The “trifecta” of American politics has been for the same party to control the presidency along with both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. For the last 25 years, each president has enjoyed this trifecta for a brief period of time: Clinton from 1993-1995, Bush from 2003-2007, Obama from 2009-2011, and Trump from 2017-2019. And without fail, each president had their agendas go down in flames, culminating in a mass loss of seats for their party in one or both chambers in midterm elections.
To avoid the same fate for Biden, Jewish Democrats must learn from the history of one-party rule across the executive and legislative branches, and vote for Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the runoff election.
Clinton and Obama were “newcomers” to the D.C. scene, with different perspectives on how to take advantage of Democratic control of Congress. Being a Southern Democratic governor with a tradition of one-party Democratic rule in Arkansas, Bill Clinton viewed Congress as a “rubber stamp” for what he wanted to do. Concocting healthcare in the White House, expecting Democrats to follow his lead, and ignoring the Republicans, Democrats were trounced in the 1994 midterm elections.
Obama overlearned Clinton’s hubris. He abdicated responsibility for healthcare legislation to the Democratic House and Senate leadership, relying on them to develop and implement the plan. A mythology has developed that Republicans were offered a deal, and they turned into obstructionists. In reality, what the House and Senate Democratic leadership offered the Republicans was like offering only meat dishes to a vegan: They knew they wouldn’t bite and used the situation to portray Republicans as the “bad guy.” Obama didn’t intervene, and like Clinton, got destroyed in the midterms.
Similar to Obama, but to a greater effect, Bush got sabotaged by his own base. His efforts to overhaul Social Security and immigration were met with full frontal rejection by his right flank. With Republicans in complete control, and reliance on those same Republicans to support the Iraq War, Bush had no choice but to cave to their demands and not cut deals with Democrats. In the end, he got “shellacked,” as Bush stated, in the 2006 midterms.
And Trump? Well, he is his own worst enemy, though an argument can be made that his track record with Congress is analogous to Clinton’s. Trump expected Congress to bend to his will, to do as he wanted. He failed miserably, leading to the recurring theme of one-party control being swiftly destroyed.
I view Biden’s predicament as closest to that of Bush. Whether you are on the left or the right, Biden comes across as a “moderate,” akin to a Scoop Jackson from the days of old rather than a firebrand progressive like AOC or others of her ilk. Biden is a dealmaker, and his decades in the Senate mean he has the relationships that Clinton, Obama and Bush did not, and Trump would not foster.
If Democrats have complete control of Congress, the progressive flank will force Biden to pull to the left, making it impractical or even impossible to cut deals with Republicans. Even worse, the progressive agenda will only exacerbate tensions in the country, further alienating the over 70 million people that voted for Trump. Give Biden the opportunity to cut deals with the Republicans he knows, without having to worry about his left flank. Let Biden come across as a Reagan, someone who effectively governed in a split Congress. Vote for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to give Biden a chance to shine. And to succeed. And to save the Democrats in 2022.
Dan Israel is a political activist and a digital executive.