But both Democrats and Republicans (ones who are less beholden to the party, anyway) alike have spied a problem with this line of attack: Its shelf life might not last all that long.
Even more to the point, if and when its shelf life ends — when covid-19 is tamed sufficiently, and when normal life resumes, including kids returning to school — it will be in no small part because of solutions implemented on Democrats’ watch, which Republicans are already resisting.
“They are looking to exploit frustrations,” Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told me. “We’re going to address them.”
When I asked Maloney to respond to GOP confidence in this attack line, he pointed out that we’re at the beginning of a long process, noting that Biden’s first big package hasn’t even been passed into law yet. Meanwhile, Republicans are largely opposing it.
“You are going to see in area after area the Republicans attempt to exploit frustrations while the Democratic Party addresses those frustrations with real solutions,” Maloney told me.
Maloney described the contrast Democrats hope to draw: While Biden and Democrats are pushing a plan to “defeat the pandemic and get our kids back to school safely,” he said, “Republicans are opposing this solution to exploit the frustration.”
Interestingly, Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio pointed out another problem with the GOP message that supports Maloney’s reading.
“If vaccine estimates are anywhere close to being right, most will be vaccinated before September 2021,” Fabrizio tweeted Thursday, adding that as more and more people are vaccinated, teachers unions would face increasing pressure to agree to reopen schools, rendering it “less of an issue.”
Fabrizio noted that even if the Republican message is good for now, it’s “really short term.”
That’s clearly true, and to underscore the significance of this, let’s also note that each party will have been on opposite sides of what to do about the pandemic throughout this whole period.
Biden and Democrats appear close to moving ahead with a $1.9 trillion package that includes large stimulus checks to individuals, extended supplemental unemployment insurance, help for small businesses, and hundreds of billions of dollars to hasten vaccine distribution, among many other things.
But, importantly for our purposes here, the plan also includes an expanded child tax credit, and $130 billion in aid that will help schools reopen by funding reduced class sizes, modified spaces to allow social distancing, and personal protective equipment.
Democrats are also pushing to include aid to state and local governments, some of which would also facilitate schools reopening. Republicans broadly oppose such aid.
The great majority of House Republicans are going to vote against this plan, though some may support it, possibly those who consider themselves vulnerable in 2022.
Maloney predicted that this contrast would prove relevant down the line, and that many of these problems would be solved by next year.
“We’re going to be the party that gets kids back to school safely, that defeats the pandemic and rebuilds the economy,” Maloney said. “I think the president’s plan will work, and the Republicans should get behind it. And they will wish they had.”
The Republican calculation appears to be that, by pushing now for the schools to reopen quickly, they will have placed themselves on the right side of the issue early on.
Indeed, as my Post colleague Dave Weigel reports, this Republican attack, which is ubiquitous, also routinely includes some version of the notion that the science is actually on Republicans’ side. The idea seems to be that if and when schools do reopen, it will prove Republicans were right all along.
But the complication here is that if and when that happens, the party in power is likely to get a large bulk of the credit for it.
The truth of the matter is that Democrats’ political fortunes in 2022 will turn, at least in part, on whether they actually deliver on getting us back to normal, or not. If they don’t, then they’ll probably be in serious political trouble next year.
If so, perhaps the Republican strategy will appear prescient. But if Biden and Democrats do tame the pandemic and schools reopen — and normalcy resumes relatively smoothly — the GOP strategy will not only have been shortsighted.
It will also backfire. It will have left Republicans in the position of having contributed little to nothing of actual value to a large national success story that most Americans will be celebrating.