Throughout the long and drawn-out negotiations over Joe Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better Act, two senators have emerged as punching bags for Democrats anxious to get the bill passed: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The two moderates have been clear about their refusal to support the more ambitious items in the bill, and it’s brought them in for censure and even some online abuse from fellow Democrats, who believe that their cratering poll numbers need Build Back Better to help them survive the midterms.
And yet, Sinema and Manchin have hit on the very thing that could stop the Democrats’ hemorrhaging support. Specifically, the Democrats are suffering from an overly national approach, one that exacerbates regional tensions rather than respecting regional difference. And what they need to remain competitive is a healthy dose of regionalism—precisely the kind that Manchin and Sinema bring to the table.
Sinema and Manchin represent their states’ small towns, suburbs, and cities. And rather than overruling their constituents, they’ve listened to them. Which means they know that President Biden is political dogmeat in their states, thanks to a host of Administration screw ups: Afghanistan, the crisis at the border, the embrace of a far-Left cultural ideology and a diffidence when it comes to inflation.
How to combat the Administration’s unpopularity? For Democrats, understanding regional differences is critical. The places that are now tilting against Biden—the South, the Midwest, the Southwest—are also those that are gaining both in population and economic power. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ heavily-urbanized base has been losing its share of population for decades, and the process appears to be accelerating.
To win in the future, Democrats have to become more than a party of big cities and college towns. Unfortunately, from many top tier Dems, we’re seeing the opposite: politicians leaning in to the monoculture of big cities and rewarding the elite liberals who live in them.
Thus, the successful efforts by Pelosi’s backstage bill-writers to vastly expand write offs from local taxes, a gift to the ultra-rich who cluster in HIGH TAX blue metros. According to one analysis, the top 0.1 percent of earners would get an average tax cut of more than $150,000, while middle-income households would save about $37. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ refusal to fund the more lavish social programs pushed by the Left came along with a refusal to boost taxes on private equity, evidence that while Democrats pretend to dislike the ultra-rich, they welcome their campaign donations and ability to fund and expansive local welfare state. Better to tax farmers, energy companies and small business, who tend to support the wrong party.
Worse, the Democrats’ climate platform often seems more important to Democratic politicos than battling inequality. And this, too, will exacerbate regional tensions rather than honoring regional difference. Shutting down fossil fuels may seem logical in San Francisco or Brooklyn, the respective homes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, but anyone with a more regional view can immediately see that it will cause major job losses and drops in tax revenues in places like the Rockies, Alaska, Ohio, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. In Texas alone, as many as a million good-paying jobs could be lost. Overall, according to a Chamber of Commerce report, a full national ban would cost 14 million jobs, far more than the 8 million lost in the Great Recession.
All this as the Administration seeks relief on gas prices from OPEC. Higher energy prices also effect other industries, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation. The current industrial unraveling of Germany‘s once widely admired manufacturing economy due largely to high energy costs and inconsistent supply should concern us, particularly at a time when China, the world’s preeminent GHG emitter, is seeking dominance of all economic sectors.
Read the rest of this piece at Newsweek.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.