She recommends pushing a slate of left-wing priorities.
by Karl Rove, The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2022
I hereby repudiate last week’s column—not just some of what I wrote, but every sentence, phrase and word.
I’m not abandoning my views because of the gentle ribbing I took from friends and readers that I gave aid and comfort to Democrats by suggesting their party play down the Biden-Harris-Pelosi-Schumer agenda and instead localize as many contests as possible.
No, I renounce what I wrote last week because one of America’s great political minds—someone perfectly in sync with the attitudes of the nation, especially its rural regions—has eloquently insisted that the road to a Democratic victory in November lies in the Democrats framing the fall election as a referendum on the party’s national agenda.
My views were changed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s explanation in last Sunday’s New York Times of how her party can turn the midterms into a historic victory. She argued that to “convince voters we will deliver meaningful change,” Democrats must pass their entire agenda—and if Republicans oppose those policies, “force them to take those votes in plain view.”
Ms. Warren said her party should start with a budget-reconciliation deal that raises taxes on businesses so they finally “pay their share to fund vital investments in combating climate change and lowering costs for families.” The senator doesn’t say how to corral 50 Senate Democrats and 216 of the 221 House Democrats to pass such a package—other analysts may quibble that the votes simply aren’t there—but no matter.
The senator lists a variety of progressive policies Congress would have to vote on. These include price controls aimed at “stopping companies from jacking up prices” and stopping oil and gas companies from making “gobs of money off this energy crisis.” America’s 735 billionaires must “pay more in taxes” because the “clean energy, affordable care, and universal pre-K” initiatives Ms. Warren wants will require trillions in new spending. She doesn’t say where the votes are for all this or how the fiscal math works.
Congressional approval isn’t necessary for all the senator’s suggestions. Ms. Warren also demands President Biden take executive action, beginning by canceling some student debt. I was under the impression that erasing any of the $1.75 trillion owed the U.S. Treasury would legally require legislative action, but Ms. Warren asserted it is “an action the president could take entirely on his own.” She doesn’t touch on how this giant gift to some college grads will fly with everyone who paid back student debt or didn’t incur any.
The senator also fails to explain how current polling lines up with her complaint that Republican senators “blocked much of [Democrats’] promised progress.” Her party’s star bill—Build Back Better, the biggest expansion of the federal government since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—likely contributed to declining Democratic popularity with swing voters. The Senate vote was “in plain view,” but political strategists on both sides of the aisle still predict a sweeping GOP victory in the midterms.
If Ms. Warren doesn’t sway you, there’s Vice President Kamala Harris’s simplistic counsel at a recent New York fundraiser Democrats must “remind people . . . what’s at stake and why elections matter and what we stand for.” Democrats “have to be able to talk with them, understanding where people are right now.” I would’ve thought the president’s 41% approval rating or the polls showing 65% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track were useful ways to “understand where people are.”
Finally, there’s the tactical brilliance of the president, who the Politico Playbook reported Tuesday will shortly begin attacking Republicans “for not having a plan to bring down inflation.” The idea seems to be that this will deflect criticism from Mr. Biden and put responsibility where few believe it should be—on the congressional minority. The White House doesn’t seem to understand that Republicans have a plan to curb inflation by stopping the government’s aggressive spending that is piling up debt.
After hearing the wisdom of Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, and unnamed White House aides, I persist in my hope that Democrats nationalize the heck out of the midterms. I pray that they force votes on Ms. Warren’s whole progressive shebang, causing deeper rifts inside the Democratic Party, demonstrating their inability to govern, and painting a big target on every Democratic candidate in a swing district or state. My dearest dream is that Mr. Biden rams through executive orders that exceed his authority and get taken down by the courts, while Democrats attack the GOP for not having a plan to fight inflation. Because if they do all this, the anticipated Republican midterm victory will turn into a Republican tsunami.
Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).