The Problem: “Nobody is Afraid of This White House”

December 20, 2021

Kurt Bardella in USAToday:

Democrats have a problem with fear and by that I mean, absolutely no one is afraid of them.

Last week began with the House of Representatives voting to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. You would think that the threat of criminal prosecution would provoke cooperation from someone like Meadows, who once championed strong congressional oversight, instead, he responded by going on Fox News.

A few days after the Meadows vote, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a stunning report revealing the extraordinary lengths to which the Trump administration went to undermine the initial response to COVID-19. Republicans ignored the report and continued their crusade against common-sense health mandates.

By the end of the week, on his Comedy Central show, Charlamagne tha God audaciously asked Vice President Kamala Harris, “who’s the real president in this country, is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden?”

On Sunday, Manchin may have effectively jettisoned Democrats’ top legislative priority, appearing on the bastion of facts and truth Fox News, to deliver the bombshell that he would not support moving ahead with the Build Back Better initiative. 

From Meadows to Manchin, absolutely nobody is afraid of this White House or of Democrats in general. Republicans on the other hand have taken the politics of fear and turned them into a Jedi-level art-form. Fear is their weapon of choice and they love nothing more than using it to bludgeon Democrats over and over and over again.

Axios’ Mike Allen reported that congressional Republicans led by Rep. Kevin McCarthy have already “begun mapping aggressive probes of the Biden administration if they win back the majority – including inquiries into the origins of COVID, a leak of IRS data about billionaires and accusations the NSA spied on Tucker Carlson.”

Republicans are poised for an investigative tsunami designed to paralyze the Biden administration and dominate news cycle after news cycle with hearings and outrageous, salacious accusations.

Republicans learned during the Obama years that the media will be their best partner in this effort as long as they put on a show day-in-and-day-out. For four consecutive election cycles, Republicans were able to hold on to their congressional majority by producing zero legislative accomplishments by still controlling the narrative with their oversight onslaught.

The idea of Rep. Jim Jordan as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee provokes fear in Democrats. Meanwhile, the specter of Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney as the current chairs of Judiciary and Oversight committees respectively scares absolutely nobody.

Manchin’s declaration should be a wake-up call to the White House and to Democrats in Congress. Absolutely nobody cares what polls say about how popular policy items are. Absolutely nobody is moved by think-tank talking points and good intentions. How Democrats and the White House respond to this moment will determine the trajectory of our country for the next generation. If things stay as they are, Republicans will win back Congress in 2022 and will finish off democracy as we know it.

The past year has been defined by larger-than-life items like infrastructure and Build Back Better.

To this day, most Americans have no idea what is actually in either of those historic pieces of legislation. That means Democrats ultimately aren’t going to get any credit for them. People respond to demonstrations of strength and certainty. Democrats need to start operating from a position of strength and they need to start putting Republicans on the defensive.

Instead of investing months on gigantic pieces of legislation that no one understands, break them up into easy-to-digest pieces that can be just as easily messaged. Pass an avalanche of bills that are common-sense solutions and play well on Main Street.

Meanwhile, instead of issuing reports, hold hearings. If people want to take the Fifth, make them do it on camera. Elevate your most gifted communicators like Eric Swalwell, Jaimie Raskin, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and sideline those who aren’t up for a ballroom brawl with the likes of Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert and Lauren Boebert.

Republicans are waiting in the wings to assume the reins of power and the moment they do, they intend to make life a living hell for President Joe Biden and Democrats. The GOP knows exactly what to do with power. Democrats at times, seem almost embarrassed to use it. Well, this is the moment. My advice to Democrats is assume you will lose everything in 2022. Knowing that, do what you need to do.

Don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t operate from a position of fear. Instead, put the fear in everyone else.

Kurt Bardella is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. He is an advisor to both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He is a former Senior Advisor to Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. Follow him @KurtBardella.

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