On CBS News' "Face the Nation" yesterday, Margaret Brennan reminded Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that there's broad public support for another economic aid package, including an extension of existing unemployment benefits. The host asked the senator why he'd oppose such a package, and the Texas Republican answered in part:
"What Democrats want to do -- we're a hundred days out from the presidential election. The only objective Democrats have is to defeat Donald Trump."
For quite a while, we've heard similar talk out of the White House, where the president is convinced that rascally Democrats have balked at some of his poorly thought out ideas -- such as re-opening schools without a meaningful safety plan -- as part of an elaborate scheme to hurt the economy and undermine his re-election campaign.
What's amazing about this is the degree to which Republicans have the entire dynamic backwards. E.J. Dionne had a great column along these lines nearly a month ago, explaining, "The underappreciated story in Congress is that it’s Democrats who want to do the most to limit the economic damage caused by COVID-19, while McConnell’s Republican Party slow-walks action."
Quite right. If Democrats genuinely wanted to sabotage the economy in order to further derail the president's re-election campaign -- which is to say, if Dems were acting in 2020 the way Republicans acted throughout much of Obama's first term (see the second chapter of my book) -- they would be fighting tooth and nail to take money out of working families' pockets.
Democrats are instead doing the opposite, first by largely taking the lead in writing the CARES Act in March, and then by passing the ambitious and progressive HEROES Act in mid-May.
The oddity of the circumstances shouldn't go unnoticed: Democrats are pleading with Republicans to invest in the economy in ways that would boost growth, prevent layoffs, and keep money flowing to struggling American families. Republicans have spent months ignoring those calls.
Democrats are no doubt aware of the fact that taking steps to buoy the economy in an election year might benefit the incumbent president, but they're doing it anyway to prevent widespread public suffering. Common sense suggests the White House and its GOP allies should jump at the Dems' offer, but Republicans have instead spent the last several weeks bickering with one another.
"The only objective Democrats have is to defeat Donald Trump"? Perhaps Ted Cruz isn't paying close enough attention to current events. If Dems wanted to cut Trump off at the knees, they have a funny way of showing it.