Two names many Democrats hope never to hear again: Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

This is especially the case given Sinema’s lack of transparency. It also is true in light of Manchin’s announcement that he might not vote for Biden’s $1.8 trillion climate change and social safety net bill. Specifically, Manchin said he had serious reservations about and issues with the president’s proposal, suggesting that liberals in his party were taking an “all or nothing stance” by holding hostage the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He even accused the Democrats of playing a “shell game.”

To be clear, I remain glad that Joe Biden is the president of the United States and continue to believe he is the right person to heal the nation and find answers to the threats against democratic government. If nothing else, and policy disagreements notwithstanding, Biden has provided a much needed relief from the previous president, someone who incessantly lied, showed little understanding of the Constitution, disrespected the rule of law and consistently placed his own interests and profit above the needs of the nation and concerns for the American people. In addition, I fully support Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and all the good it will do to improve the lives of so many people.

However, once again the events of the past few weeks demonstrate how the Democrats in Congress have become expert at doing themselves in, frequently snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I believe this is a recurring pattern for the Democrats, perhaps owing to the fact that, unlike the Republican Party, they are a “big tent” party. From both a messaging and action perspective, the Democrats, despite being well intentioned, continually shoot themselves in the foot. This not only is counterproductive to passage of their policy agenda, but it creates poor optics that negatively impact election outcomes.

For example, the daily bickering among progressive and moderate Democrats and repeated misleading claims about a deal being close at hand, both of which feed the media’s desire to focus on conflict, are tantamount to a melodramatic soap opera. That this alienates people of all political persuasions is hardly surprising.

Moreover, how embarrassing that Biden traveled to Europe for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP 26, with only an ambiguous “framework” agreement and the lack of an approved climate bill. This was far less than the one thing Biden needed most to regain the trust of our allies, namely, evidence that the country’s democracy is working and that he is a successful leader.

I am sad and worried, fearing the impact of this Democratic disaster on the 2022 elections, as well as other off-year elections. There can be little doubt, for instance, that the clock is running out on the Build Back Better bill — the passage of which is necessary if the Democrats want to prevent a loss of the House and Senate in a little over a year. In short, one must wonder if Democrats ever will learn from their past rhetorical mistakes.

As of this writing, and given the result of the Virginia gubernatorial election, it appears not.

Richard Cherwitz is the Ernest S. Sharpe Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Moody College of Communication and founder of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium at University of Texas at Austin.

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