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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Branding Joe Biden as 'totally left-wing' might work only with GOP die-hards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. Credit: Getty Images/Stefani Reynolds

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a surviving player on Capitol Hill, sought this week to deal with a nasty sucker punch from ex-President Donald Trump, whose relevance now is limited to nongovernmental matters.

From electoral exile at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump over the weekend strutted and griped as he called McConnell (R-Ky.) a "dumb son of a bitch" and a "stone-cold loser" for declining to back Trump's ballot-fraud hoax and attempts to overturn the election results.

As the top national Republican, McConnell has state elections to help win and filibusters to threaten. His power relies in part on party unity against a perceived threat. So on Tuesday, he asserted that "what we are confronted with here is a totally left-wing administration" that's "trying to transform America into something no one voted for last year."

For those just signing in at home: Several transformations and slogans pushed by left-leaning Democratic activists appear quite far from the verge of happening.

For one, the U.S. Supreme Court isn't about to be expanded and "packed" by now-dominant Democrats. Even if Biden were to want to increase the number of justices, any change would require approval in Congress, where fierce opposition would be expected. Biden has sent the issue of court packing to an advisory commission.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, which spotlighted disparities in the American health care system, progressives launched a new push last month for universal public health coverage.

But approval of "Medicare for All" remains highly unlikely in this Congress, with Republicans and a number of Democrats opposing its scope.

Biden has asked for major shifts in the U.S. tax system. He calls for raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. McConnell, Trump and the other Republicans formerly in power had dropped the rate to its current level from 35%.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose vote counts big in the evenly divided Senate, says he'd support only a 4-point hike for the corporate tax rate, meaning 25% rather than Biden's proposed 28%.

This tax discussion hardly threatens a sweeping redistribution of wealth among American citizens.

Also Tuesday, McConnell condemned Biden's Sept. 11 deadline for pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan after 20 years, calling it "a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and an abdication of American leadership."

But McConnell was quick to acknowledge that he opposed similar withdrawal plans from the Trump administration for Afghanistan and Syria.

Further evidence that McConnell hopes only to rally the GOP faithful comes from the polls. If Biden were attempting to transform America into "something no one voted for last year," one might hear about that from his voters and his party.

Instead, the same red-blue divide persists as before. Overall, Biden's approval rating has been a steady 53%, a rate largely supported by satisfaction among Democrats of all kinds. Trying to make Biden look like a wild radical anywhere beyond the realm of the right seems far from a smooth venture.