Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats recognize that a significant part of the challenge their party faces is structural: With a meager congressional majority, the party can’t take anything unless the entire caucus agrees. That allows moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to block some of the biggest promises to their supporters, including a broad voting rights bill.
A more aggressive approach may not lead to the eventual passing of an immigration or voting rights bill, but it would send a signal to Democrats that Biden is fighting for them, said Faiz Shakir, a close adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr Shakir and others worry that the focus on the two important pieces of legislation — infrastructure and the spending bill — will not be enough to shake up supporters skeptical of the federal government’s ability to improve their lives.
“I am a Biden supporter, an agenda supporter, and I am frustrated and angry with him for making this go in the desired direction,” said Shakir, who led Sanders’ 2020 presidential run. “It looks like we have President Manchin instead of President Biden in this debate.”
He added: “It has made the president look weak.”
The division over the amount of attention to be given to loyal Democratic constituencies versus moderate swing voters ties into a political debate that has long moved the party: is it more important to activate the grassroots or convince swing voters? And can Democrats do both things at once?
White House advisers argue that winning swing voters, particularly the suburban independents who play outrageous roles in battlefield districts, will keep Democrats in power — or at least the size of their losses in the medium term. will curb. They see the decline among core groups of Democrats as a reflection of a challenging political moment — rising inflation, the ongoing pandemic, uncertainty about schools — rather than being unhappy with the government’s priorities.
“It’s November 2021, not September 2022,” said John Anzalone, Mr Biden’s pollster. “As we pass Build Back Better, we’ll have a great message in the meantime, when the bell rings on Labor Day, about what we’ve done for people.”
Even beyond the $3.5 trillion plan that Mr. Biden originally aimed for, legislation passed by the House earlier this month offers proposals to transform childcare, aged care, prescription drugs and financial aid for college, and make the largest investment ever to slow climate change. But some of the most popular policies will not be felt by voters until long after the midterm elections, nor will the impact of many of the infrastructure projects.