The Corner

Politics & Policy

Michael Tomasky: ‘Democracy’ Means Democrats Get Whatever They Want

President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they depart after the president met with Democratic lawmakers to promote his infrastructure bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, October 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Last week, I tackled Robert Kagan’s disingenuous argument in the Washington Post that, in effect, the supposed lingering threat of Donald Trump to the electoral system meant that Republicans had no choice but to yield to the Left on everything, including its spending priorities. In The New Republic, Michael Tomasky presents a version of the same argument. It is just as disingenuous:

So the Democrats have to be the party of democracy. That means they need to make some obvious moves, such as protecting voting rights, which seems tragically iffy at the moment; but it also means, as Joe Biden repeatedly and correctly says, that they need to show the country that democracy works and can produce positive outcomes. If they don’t manage to come to terms on this reconciliation bill, the negative impacts won’t be merely economic. This reconciliation bill is about democracy. If they don’t pass it and don’t show that democracy works, especially with the government in the hands of one party, the Republican Party will benefit—they’ll almost certainly take the House and the Senate in 2022, and they’ll be teed up to steal the 2024 election for Donald Trump, and American democracy will be on life support.

Tomasky is essentially saying that, unless the Democratic Party gets everything it wants, then democracy will have failed. Never mind that “democracy” produced a political configuration, after the 2020 elections, in which the House of Representatives was only narrowly in the Democrats’ favor while the Senate was narrowly against it (only the Georgia runoffs produced the current 50–50 tie, broken by Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker). Never mind the political implications of that victory, which amounted to a simultaneous repudiation of Trump as president but also, as Yuval Levin put it, a rejection of “the woke Left and the activist base of the Democratic Party.” Never mind that Social Security and Medicare, to which Tomasky compares the legislation being debated by Congress in terms of possible “historic significance,” passed Congress with resounding majorities. And never mind that “democracy” is supposed to involve a meaningful degree of give-and-take, not an imaginary “negotiation” over trillions that is completely untethered from fiscal reality or constitutional propriety.

Forget all of that. Democracy, apparently, means Democrats get what they want.

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