In the US, Biden’s legacy is on the line
United States (US) president Joe Biden has two flagship initiatives — a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, with a focus on new roads, bridges and broadband connectivity, among other hard asset creation and maintenance plans; and a welfare bill, with a focus on health care, elderly and child care, social safety and climate crisis. The first is aimed at creating jobs, the second is aimed at both improving the quality of everyday American life and preparing the country for the future. The first has bipartisan support (it has already been passed in the Senate), but is higher up in the priority list of centrist Democrats. The second has the support of only the Democrats, but is higher up in the priority list of progressive Democrats. The centrist camp is keen to get the infra bill through, and has objections to provisions of the welfare and climate bill; the progressive camp has made the passage of the first bill contingent on the passage of the second bill.
Mr Biden believes that coupled with his exit from Afghanistan, a strong domestic reform agenda will help counter the working class disenchantment with Washington and prevent the return of the Republicans in next year’s mid-term polls for the Congress, and of Donald Trump (or a leader representing Trump’s worldview) in 2024. He has, more or less, accepted the position of the progressive camp — and made a renewed push last week for the passage of both bills.
This game of brinkmanship within the Democrats has a certain relevance for the rest of the world. Besides showing the stark divisions in the US, and the power of the progressive camp in determining Mr Biden’s agenda, success or failure on the bills can well determine the composition of the next Congress and nature of the next presidency in the US. Mr Biden’s biggest battle clearly is at home.