President Biden Has Governed from the Radical Left | Opinion

President Joe Biden immodestly claims he has accomplished more in his first year than his predecessors. He does admit his failures, namely his inability to cause Republicans to have an "epiphany" and endorse his expansive climate, spending and immigration proposals. He sounds more like a college applicant who claims his greatest shortcoming is that he works too hard than the leader of the free world. He claims Republican opposition is worse than what former president Barack Obama faced. Democrats used to portray conservative opposition to Mr. Obama's agenda as racist, but it's unlikely they'll view opposition to policies from the old, straight, white man currently in the White House as progress towards a colorblind society.

After campaigning as a moderate and promising to bring normalcy and bipartisanship back to Washington, Mr. Biden has governed from the far left. He now blames Republicans for not endorsing Bernie Sanders-style policies simply because Mr. Biden is the one offering them. When 10 moderate Republican senators offered to approve over $600 billion in additional COVID assistance, including funding for vaccines, direct payments and enhanced unemployment benefits, Mr. Biden refused to engage with them and chose instead to use a partisan reconciliation process to push through a $1.9 trillion bill. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Democrats had learned their lesson from the Obama years, apparently thinking the former president's mistake was that he borrowed and spent too little, too slowly.

At least Mr. Biden has been bipartisan in his obstinacy, refusing to negotiate with moderate Democrats as well as Republicans. When Sen. Joe Manchin opposed Mr. Biden's original Build Back Better legislation for its historic $3.5 trillion size and some of its more radical elements, the administration responded by using gimmicks to claim it had cut the price tag in half. Rather than eliminating or reducing programs, Mr. Biden assured budget scorekeepers that the programs were temporary while promising his base they were not. Mr. Biden expected Sen. Manchin to put party over principle and took his eventual capitulation for granted. When Sen. Manchin refused to be bullied into crossing lines he had consistently and publicly articulated for months, Democrats complained it was "undemocratic" for a single senator to stop them from doing what they wanted. They conveniently ignored the 50 other senators standing with Manchin.

Democrats conflate opposition to their policies with opposition to democracy itself. Though Democrats have chosen to define themselves in contrast to what they describe as former president Donald Trump's excesses, Mr. Biden has been extreme in both substance and tone. He calls those who support voting laws more radical than what existed prior to COVID—and what exists in his home state of Delaware—racists. He calls those who support the same filibuster Democrats championed under Mr. Trump—and recently used in opposition to Sen. Ted Cruz's bipartisan Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill—enemies of democracy.

Joe Biden
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: U.S. President Joe Biden listens as Vice president Kamala Harris (L) speaks during an event at the White House with members of the National Governors Association on January 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. The National Governors Association concludes its three day winter meeting today. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Mr. Biden shares President Obama's sense of self-importance. He recently described Jan. 6 as one of those "moments so stark that they divide all that came before them from everything that followed" to justify his party's legislation to shift the power to regulate elections from the states to the federal government. He does not allow consistency to get in the way of a good rhetorical flourish. Apparently, it is ok when Stacey Abrams refuses to concede an election loss, or when Mr. Biden himself delegitimizes the next election, or when state Democrats restrict early voting and Senate Democrats try to eliminate the filibuster. Those actions are only threats to democracy when undertaken by Republicans.

Like Charlie Brown hoping Lucy won't move the football yet again, moderate Republicans continue trying to compromise with Mr. Biden. They previously voted for his record-breaking $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and have offered support to reform the Electoral Count Act. Mr. Biden has only pushed for more expansive voting reforms that will likely benefit his party. These include overriding the preferences of state elected officials to require expanded early voting; absentee mail ballots available to all voters; drop boxes; restrictions on voter ID laws; voting rights for ex-felons; online, automatic and Election Day registration; limits on redistricting; more opportunities for election litigation and public funding for campaigns. Conservatives can argue against these policy details without being "on the side of" George Wallace, Bull Connor, Jefferson Davis or "voter suppression."

As Mr. Trump tapped into genuine working-class angst to win his campaign for the White House, Mr. Biden also tapped into the very real political weariness of everyday Americans. Many voters benefitted from Mr. Trump's tax and regulatory policies, and were happy to see someone finally fighting for them against the elites in both parties, but wanted politics to occupy a smaller role in their lives. They were tired of the name calling, polarization and constant fighting, and saw Mr. Biden as a transient placeholder who would not make big changes.

Ironically, the version of Biden that was promised on the campaign trail would be more popular and effective than the man currently in the White House. The former could have unified the country to overcome COVID and resume strong economic growth, pursued incremental bipartisan legislation on infrastructure and energy and led international allies to counter a rising China. He could have stood up to the radical progressives in his own party and negotiated with moderate Republicans. Perhaps he will try to revert to this path after voters reject his current trajectory in the midterm elections.

Mr. Biden promised to be the responsible adult in the room, but voters have noticed his bait and switch. His central campaign message was that he alone could unify the country. But if you take away his affability, you are left with little more than one more failed extreme agenda.

Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) was governor of Louisiana from 2008 to 2016, and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.