Published November 19, 2021
Many moderate House Democrats surely voted for the Build Back Better bill on Friday with serious misgivings. They know in their guts they are likely walking a political plank for their party — and they’re right.
Forget polls that show many elements of the plan are popular. Lots of discrete items poll well before campaigns against them start in earnest, as anyone who’s ever watched opposition to ballot initiatives can attest. People often like ideas that give them something they value, as this bill does — for example, enhanced child tax credits and child-care subsidies. But they change their mind when they consider costs or other consequences. Campaigns matter, and the campaign against BBB hasn’t even really begun.
That moment starts Saturday, the day after almost all House Democrats have committed themselves to this legislation. That means they will be vulnerable to attacks on every part of it — not just the most popular items. Every time Democrats tout its supposed benefits, Republicans will tout the overall cost and special interest breaks nestled away in the bill. Members in swing seats can expect to see a lot of GOP attack ads featuring the billions of dollars in subsidies for electric bicycles and “tree equity” that BBB includes.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.