Fresh Out of Political Capital, Biden Resorts to Political Theater

Then-vice president Joe Biden at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, in 2016 / Getty Images

All the world's a stage for President Joe Biden.

That's the only conclusion we can reach after watching Democrats play out one comic piece of legislative theater after another. Schumer announced on Wednesday that he would fast-track two Democratic bills that essentially nationalize the country's elections and outlaw common-sense practices broadly supported by the public, such as voter ID measures. These bills have no chance of passing, and never did—but Biden and Schumer decided to start the New Year off with another spectacular defeat. This after the collapse just a few weeks ago of the Democrats’ Build Back Better agenda.

The "voting rights" bills always hinged on the collaboration of Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.). But since the earliest days of this Congress back in January 2021, Sinema and Manchin have been clear that they were not willing participants. The New York Times reported yesterday that Sinema "stunned her colleagues" with a speech restating her position on filibuster reform, just hours before Biden was set to arrive on the Hill to plead his case. It can’t have been her position that left them stunned, though the the timing of her remarks was stunning in its brutality.

We have a great capacity for schadenfreude but we feared an overdose when on the very same day, the number two Democrat in the Senate Dick Durbin threw Biden under the bus by allowing that the president may have gone "a little too far" when he compared the bipartisan coalition for preserving the filibuster to Jefferson Davis and his Confederates. But there was more! The Supreme Court then killed Biden’s vaccine mandate. The CNN chyron whimpered: "Not his best day."

But for Biden, the show goes on. After all but admitting defeat, the president invited Sinema and Manchin over to the White House for a high-profile meeting. You’ll be shocked to discover what happens when a feeble and confused president meets an immovable Joe Manchin—there was no movement on the legislation.

In the meantime, inflation hit a 40 year high and Covid cases are spiking, schools are closing, and the Russians are preparing a full-scale invasion of Europe. The administration's failure to do anything concrete to solve problems people care about is showing up in the polls: Biden's approval rating this week fell to just 33 percent, matching the polling floor of Donald Trump's four years in office.

We struggle to see how much longer this can continue without a serious shake up in this administration and a change of course. As much pleasure as Republicans may take in watching an old man repeatedly step on a rake, the consequences of political paralysis, managerial incompetence, and successive foreign policy catastrophes are taking a terrible toll on the country.