The reverse can be true, as well.
President Joe Biden began the week as a feather duster. Whether the assessment was fair or not, strong Republican showings in Virginia and elsewhere were widely seen as an early report card for Biden and the Democrats — and the grades weren’t good.
As always, politicians and the commentariat — and, yes, I raise my hand here — were uncharitable with their diagnoses and generous with their advice.
Too woke. Too weak. Too mired in internal squabbling, as two major pieces of legislation, making up a significant portion of Biden’s agenda, stalled in a Congress Democrats narrowly control.
Moderates complained Biden had been led astray by progressives. Progressives complained Biden had been throttled by moderates.
Meanwhile, Americans still reeling from the effects of a bruising pandemic were asking, in the words of an old country tune, for “a little less talk and a lot more action.”
That’s why Biden’s win on the infrastructure bill long held hostage by warring House Democrats was so important.
I’m sure the President would have preferred an earlier victory — one that took place months ago, or at least at some point other than the dead of a Friday night. But after months of messy public wrangling within his party and a long day of suspense, a big win is still a big win.
In the end, Biden worked hard for it. Braced by Tuesday’s election results, he urgently pressed House Democrats in call after call for the votes he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed to narrowly pass the most expansive investment in America’s fraying and outdated infrastructure in decades.
It’s a victory for the country and for Biden, who was often ridiculed by a skeptical left for expressing his willingness to work across party lines. The bill passed the Senate in August with 19 Republican votes. On Friday, it took the support of 13 House Republicans, who undercut minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, to help offset the loss of six progressives unhappy the larger, social spending and climate action bill was not brought forth simultaneously.
From a political standpoint (after all, that is the prism through which Washington evaluates most everything) the bill’s passage provided a President whose approval ratings have been sagging a much-needed boost.
Now Biden’s task is to move beyond the unsightly legislative sausage-making and convert his victory into tangible signs of progress, be they roads, bridges or broadband Americans can see in their own communities.
Skittish Democrats complain Biden and his team have done too little to trumpet their successes—including the American Rescue Act, which helped keep the economy afloat and provided lifelines to millions of Americans through stimulus checks and a landmark family tax credit projected to cut child poverty in half.
But the Delta variant, natural disasters like Hurricane Ida, and the fallout from the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan prevented the Biden administration from finding the right opportunity to sell the legislation, along with the rest of his agenda, to the American people during the summer and fall.
Now, having passed another major legislative package, Biden and the Democratic Party have a second chance to make clear what they have delivered. It’s imperative they take advantage of it.
That doesn’t mean this victory is a tonic for all of Biden’s political challenges. He still has to nail down the last and most difficult plank of his economic program, the larger social spending and climate action bill held up for months due to the objections of two Senate moderates, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The stubborn Covid-19 pandemic has also created long haul economic and social disruptions that cast a pall over the country and continue to weigh on Biden and the Democrats.
Elected as a moderate, Biden has, at times, been pulled further left than some of those who supported him would like. Progressives, meanwhile, have their own list of grievances, including unrealized goals on everything from voting rights to immigration reform.
But a big win helps change the narrative and, coupled with news of a positive jobs report and a new antiviral Covid-19 pill, the end of the week was as upbeat as the beginning was dark for this White House.
It was an essential benchmark for Biden and the Democrats, who need to show a solid body of work if they have any hope of cutting through the brutal midterm headwinds in 2022.
Odds are there are more feather-duster days ahead. Thus is the nature of a presidency in fractious and turbulent times, with tenuous majorities in each chamber of Congress.
But for these next few days, at least, Joe Biden is a peacock once more.