican party remains an efficient fundraising organizing and cultural brand for running a campaign, no doubt. There’s not going to be a third-party usurping of their status as one of the two dominant parties, at least not any time particularly soon. But as far as the legislative marketplace is concerned, the Republican party is dead broke.

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