There’s conflicting news coming out of the White House today. Some reports say the president and his team are trying to figure out ways to sell the American Rescue Act, which was passed by Congress Wednesday, to the American people. Other reports say they feel they don’t need to sell it, because the covid relief package sells itself.
I’m guessing the latter is more applicable. We’ve been through this process five times before. Most people have received some kind of aid, in the form of unemployment benefits or cash or both, during this year of the covid. Most have gotten used to the practice of getting help from the government. Some may start expecting it. Joe Biden won’t have to sell the pending law too hard, because most people are already sold.
The president is set to give tonight a prime-time address during which he will mark the one-year anniversary of a pandemic that has killed over half a million Americans, more than all who died fighting in all foreign wars combined. It will be a solemn speech delivered the day before Biden signs the legislation into law. The White House hopes the occasion will illustrate how the country is slowly returning to normal.
That, however, is more rhetorical than factual. It would be more accurate to say the country is moving out of an old period of abnormal instability and moving into a new period of normal stability. I say this because what the president and the Democrats are doing is not anywhere near normal. Normal would be fear of inflation. Normal would be fear of debts and deficits. Normal would be fear of the Republicans screaming about both. The American Rescue Act, as you are tired of me saying,1 breaks from the norm.
But saying the country is returning to normal has political benefits. Most Americans are conservative in that they fear newness. The problems of the status quo might be bad, but the solutions might be just as bad, or worse. What’s more, the Republicans are masterful at exploiting that fear. Every time the Democrats propose a solution to the problems we all face, they find ways to heighten fears, or cast the Democrats as being so outside the boundaries of normal politics that anything they say is un-American.
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