ChrisWeigant.com

Returning To Normalcy

[ Posted Tuesday, February 16th, 2021 – 16:58 UTC ]

I had a choice of topics for today's column, one of which was weighing in on the debate over the possibility of earmarks returning to Congress. I say this to make a point -- American politics may not be back to normal by a long shot (since the Republican Party obviously hasn't quite returned from their Looney Tunes vacation yet), but in his four weeks in office, President Joe Biden has moved us all a significant way down the road to normalcy once again.

It is already being said that Sunday was the first day of Biden's presidency, because it was the first time Donald Trump truly does not belong in the news headlines any more. His second impeachment trial is over, so now anything he says or does will be -- at worst -- a secondary distraction. Or it should be, at any rate. Trump is excellent at tossing shiny, shiny objects to the news media just to create a feeding frenzy, so we'll have to see what happens when he (inevitably) breaks his self-imposed silence and starts giving interviews once again.

Of course, some of that silence wasn't self-imposed, since Twitter and all the other social media platforms have unceremoniously banned Trump. This is going to have an enormous effect on his ability to stir things up, going forward. Trump just can't reach 80-plus million people with a direct message anymore, and that is going to help Joe Biden govern more than perhaps anything else that has happened or will happen. Since Trump has been denied his social media megaphones, Biden has been free to absolutely ignore Trump, and last week Biden (quite correctly) pointed out that the impeachment was a process without a role for him, really, so he had nothing to say about it. What a refreshing difference!

Instead, Biden has been free to accomplish quite a lot in his first four weeks. And the ever-more pervasive normalcy has been the most noticeable difference. Seeing a White House press secretary give daily press briefings and actually answer questions with facts and data is a joy to watch. When Jen Psaki doesn't know the answer to a question, she (gasp!) just admits she doesn't know and promises to get back to the reporter once she finds out. To say this is a sea change from the propagandistic rants we have endured from the White House press room for years now (or, even worse, the absolute silence when they just gave up bothering to even give press conferences) is a vast understatement.

This is not to say Psaki doesn't spin things, but then all press secretaries do. She's even already got an eponym for her style -- the "Psaki bombs" she unleashes on ill-prepared, mostly-conservative journalists. Today, for instance, she was asked about how reversing course and jettisoning the Hyde Amendment would surely mean taxpayer dollars going to "the abortion industry." However, the journalist (from a Christian outlet) tripped up because included within the actual question was the admission: "We all know how Biden feels about the Hyde Amendment." So Psaki just tossed it right back at him, essentially saying since you admitted you already know how Biden feels, there's really not much more to say.

But what Psaki didn't do -- the memorable difference -- was she didn't lie, she didn't just make stuff up, and she didn't have to cater to the absolute delusions of her boss. Or, to put it another way, the White House press conferences have regained their normalcy once again.

Down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, tensions still remain high. There is a spate of Republicans eating their own -- launching attacks on those members of their caucus who didn't stand foursquare with the Dear Leader, and instead had the temerity to listen to the evidence against him and then make a moral judgment. As a local Pennsylvania Republican Party official put it (about Senator Pat Toomey, who voted to convict Trump): "We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to 'do the right thing' or whatever." Instead, they apparently sent Toomey to Washington to kiss the Dear Leader's feet. Such naked honesty is somewhat surprising, but not really. The Republican Party has gone so far into the weeds it is now in danger of becoming nothing more than a Trumpian personality cult. It was heading in that direction already, and it's a whole lot closer now.

But while Republicans in Congress are busy with their circular firing squad, Democrats are about to get some things done. Biden's legacy has already begun with the dozens of executive orders he's signed to overturn all the idiotic and harmful Trump policies, but his legislative legacy is going to start with the coronavirus relief bill now wending its way through the House. And the only complaint Republicans have been able to muster is "it's not bipartisan" -- as if any Americans are really going to care about the partisan breakdown of congressional votes when they receive their $1,400 checks in the mail and see their local schools get enough money to reopen with adequate safety measures in place. You really think anyone's going to send their checks back in a fit of pique over the fact that budget reconciliation rules were used in the U.S. Senate? Because I don't.

But even budget haggling is a whole lot more normal without Mitch McConnell gumming up the works. Biden and the Democrats may not achieve everything they want in the first big legislative victory -- the $15-an-hour minimum wage hike seems dubious, at this point -- but they will be visibly moving the country forward. While the Republicans continue to bicker among themselves and fight any effort to make life better for anyone in the entire country (except, of course, for conservative judges and the one percent).

The biggest return to normalcy of all, however, is still only just getting underway, but so far the results are impressive. Since Biden was sworn in, between 25 and 30 million Americans have gotten at least the first shot of the vaccines. Since it hasn't even been four weeks yet (it will be, tomorrow), this is more than on track to hit Biden's promised 100 million vaccinated in his first 100 days in office. The final number will likely be a lot higher than 100 million, because under Biden the rollout is now up to 1.5 million vaccinations done each and every day. The vaccine effort now has a national plan (Trump didn't even bother to create one), and everyone is now pulling together instead of pitting all 50 governors against each other in reality-show style (or, more accurately, Lord Of The Flies fashion). National scientific standards are finally appearing, for the first time since the pandemic began one year ago. And as more and more Americans get fully vaccinated, more and more of what we used to think of as "normal life" will resume.

This, of course, is the biggest test for Biden's presidency (or "only the first year of it," hopefully). If he is successful at returning life to even 70 or 80 percent of the old normal by the time the year ends, the public is going to be so relieved and so appreciative that the rest of what Biden wants to do will get a lot easier. Biden's job approval percentage in polls is already far beyond any number Trump ever charted -- from the mid-50s to the low 60s. Trump never hit above 50 percent approval in any reputable national poll, for his entire four years in office. And life could be getting back to normal in a big way right when Biden could use it the most -- right at the end of the traditional "honeymoon period" for presidents, about midway through their first year in office.

Personally, I would like to get back to normal as well (who doesn't?). I want to be able to live life and take a vacation if I feel like it, and all the rest of the things we've all been missing. But more than anything else, I want to write deep-dive articles about what exactly restoring (and, hopefully, severely reforming) congressional earmarks will mean for the future of legislative politics. You know, boring and "inside-baseball" stuff. Wonky stuff. I want to be so bored -- for entire weeks at a time -- by the Biden administration that by the August congressional playtime period (Washington's dog days) I have to really scrape to figure out new subjects to write about. Which used to be normal, every year.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a year like that.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

24 Comments on “Returning To Normalcy”

  1. [1] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    "Normal"

    My power has been out for 40 some hours due to the winter storm, and it was in the 40s in the house last I checked. Luckily, my sister-in-law has power, and we're staying there tonight. Give us a real infrastructure week!

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Bleyd, you make a very good point! Stay warm and safe.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Biden and the Democrats may not achieve everything they want in the first big legislative victory -- the $15-an-hour minimum wage hike seems dubious, at this point -- but they will be visibly moving the country forward.

    Maybe Biden will talk about this tonight at his town hall. Was this hike in the minimum wage supposed to happen all at once - from $7.25 right up to $15? Why not ease that increase into effect over four years?

    Looking forward to seeing how Biden, the salesman, operates tonight!

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    National scientific standards are finally appearing, for the first time since the pandemic began one year ago. And as more and more Americans get fully vaccinated, more and more of what we used to think of as "normal life" will resume.

    Well, we are going to have to learn to live with this virus without having a lot of people dying from it. Which is what vaccination right now is all about - protecting healthcare workers and those who are most vulnerable to getting severe disease and dying.

    And, if the rest of us don't keep up with all of the public health measures to control and prevent transmission, then the variants may prevent vaccination from getting us back to normal. So, let's keep DOING IT ALL!

  5. [5] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    Liz,
    A fixed national minimum wage simply doesnt make sense for this country. There is far too much variance in cost of living from state to state. While a $15 minimum wage might make sense in some of the liberal bastions like California or New York, it really would be excessive for many Republican states. In Texas, for instance, a $9 or $10 minimum wage probably would be sufficient to provide a basic living wage for a full time employee. Too many Democrats seem to forget that there are actual, substantial differences between many red and blue states, so a one size fits all solution would legitimately be untenable. If Democrats want to get anywhere with a minimum wage hike, they need to find a way to account for those differences, perhaps by tiyng it to a state's cost of living.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Bleyd,

    A $15 minimum wage in New York or California would, I suspect, be far too low!

    I think most people understand the differences in cost of living across the country. That's just commone sense, after all.

    There are ways to do this and Biden just talked about it being a gradual raise as opposed to a big hike all at once. He also said that many small businesses have legitimate concerns about raising the minimum wage to $15 and that there are good arguments to make on both sides. But, the bottom line is that people who work 40 hours per week should not have to live in poverty in the United States of America.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Because...

    Elizabeth. Bouncing Around the Room Phish (4:08)

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ...so now anything he [Trump] says or does will be -- at worst -- a secondary distraction. Or it should be, at any rate. Trump is excellent at tossing shiny, shiny objects to the news media just to create a feeding frenzy, so we'll have to see what happens when he (inevitably) breaks his self-imposed silence and starts giving interviews once again.

    Nope, not by a long shot. Trump will toss up as many shiny objects as he can and that's a good thing! Watching the GQP Civil War will provide Joe the space to get stuff done. Which will crush the Repugs in 2022.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [5] Bleyd wrote:


    Liz,
    A fixed national minimum wage simply doesnt make sense for this country. There is far too much variance in cost of living from state to state. While a $15 minimum wage might make sense in some of the liberal bastions like California or New York, it really would be excessive for many Republican states.

    Au contraire: If Texas employees get a raise to $15 they'll just go out and SPEND it. Which boosts demand. And THENCE employs more people. Rince and repeat.

    If our Federal minimum wage had simply kept up with inflation since 1969 it'd be $26 an hour today. So don't be shorting out our Brothers & Sisters in Texas.

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Bleyd [1] -

    Hang in there. It's frightening to revert to like the early 20th century, that's for sure. We had a power pole go out on us a few years back, and we were without power for over 72 hrs. Taught us the lessons of how interdependent modern life is, and how reliant upon easy access to electricity it all was...

    LizM [6] -

    A $15 minimum wage in New York or California would, I suspect, be far too low!

    You are right. And not just in CA an NY. If the 1960s minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it'd be over $20 an hour now... and [3] this is a red herring, of course -- all the plans have stair-stepped up increases over like 4 or 5 years... it won't happen all at once...

    MtnCaddy [8] -

    Excellent point. The more the GQP fights, the more room Biden has to maneuver...

    :-)

    -CW

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [6]

    No there are not good arguments on both sides. Repug lies have forever claimed that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs. It never has and it never will.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Oh! Glad to know this mic is on, CW!

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    You are 100% right, no one will give a fuck about the filibuster once they get some ACTION. Like, $1,400 worth of action. And a vax. And schools safely opening.

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    If he is successful at returning life to even 70 or 80 percent of the old normal by the time the year ends, the public is going to be so relieved and so appreciative that the rest of what Biden wants to do will get a lot easier.

    The thing of it is, much of what Biden wants to accomplish is popular with the American public:

    Minimum wage $15? check.

    Tax the rich more? Check

    Address climate change? Check. And so on and so forth. Repugs will scream to the ends of the Earth that, "OMG it's Socialism" but I guess that means 60 to 70% of us are Socialists.

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Dept. of **Possible Topic for When Things Get Slow**

    ...as you hoped for in this column.

    Q: Why are we supporting Saudi Arabia rather than Iran in this neverending Suni-Shia Islamic Civil War?

    Think about it. Iran had a Democracy back in the 1950s. You know, before our CIA instigated coup overthrew Mosaddegh and left them to the Shah and SAVAK. So we owe them.

    Meanwhile we have the Wahabi-infected Saudis, who provided most of the 9-11 hijackers and have a problem with their women, like, driving. So screw them.

    Comment, CW?

  16. [16] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    What a great goal to shoot for- a return to normalcy.

    The same normalcy that gave us Trump and left us unprepared for the pandemic.

    The same normalcy where solutions that might have worked 30 or 40 years ago in that economy like the 15 dollar minimum wage are offered instead of the solutions we need today like a BMI.

    Or tweeking the healthcare insurance market that is designed to deliver profits instead of healthcare instead of for medicare for all or even medicare for all with a private option for those that want private insurance because they don't want insurance from the government.

    The normalcy of the party line moosepoop has never left here. A deep dive article on earmarks is not inside baseball wonky stuff.

    It is the pretend inside baseball wonky stuff to make people think they are knowlegable about the inside
    baseball wonky stuff so they won't think about real inside baseball wonky stuff.

    You have a choice every day what to write about.

    The pandemic has knocked us off the normalcy that had us on the road to oblivion giving us an opportunity to get on the right track and you choose to write about the best way to climb the hill to get us back on the road to oblivion.

    Here's some new subjects to write about (at least for you)- the Deathocratic/Republikiller partnership working together for the big money interests.

    And how citizens can work together to use the basic tools of democracy to get the big money out of politics using One Demand.

    Some REAL inside baseball wonky stuff that can help lead us away from the road to oblivion you are so anxious to return to.

    Wake up. Wise up. Rise up.
    Get Real.
    Get Credible.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don Q [46]

    OMTGAWD There's more pure wisdom in that post than in all the other post I've bothered to read in 3 yrs or so of forays into the land of Weigantia, COMBINED!!

    Unfortunately, it represents far more wishful thinking/idealism than it does realism.

  18. [18] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Oops, make that reference read [16] rather than [46]

  19. [19] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The Former Trump Plaza Casino on Atlantic City Boardwalk was imploded this morning.

    https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/trump-plaza-casino-implosion-atlantic-city/2707574/

  20. [20] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CRS-17

    So why are you frequenting a column that is, according to you, dumber than Harris? That seems like an incredible waste of your valuable time.

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:

    2/17/2021: "Rush to Judgement"

  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    For all the damage Fat Bastard Rush did to our country I'm sure he didn't believe in the existence of hell. He better hope the Christians are wrong about that.

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Stig [20]

    Hmmm, don't really recall ever having said that "dumber than Harris" thing, and I'd question your characterization of my participation level as "frequenting'.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    My mother always says to say something good about the dead.

    Rush Limbaugh is dead. Good.

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