President Biden has a problem. Here’s how to solve it.
To govern, Biden must keep his political base (including lunatic fringe) intact while satisfying the mainstream. The demands of the fringe are anathema to the center, pragmatic Dems like Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kristin Synema, D-Ariz., plus 10 sensible Senate Republicans Biden needs to pass most legislation.
Uniting the oxymoronic factions will take a political Houdini. Enter the spirit of Saul Alinsky.
Congress, right on schedule, is body-checking the Biden administration’s most preposterously left-wing proposals, causing Biden’s first unforced error, his threat to veto the bipartisan infrastructure deal if not paired with a ridiculously partisan trillion-dollar progressive pork barrel bill. Sensing catastrophe, Biden immediately walked his threat back … provoking his party’s fringe, the Sunrise Movement, to picket the White House for reneging on its agenda.
The irresistible force, the Green New Deal faction, hit the immovable object, political reality. Hey Green New Dealers! Biden isn’t Green Lantern and doesn’t have the power to deliver your political fantasies. So. Now what?
Not necessarily. Biden can redefine himself to both the party’s left’s and center’s satisfaction as Saul Alinsky’s apotheosis: a radical pragmatist. Biden’s a pragmatist. So was Alinsky, a famously radical pragmatist. By "radical" Alinsky meant "at the root." Not hooligan.
Radical and pragmatic are not contradictory.
Biden can escape his political straitjacket by redefining himself from “transformational” to “radical pragmatist.” Transformational? Isn’t it pretty to think so? Journalist Matt Taibbi observes, in So Much for “Transformational” Joe Biden, that President Biden is already transforming from “transformational.”
Taibbi observes how the establishment media is giving President Biden an extraordinary honeymoon, letting him abandon many left-listing campaign promises with impunity. Taibbi: “Biden has the press paper-trained to a degree we haven’t seen in modern times. Not even at the height of the media’s drooling love affair with Barack Obama — a phenomenon I confess I was part of — did we ever see such enthusiastic, reflexive backing of White House messaging. The Biden press even reverses course on a dime when needed, with the past weeks being a supreme example.”
Supreme examples include “the Biden administration’s new budget plan wouldn’t contain a host of key ideas proposed on the campaign trail, from a public health care option to raising the estate tax to forgiveness of student debt. Some of these were major, central campaign promises — the idea of a plan to insure ‘an estimated 97% of Americans,’ for instance, was big Biden campaign rhetoric whose passing was barely commemorated.”
My quibble with Taibbi? In this era of ideological ayatollahs pragmatism would be transformational. Politics, per Bismarck, is “the art of the possible.” Last year everyone from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders seduced their respective parties’ otherworldly bases with impossible dreams, also transfixing dreamy Big Media.
Everyone except Joe Biden who took the stand that “People are looking for results, not a revolution.” Biden beat many irrationally exuberant rivals for the nomination. Then he beat our irrationally exuberant president in the general election.
Biden’s astute. We voters really are looking for results.
Can Biden square the circle between his starry-eyed leftists (nervously counting the 540+ days the Dems have a bare Congressional majority to dramatically change national energy and climate and economic and social policy) with the centrist voters looking for shiny new bridges and fewer potholes in our roads without whopping tax hikes?
Biden’s one clear escape route is to return to, and revive, one of the most important classics of citizen political activism, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both studied Alinsky, Hillary directly with the master. Both explicitly turned away, choosing to work within, not outside, the System. Now, Biden can bring Alinsky home uniting both his hard left and his sensible center by organizing the American community, Alinsky’s ultimate aspiration.
Consider Rules for Radicals’ subtitle: “A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.” Alinsky (whose eponymous Center I founded and unfounded a few years ago in a failed effort to restore recognition of Alinsky’s small government, non-demagogic populist, ethos while calling conservatives back to a commitment to justice) was a radical pragmatist.
Saul Alinsky was an unflinching critic of Big Government. The left celebrates Alinsky because he devoted his life to justice, chastely overlooking Alinsky’s anti-statism (publicly indicting LBJ’s “War on Poverty” as “political pornography.”) The right, shamefully ignoring Barry Goldwater’s noble dictum “Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue,” reviles Alinsky, no Communist, per J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Alinsky, protégé of supply-side Republican labor leader John L. Lewis, was a committed anti-racism operative, pro-worker proto-tea partier.
Just what the doctor ordered.
Hello, White House communications prodigy Kate Bedingfield! Anchor your left-wing base in radicalism while engaging Biden’s middle-class base with pragmatism.
Joe Biden, radical pragmatist?
Meet Saul Alinsky, pragmatic radical.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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