On the road again: A victory lap for the future

Help is here.

The American Rescue Plan is so popular that even Congressional Republicans, who in both houses of Congress voted unanimously against it, are taking credit for it. The plan - now simplified for the purposes of public messaging to "shots in arms and money in pockets" - regularly meets with approval from 70-75% of the public, and over 60% approve of President Biden's performance in office. The President is well on his way to putting 100 million vaccine shots in the arms of Americans and getting 100 million direct payment checks to American bank accounts by this coming weekend.

But this White House is taking nothing for granted. Over the next three weeks, President Biden, Vice President Harris, the First Lady, and the Second Gentleman are fanning out across the country to inform Americans of what they have just delivered and to keep it front of mind for the American people. The White House has quickly pivoted its message from a push to pass the legislation - dubbed "help is on the way" - to a coordinated public campaign to familiarize Americans with what's in it for them, adopting the phrase #HelpIsHere.

The publicity blitz began even before the bill was signed into law. Once the COVID stimulus bill passed Congress and was headed for the President's signature, Biden released a statement highlighting the bills most popular features and Democratic leaders held a triumphant bill engrossing ceremony doing the same.

President Biden signed the bill into law a day ahead of schedule and with huge historical significance, on his 50th day in office and a year to the day and in stark contrast from the time Donald Trump first addressed the nation on the coronavirus and sought to deliberately downplay its risks. President Biden, drawing both strategic and optical contrast, read aloud the exact number of Americans killed by COVID in a solemn moment during his primetime address from the White House after signing the bill on Thursday, March 11.

On Friday, the President, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared with Democratic leaders in the Rose Garden to celebrate the stimulus just as direct payments provided in the law begun to hit Americans' bank accounts, earning Biden the endearing social media nickname 'Moneybagg Joe' from young people.

And this week, the victory lap began in earnest starting with visits on Monday by VP Harris to Las Vegas and by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to New Jersey to draw attention to how working class Americans can access the massive amounts of relief the bill has for them. The President also spoke from the White House on Monday.

Today, the President is in Pennsylvania, joining the full court press kicked off by Harris and Dr. Biden on Monday - with special attention to purple and red(ish) states. After a week of crisscrossing the country, Biden and Harris will meet up in Georgia on Friday.

The blitz will continue over the next three weeks, and it will not just be the first and second families barnstorming the country. Other administration officials and Democratic leaders will also be fanning out, and a lot of them will be engaging local media, following, one assumes, on the footsteps of Kamala Harris.

In a two-fer that will serve to highlight the Biden plan's bipartisan appeal and corner Washington Republicans as out-of-touch with their own constituents, the #HelpIsHere tour will highlight the support to state and local Republican officials because of the help it brings to their communities.

Knowing what a disaster their opposition to this legislation can turn out to be with voters, Republicans are already grumbling, trying to minimize the Democrats' accomplishment, and desperately trying to turn people's attention elsewhere (like Dr. Seuss). But Biden, who is the most message-disciplined president of the modern era, is ignoring all that and moving forward.

Yes, this is a victory lap. And it's important that Democrats take this victory lap.

Over and over again, Democrats have paid a high political price for doing the right thing and rescuing the country from the verge of disasters Republicans have left. Democrats lost control of Congress after they helped President Clinton pass a pro-growth economic agenda that included raising taxes on the rich and on corporations to rescue the economy from a tailspin recession. As it turned out, that package ended up balancing the federal budget in the late 90s, but at the time, it and an ultimately unsuccessful push for health care reform cost the Democrats control of Congress in 1994, and they would not regain both Houses until the midst of a Republican foreign policy and ethics scandals 12 years later.

History repeated itself in 2010 when, after helping President Obama rescue the economy from the Great Recession through multiple stimulus bills and passing historic health care reform, Democrats once again lost the House for doing morally right but politically difficult things.

Make no mistake. Democrats will continue to do the right things, even when political costs are astronomical, because liberals are unique in our belief that power is to be used to help people, not in order to multiply itself. And to be fair, their attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act has now haunted the Republicans in two consecutive national elections.

But good contemporary politics and good immediate policy rarely coincide for a liberal in American politics. But when they do - as they do right now perhaps for the first time since LBJ's Great Society - it is important to have a team in place that can capitalize on it. Joe Biden's team is wasting no time doing just that.

They're doing it to make sure people know what benefits they are getting because if this bill and that those people can access those benefits. They're doing it because the benefits are immediate and tangible to nearly every American, and they want Americans to know exactly who in Washington has their back.

But just as importantly - and perhaps moreso - they're doing to ride a wave of popularity to increase their political capital. Why? Because they'll need the capital and the support of the American people on the next big investment: in the American infrastructure.

Democrats have already said that in the next big legislation, they will focus on infrastructure: from physical infrastructure of roads and bridges to technology infrastructure for better schools, rural broadband, and more. Speaker Pelosi has directed Democratic committee chairs to begin working with their Republican counterparts on a bold infrastructure package.

Unlike the American Rescue Plan, though, the upcoming infrastructure bill may not have to be entirely deficit-financed. President Biden has signaled that he is gearing up to raise taxes for the ultra-wealthy and large, profitable corporations in order to pay for the next generation of America's physical and information superhighways. Republicans are sure to pan any such bill as an indiscriminate tax hike, and given the slim margins Democrats have in Congress, the president is once again likely to need almost all, if not all, of the Democrats to get a passed. That includes Democrats from conservative states and districts particularly vulnerable to right wing rhetoric, especially in a non-presidential election year, which 2022 will be.

Refuting that false narrative will require expendable political capital, capital that must be amassed right now. That means shoring up public trust and confidence in the President and his Democratic allies right now, when they can, on the back of wildly popular direct-to-families relief enacted by a highly popular president. It also means using the unanimous Washington Republican opposition to COVID relief to sear into the minds of the American people that the national GOP isn't interested in helping them.

Ultimately, trust in this President and confidence in his ability to resurrect American greatness will, to a great extent, determine what other big things Democrats are able to do and how big. And that is what this victory lap is about.

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