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Democratic divide stalling Biden’s agenda, raising primary prospects

Nov 01, 2021


Despite controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, the divide within the Democratic Party is keeping it from passing President Biden’s agenda. The legislation stagnation has frustrated the commander-in-chief for months.

I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate,” Biden said in June.

Because of an ideological divide within the Democratic Party, its factions have disagreed on the specifics of various bills. The Progressive Caucus, which includes Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia from Illinois, wants broad social reform.

“We won’t leave behind women and families who need childcare, paid leave, good paying jobs, and we won’t leave behind climate change and housing. And we won’t leave behind immigrants, as well,” Garcia said.

Another faction, featuring Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, wants to make moderate choices to pass legislation with bipartisan support. 

“They can’t be asking for things or basically supporting things that it might be easy to do in California. But California is not speaking for the majority of America. And New York City doesn’t speak for the majority of America. Well, neither does West Virginia, we don’t speak for the majority,” Manchin told reporters during an interview in November 2020. 

Polling from Pew Research found that about half of Democrat or Democratic-leaning voters consider themselves liberal. That same poll showed 38 percent consider themselves moderate and 14 percent consider themselves conservative.

“f you have a rural and an urban area, and we’re splitting our country in two because of where you live, that’s wrong,” said Manchin.

The difference in opinion on policy is splintering the Democratic Party, reminding lawmakers and observers of when the Tea Party caucus challenged the Republican Party in the early 2010s.  

’They’re pushing our members to places they don’t want to be, and frankly I just think that they’ve lost all credibility,” then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said of the Tea Party in 2013.

“I think it’s different in the sense that the Tea Party was much more, I think much more angry than the progressives are likely to be,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology pPolitical science professor Charles Stewart III said.

Stewart thinks the splintering of the party might lead to some sitting Democrats m losing their primary elections.

“Right now there’s some dissatisfaction with the more moderates who may be giving the more progressive parts of the Biden program a hard time. So there may be some primary-ing in some places,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he’s watching to see how it impacts turnout for the general election.

“Whether progressives feel like they’ve been betrayed by not getting all of the agenda they want, whether they would stay home or not. I’m somebody who believes that the more extreme wings of the party come back together for the general election,” he said.