U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol (Orhan Cam via Shutterstock)
Susan Bigelow head shot

Negotiations over President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, including a massive infrastructure bill and a potentially transformative budget package, are still going on as of this writing, but the gap between moderate and progressive Democrats may prove to be too much. I still believe something will get passed in Washington, but states like Connecticut ought to be ready for the Democrats to mess this thing up big time.

If both infrastructure and the budget go down, the fallout is going to be pretty miserable for Democrats all over the country. Never mind that Biden and the Democratic leadership are trying to do something very difficult with a tiny majority and that getting Democrats to do anything together is like herding cats, it’s still going to be like a psychological bomb going off. Another epic round of blame games will kick off, and if you thought the aftermath of the 2016 election was fun you’ll want to grab your popcorn.

Look, the center and the left in the Democratic Party already dislike and distrust one another. Moderates think the left is unpragmatic, unwilling to compromise, and attached to pie-in-the-sky ideas that they think will never fly. Progressives, on the other hand, are sick and tired of a very small group of moderates gleefully blocking whatever they want to do. This isn’t new, either: Joe Lieberman walked so Joe Manchin can fly.

In states like Connecticut where Democrats actually have comfortable majorities, the splits between the wings of the party could start getting more serious. Maybe that will shake out as bitter primary challenges for legislative seats or constitutional offices or even for governor. Right now, Gov. Ned Lamont looks like he’s in pretty good shape for reelection, but when (if?) the pandemic recedes, his unwillingness to tax his fellow rich people could come back to bite him. 

I mean, it’s not like Lamont is unfamiliar with the idea of a surprisingly strong left-wing primary challenge to an incumbent moderate coming out of nowhere. That’s why he’s governor now, and not just a cable executive in Greenwich. You’d think he’d be aware of the possibility and prepare for it, but somehow I doubt he will.

It’s possible that deep divisions among Democrats could give Republicans an opening, though they are so bad at winning at this point that any gains they make would be entirely incidental. Could somebody like Bob Stefanowski blunder his way into being governor? Sure! Will it be because of anything he actually does or believes? Heck, no!

At issue here is whether a big-tent party can survive when politics is both personal and apocalyptic. If you believe, like I do, that human-caused climate change is an imminent and catastrophically dangerous crisis, then you’ll have trouble understanding why anybody in their right mind would want to slow-walk funding to help combat it. If you believe, like I also do, that infrastructure in this country desperately needs game-changing funding before everything breaks down, you’ll never get why anyone wants to stand in the way to win something else.

Aside from the intraparty angst and blame, Democrats will have a harder time seeing themselves as the party that gets things done. This is too bad, because a larger Democratic majority would probably be able to do a lot of the things they want without the drama. Unfortunately, a lot of people who support the Democrats think they ought to be able to do absolutely everything with this razor-thin majority, and they’ll walk away, disgusted, if they don’t get what they want before the next election. Demoralization and demotivation are two of the biggest problems Democrats face.

Meaning Republicans will be back in charge in 2022. Their voters don’t care about getting things done. They just want revenge.

That will mean that instead of a glorious windfall coming from Washington, states like ours can expect absolutely nothing. The federal government will cease to function for another two years, maybe longer. 

Our roads, rails and bridges will still need fixing, though, and climate change is still happening, so we’re going to have to raise some money. Maybe we’ll need to start talking about tolls again, or tax hikes on the wealthiest. Whoever is governor after the 2022 election will face some miserable choices.

I’m still hopeful that Democrats can pull something together to pass over the next few weeks or months. But if they don’t, if Congress and all its broken, flawed systems fail us again, get ready for the pain to be passed on to the rest of us.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.