Opinion | Will We Get the Coronavirus Relief We Need From Congress? – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“If we can’t get a Covid-19 relief package through Congress in the next week or two, we’re sunk. It means we have a legislative branch so ideologically divided it can’t address even our most glaring problems. It means we have representatives so lacking in the willingness and ability to compromise that minimally competent government will be impossible, even under a President Joe Biden.

The problems a basic relief measure would address couldn’t be more obvious. Under current law, up to 12 million Americans could lose their jobless benefits by year’s end — a wretched Christmastime for millions of families, which could spawn a wave of depression, morbidity, family breakdown and suicide.

Millions of people could be evicted from their homes. Thousands more businesses may close during the long winter months before a vaccine is widely available. These are not failing, unproductive businesses. These are good, strong businesses that would have provided jobs and opportunity for millions of Americans for decades if they hadn’t been hit by the pandemic.

Wendy Edelberg of the Hamilton Project calculates that if nothing passes, the U.S. economy will be $1 trillion smaller in 2021 and $500 billion smaller in 2022.

The means to prevent this suffering are also glaringly obvious. We did it less than a year ago with the CARES Act. All we have to do is pass a version of what we did before. How hard can this possibly be?

The $2 trillion CARES Act was one of the most successful pieces of legislation of modern times. Because of the lockdowns, U.S. economic output contracted by a horrific 9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the first quarter. But because of the CARES Act, disposable household incomes increased by 10 percent. The personal savings rate increased by 34 percent in April.

I don’t love big government, but government is supposed to step up in a crisis, and with the CARES Act, it did.

Since summer, as the economy has deteriorated, Congress has been gridlocked on how to pass a supplemental relief package. At times Nancy Pelosi has been rigidly uncompromising, as if not wanting to hand Donald Trump a victory. But the core problem is that Republicans have applied a dogmatically ideological approach to a situation in which it is not germane and is in fact ruthlessly destructive.

Some Republicans act as if this is a normal recession and the legislation in front of them is a conventional Keynesian stimulus bill. But this is not a normal recession. It’s a natural disaster. The proposals on offer are not conventional stimulus. They are measures to defend our national economic infrastructure from that disaster over the next five brutal months.”

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind (second half) – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . . .  People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.

People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime. The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.”   -30-

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Dan Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

“In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?

Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. I mostly reject this view. Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?

My analysis begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge.

This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.”

Over the past decades the information age has created a lot more people who make their living working with ideas, who are professional members of this epistemic process. The information economy has increasingly rewarded them with money and status. It has increasingly concentrated them in ever more prosperous metro areas.

While these cities have been prospering, places where fewer people have college degrees have been spiraling down: flatter incomes, decimated families, dissolved communities. In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives.

People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.”

. . . .

Opinion | Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elinor Carucci/Edwynn Houk Gallery

“After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself:

Approach with awe. C.S. Lewis once wrote that if you’d never met a human and suddenly encountered one, you’d be inclined to worship this creature. Every human being is a miracle, and your superior in some way. The people who have great conversations walk into the room expecting to be delighted by you and make you feel the beam of their affection and respect. Lady Randolph Churchill once said that when sitting next to the statesman William Gladstone she thought him the cleverest person in England, but when she sat next to Benjamin Disraeli she thought she was the cleverest person in England.

Ask elevating questions. All of us have developed a way of being that is our technique for getting through each day. But some questions, startling as they seem at first, compel us to see ourselves from a higher vantage: What crossroads are you at? What commitments have you made that you no longer believe in? Who do you feel most grateful to have in your life? What problem did you use to have but now have licked? In what ways are you sliding backward? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Ask open-ended questions. Many of us have a horrible tendency to ask questions that imply judgment: Where did you go to school? Or we ask yes/no questions: Did you have a good day? Which basically shut off interesting answers. Better questions start with “What was it like. …” or “Tell me about a time. …” or “How did you manage to cope while your wedding was postponed for a year?”

Make them authors, not witnesses. The important part of people’s lives is not what happened to them, but how they experienced what happened to them. So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events. They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it, so that, say, an event that was very hard to live through is now very satisfying to remember.

Treat attention as all or nothing. Of course, we all have divided attention. In “You’re Not Listening,” Kate Murphy writes that introverts have more divided attention than others while in conversation because there’s so much busyness going on in their own heads. But in conversation it’s best to act as if attention had an on/off switch with no dimmer. Total focus. I have a friend who listens to conversations the way congregants listen to sermons in charismatic churches — with amens, and approbations. The effect is magnetic.

Don’t fear the pause. Most of us stop listening to a comment about halfway through so we can be ready with a response. In Japan, Murphy writes, businesspeople are more likely to hear the whole comment and then pause, sometimes eight seconds, before responding, which is twice as long a silence as American businesspeople conventionally tolerate.

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Keep the gem statement front and center. In the midst of many difficult conversations, there is what the mediator Adar Cohen calls the gem statement. This is the comment that keeps the relationship together: “Even when we can’t agree on Dad’s medical care, I’ve never doubted your good intentions. I know you want the best for him.” If you can both seize that gem statement it may point to a solution.

Find the disagreement under the disagreement. In the Talmudic tradition when two people disagree about something, it’s because there is some deeper philosophical or moral disagreement undergirding it. Conversation then becomes a shared process of trying to dig down to the underlying disagreement and then the underlying disagreement below that. There is no end. Conflict creates cooperative effort. As neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes, “Being curious about your friend’s experience is more important than being right.”

The midwife model. Sometimes people talk to solve a person’s problem. The Rev. Margaret Guenther wrote that a good conversationalist in these cases is like a midwife, helping the other person give birth to her own child. That means spending a lot of time patiently listening to the other person teach herself through her narration, bringing forth her unthought thoughts, sitting with an issue as it slowly changes under the pressure of joint attention. “To influence actions,” neuroscientist Tali Sharot writes, “you need to give people a sense of control.”

Deeper conversations help people become explicable to each other and themselves. You can’t really know yourself until you know how you express yourself and find yourself in another’s eyes. Deeper conversation builds trust, the oxygen of society, exactly what we’re missing right now.

“Humans need to be heard before they will listen,” Amanda Ripley writes.

It’s been a rough year for all that, but this Thanksgiving, the possibility of deep talk is still out there, even over Zoom.” -30-

Opinion | Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

He’s also running in the middle of a political and cultural civil war. Eighty-two percent of Biden voters believe that “Donald Trump would like to gradually transform our country into a dictatorship,” according to that I.A.S.C. study. Ninety percent of Trump voters believe that the Democrats want to gradually turn America into a socialist country. According to a survey conducted by Braver Angels, a group that sponsors bipartisan conversations, 70 percent of Americans believe that if the “wrong” candidate wins, “America will not recover.”

Biden is campaigning in a land filled with fear, hatred and apocalyptic thinking. It would be so easy for him to reflect that fear and hate back to voters. That’s what Trump does.

But Biden is not doing that. Never in my life have I seen a candidate so confidently avoid wedge issues. Biden is instead running on the conviction that, despite it all, Americans deeply love their country, and viscerally long for its unity. He’s running with the knowledge that when you ask America about the greatest threats to our future, “political polarization and divisiveness” comes out No. 1.

It’s easy to say you’re for healing division. But here’s what Biden has actually done:

He’s de-ideologized this election. He’s made the campaign mostly about dealing with Covid-19. That’s a practical problem, not an ideological one. Conservatives and moderates don’t have to renounce their whole philosophy to vote for him. They can just say they’re voting for the person who can take care of this.

He’s separated politics from the culture war. Over the past generation, culture war issues have increasingly swallowed our politics. Trump has put this process into overdrive. He barely talks about policies. Instead, his every subject is really about why “our” identity group is better than “their” identity group.

So now the positions people take — on issues ranging from climate change to immigration — are determined by whether they see themselves as part of the rural white Christian conservative army or part of the urban multicultural secular progressive army. Policies are no longer debated discretely; they are just battles in one big, existential fight over who we are.

But Biden goes back to the New Deal, to an era of policymaking when there really wasn’t a polarized culture war. He sidesteps the Kulturkampf issues — which statues to take down — to simply talk about helping the middle class.

Biden has scrambled the upscale/downscale dynamic. The most important fissure in our politics is education levels. The Democratic Party’s greatest long-term challenge is that it might become the party of the highly credentialed college-educated class and let some future Republican rally a multiracial working-class coalition. Even Trump is now making surprising gains among Latino and Black men.

Biden has avoided all the little microaggressions that cultural elites use to show they are morally superior. Wokeness, for example, is partly about fighting oppression, but it’s also become a status symbol. It’s showing people that you are so intellectually evolved that you can use words like intersectionality, decolonizing and cultural appropriation. Political correctness is not just a means for the less privileged to set standards of behavior; it is also sometimes the way people with cultural power push others around.

Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton, Biden has a worldview and a manner that is both educated class and working class and defuses the divide.

Biden has avoided the stupid binaries about race. Donald Trump went to Mount Rushmore and made a speech essentially saying you can either believe in systemic racism or you can love America. Biden went to Gettysburg and argued that you can “honestly face systemic racism” and love America. He argued that you can believe in fighting racism and believe in law and order. His worldview is based on universal categories — the things we share — not identitarian ones — the ways we supposedly can’t understand each other across difference.

He’s done a good job reaching out to white evangelicals. Right now, many of them think he’s a godless socialist who will usher in a reign of anti-religious terror. In his campaign he’s done a pretty good job reaching out to those voters. His campaign has run ads on Christian radio and reached out aggressively to evangelical leaders. If he can allay their cultural fears (by making it clear he will not shut down Christian charitable groups) and win them over with working-class economic policies, he can create a long-term governing majority.

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Seventy percent of Americans in that Braver Angels survey say America is facing permanent harm, but 70 percent also say the most important job after the election is to heal our enmity, to do the hard job of working with people whose views we find completely objectionable. This unity impulse is powerful in the populace, but it is deeply hidden.

Joe Biden knew it was there.

Opinion | Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.”

Opinion | How Faith Shapes My Politics – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

“Over the past few decades, whenever a Republican president puts up an important judicial nominee — especially a Catholic one — we go through the same routine. Some Democrat accuses the nominee of imposing her religious views on the law.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Senator Dianne Feinstein notoriously told Amy Coney Barrett in a 2017 confirmation hearing. Then Republicans accuse Democrats of being religious bigots. Then the nominee testifies that her personal opinions or religious faith will have absolutely no bearing on her legal judgments.

This unconvincing routine gets us no closer to understanding two important questions: How does faith influence a person’s political views? How should we look at religiously devout people in public life?

To the extent that I have answers to these questions it’s through my own unusual experience. I came to faith in middle age after I’d been in public life for a while. I would say that coming to faith changed everything and yet didn’t alter my political opinions all that much. That’s because assenting to a religion is not like choosing to be a Republican or a Democrat. It happens on a different level of consciousness.”

David Lindsay: The comments section is closed, but full of push back. I compliment David Brooks for his courage and insight in writing such an honest and thoughtful piece. I have a running disagreement with Mr. Brooks, for being too anthropocentric.

I am a Christian and a Pagan. The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes pagan as:

“Definition of pagan

1HEATHEN sense 1  especially a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)
2one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods an irreligious or hedonistic person
3NEO-PAGAN   witches, druids, goddess worshippers, and other pagans in America today— Alice Dowd”
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I’ve rediscovered Christianity through the writing of Richard Rohr in his book “Eager to Love,”  where he introduced me to the religious beliefs of Saint Francis of Assisi and his partner Saint Clair. Rohr goes on to describe how disciples of these two have added to their world view over the centuries.
The main point is that these Christians believed all life was sacred, not just human life, and they were hard core Christian environmentalists. Humans who believe they are above all other species and other forms of life are in the process now of destroying the planet with overpopulation and pollution.

Opinion | When a Heart Is Empty – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . .  In his memoir, Carrère bears witness to the days of suffering and endurance that followed the wave. When Philippe tells his daughter and son-in-law about the death of their child, Juliette’s mother, Delphine, screams. Her husband thought, “I can no longer do anything for my daughter, so I will save my wife.”

Carrère had lamented that he had always been unable to love, but in those horrific days he and his girlfriend stayed with the family, searched among the corpses, enveloped the family with compassion and practical care. He observes how at mealtime Delphine’s hand shakes as she brings a forkful of curried rice to her lips

He is with Delphine when they come across a woman, Ruth, who was on her honeymoon and has lost track of her husband, Tom. For two days she sat outside the hospital, not eating or sleeping, convinced that if she nodded off Tom would never emerge alive from wherever he was.

“Her determination is frightening,” Carrère writes. “You can sense that she’s quite close to passing to the other side, into catatonia, living death, and Delphine and I understand that our role is to prevent this.”

Carrère’s memoir describes how a self-absorbed man is altered in crisis and develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others. The book is called “Lives Other Than My Own.”

I thought of that book this week because the sensitive perceptiveness Carrère displays is the opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, “Rage.”

Goldberg says Trump told people that he sees the war dead as “suckers” and “losers.” Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives — their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay Covid-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place.

This is not an intellectual stupidity. I imagine Trump’s I.Q. is fine. It is a moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people. It’s a stupidity that in almost pure clinical form, flows out of his inability to feel, a stupidity of the heart.

Opinion | The Future of American Liberalism – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“The United States just endured its worst economic quarter in recorded history. If this trend had continued for an entire year, American economic output would have been down by about a third.

So I’m hoping Joe Biden and his team are reading up on Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The New Dealers succeeded in a moment like this. Their experience offers some powerful lessons for Biden as he campaigns and if he wins:

Economic and health calamities are experienced by most people as if they were natural disasters and complete societal breakdowns. People feel intense waves of fear about the future. They want a leader, like F.D.R., who demonstrates optimistic fearlessness.

They want one who, once in office, produces an intense burst of activity that is both new but also offers people security and safety. During the New Deal, Social Security gave seniors secure retirements. The Works Progress Administration gave 8.5 million Americans secure jobs.

Biden’s “Build Back Better” slogan is a perfect encapsulation of this mood of simultaneously longing for the safety of the past while moving to a brighter future.

Opinion | President Biden’s First Day – by David Brooks – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

This lovely endorsement of Joe Biden, by the conservative Republican writer David Brooks, makes a lovely end note to a week of exciting news for environmentalist like myself, tired of Trump’s degredations. See the NYT articles about what Nate Cohn has to say on the polls. (Politics) And there is the video on the Lincoln Project on Youtube, with die hard GOP conservatives organizing to topple Donald and his enablers in the senate, for trampling on the US Constitution and our allies. “Jennifer Horn Of The Lincoln Project On The Group’s Anti-Trump Coronavirus Ad.” Also in Politics. Last Sunday, Nicholas Kristof wrote a lovely piece on hope, and how from great decline, sometime comes renaissance. I’ve taken the liberty to post the entire Brooks essay, for the non subscribers.
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“The first thing you’ll notice is the quiet. If Joe Biden wins this thing, there will be no disgraceful presidential tweets and no furious cable segments reacting to them on Inauguration Day.

Donald Trump himself may fume, but hated and alone. The opportunists who make up his administration will abandon him. Republicans will pretend they never heard his name. Republican politicians are not going to hang around a guy they privately hate and who publicly destroyed their majority.

But there will be a larger quiet, too. For two decades American politics has centered on a bitter culture war between the white working-class heartland and university-bred coastal elites.

Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were all emblems of this university class, and it was easy for the Republican media wing to gin up resentment against them. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton among the white working class by a crushing 28 points.

But Biden is not an emblem of this coastal elite. His sensibility was nurtured by his working-class family during the postwar industrial boom of the 1950s and 1960s. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and missed the late 1960s culture war that divided a generation.

It’s very hard for conservatives to demonize Biden because he comes from the sort of background that Trumpian conservatives celebrate. He elides all the culture war divides. He doesn’t act superior to the “deplorables,” because his family taught him to despise status games of all sorts.

It will become immediately clear that in a Biden era politics will shrink back down to normal size. It will be about government programs, not epic wars about why my sort of people are morally superior to your sort of people. In the Trump era a lot of people who don’t care about government got manic about politics.

It will also become immediately clear that in a highly ideological age, America will be led by a man who is not ideological.

This week a few of us columnist types spoke with Biden about his economic plans. His most telling sentence was, “I’ve kind of tried to shed the labels and focus on the nuts and bolts of this.”

I asked him to describe the big forces that have flattened working-class wages over the past decades. Other people would have spun grand theories about broken capitalism or the rise of the corporate oligarchy. But Biden pointed to two institutional failures — the way Republicans have decentralized power and broken Washington and the way Wall Street forces business leaders to focus obsessively on the short term.

Biden’s worldview seems to come mainly from lived experience, not a manifesto somewhere. He has lived experience of a time when there were good manufacturing jobs, when unions protected workers, when the less affluent had a ladder to climb.

His economic agenda, promoted under the slogan “Build Back Better,” is about that, not some vast effort to remake capitalism or build a Nordic-style welfare system. The agenda is more New Deal than New Left.

In the two speeches he has delivered so far there are constant references to our manufacturing base — infrastructure, steelworkers, engineers, ironworkers, welders, 500,000 charging stations for electric cars. “When I think of climate change, the word I think of is jobs,” he declared.

The agenda pushes enormous resources toward two groups: first, African-Americans, who have been pummeled by deindustrialization for decades; and second, white working-class Trump voters. This looks like an attempt to rebuild the New Deal coalition and win back the white working class who should be a core of the Democratic base. Biden’s populist “Buy American” messaging is just icing on that cake.

Can he pull off this manufacturing revival and this political realignment?

I’ll be curious to see if it’s possible to create millions of manufacturing jobs — or if technology means there’s only a need for relatively few workers. I’ll be curious to see if he can tamp down the Democratic media and activist wings, with their penchant for wildly unpopular moral gestures like “defund the police” and “decriminalize the border.”

I wonder if the economic crisis will obviate all this. With mass unemployment the need will be to get money out the door immediately on Day 1. Launching infrastructure projects and clean energy industries takes a lot of time.

But I do know that if he can win a chunk of the white working class (44 percent of the electorate, according to Ruy Teixeira), he will realign American politics. I also know that from that first day the Biden agenda will put the surviving Republicans in Congress in an awful bind. Do they cooperate and work with Biden’s infrastructure and manufacturing plans? If they oppose him they give him a clear shot to win their voters while also inviting him to end the filibuster.

Everybody says Biden is a moderate, and in intellectual and temperamental terms that is true. But he has found a way to craft an agenda that could reshape the American economy and the landscape of American politics in fundamental ways.

Joe Biden may turn out to be what radical centrism looks like.”  -30-