In late January, it wasn’t clear where we would be 100 days into this administration—and so many things have shifted over those 100 days, including widespread vaccine availability, continued increased security at the Capitol, the release of the 2020 census estimate, and more. Moulitsas said there were initially some worrisome signals about how Biden would be received and if he would be able to get things done, including the fact that Biden won by such slim margins in several states, noting that “the boring old white guy barely won against Trump.” Yet, despite all of this, Eleveld believes that Biden has done well so far, and that one if his strongest characteristics is his ability to be wrong and not worry about it.
He has been willing, on so many counts, to say, ‘The times have changed; they call for something different than what I ran on,’ especially in the primary. Because when he was running in the primary and started to win the primary, we were just in the beginning throes of the pandemic and how it devastated the economy and the incredible need that that created among many people who were suffering … the circumstances changed, and he allowed the circumstances to change how he was going to govern.
This forward-looking energy, Eleveld says, has brought great benefits in terms of the COVID relief plan, the infrastructure plan, and even the American Families Plan—all full of ideas and policies that Biden ran on in the general election.
Moulitsas and Eleveld then pivoted to discuss the status of the GOP in the wake of the 2020 elections and what direction the party seems to be headed in. Eleveld, in particular, believes that Republicans’ ridiculous behavior freed Democrats to focus on enacting their agenda and pushing through their policy priorities. What has been “a very successful Biden presidency,” according to Moulitsas, has been spurred by Biden’s decision to refuse to play Mitch McConnell’s deliberate games and the GOP’s attempts to hold up legislation while decrying a supposed lack of bipartisanship.
Moving on to Trump and how he has shaped the GOP, Moulitsas expressed perplexion that he continues to have such a hold on the party. Noting its implications for the Republicans’ potential for success in the 2022 midterms:
You have this person who is deeply unpopular, incredibly polarizing, has no proven ability to get people out when he is not on the ballot … when Trump is on the ballot, people show up. There’s [this very real] phenomenon of Trump-only voters … Republicans look at that hungrily, like we want those [voters], and Donald Trump hasn’t shown any interest in party-building. He’s told people not to donate to the Republican Party—just to him.
Eleveld noted that Trump seems particularly motivated simply by personal animus and the desire to attack any person or institution daring to criticize him. Moulitsas agreed and brought up some of the GOP’s current strategy, which seems similarly to focus on petty culture wars and “cancel culture” in an attempt to derail and decenter any actual attempt at discussing meaningful policy, naming just a few things Republicans have made a fuss out of recently: Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, and Snow White. All of this, to Moulitsas, indicates a lack of cohesiveness among the party and a lack of focus on policy or attempts at bipartisanship. Eleveld agreed, saying, “What amazes me is that they have decided to hand their party [over to Trump] … I think that Trump is actually losing his influence but that the party is more beholden to Trump than ever.”
The most interesting and troubling thing, though, Moulitsas indicated, is the fact that Trump still seems to have the ability to set the narrative: “He’s as powerful as the Republican Party lets him be, and for whatever reason, they’re letting him be.”
Democrats have their work laid out for the next year-and-a-half, and Eleveld believes the strategy forward for Biden and the Democratic Party remains a continued focus on taking more seats in the Senate, passing the For the People Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, granting D.C. statehood, and more, without worrying about reconciliation. With so many elements thus up in the air, she also thinks that Democrats can only really wait and see how the GOP shifts over the coming months:
Everybody has gone more right … they’re going to whatever Donald Trump is momentarily obsessed with … whatever the historical trends are, we are in ahistorical times. Republicans are specifically trying to suppress the vote of people of color, of young voters, and of Democrats more generally. But it’s not like they’re doing it smartly … we don’t even know who the GOP base is anymore—Republicans don’t even know who the GOP base is anymore … and at the same time, the further fringe they get, they’ve been trading off very reliable suburban voters who go to the polls in special elections. It is so far outside of anything we’ve ever seen that I don’t think anyone knows—and no one will know until it happens—what will happen in the midterms.
Moulitsas closed out with some observations about historical trends and what we can learn from them, reminding viewers that history dictated that Trump was almost certain to win reelection, yet he is now one of just four presidents in U.S. history who ran for a second term and lost. “History can be a guide, but history is not always a determinant of the future,” he said.
Eleveld and Moulitsas believe that Biden has the potential to be a truly transformative president, especially if Congress does not impede his every move, and Moulitsas explained that progressives need to continue the bringing the same energy we had in 2018 and 2020 to ensure continued progress: “It is incumbent on us, as progressives, to stay engaged—as [we did] in Georgia—and we overcame those trends and said it’s not determinative … if we turn out, I actually have really, really high hopes for us.”
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