The political coalition that scored victories last fall at the ballot box and this spring in the halls of Congress stretches from conservative William Kristol to CEO JPMorgan Chase Jamie Dimon to President Biden to AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka to Senator Bernie Sanders to AOC to long time radical Black activist Angela Davis. Like any coalition that is politically and socially diverse, it possesses, seldom in equal measure and rarely in a static state, cooperative and contested relations that structure and animate its interactions and policies.
Setting the agenda and defining the terms of engagement in this far flung coalition is the Biden administration. This isn’t to say that others in this coalition are voiceless or passive actors. Not at all.
Each presses its demands and priorities. Where differences and tensions arise (and they are inevitable), they usually pivot not around the direction, but the pace, scale, and scope of the reform process. Only on matters of foreign policy where the administration’s approach fits into the old Washington consensus are the differences of a more fundamental nature.
In these circumstances, politics becomes more an art than a science, in which differences are articulated and pressed, but not in such a way that they shred the threads of unity and cooperation on a wide range of issues. After all, unity was the template of last year’s victory at the ballot box and this year’s legislative successes, not to mention the main requirement to carry this coalition across the finish line victoriously in next year’s elections.
This coalition, to say the obvious, is locked into a titanic battle against another coalition that is its mirror opposite – white nationalist, authoritarian, and revanchist. And, without any sense of exaggeration, its outcome will position the country to either address the great challenges that it faces or throw it on a long, downward, and chaotic trajectory. If the latter, It may not end in “barbarism,” but the resemblance will be unmistakable and no exit will be in sight.