For now, at least, the GOP appears utterly undeterred. Republican consultants I’ve spoken with express confidence that, despite the two plans’ benefits, they can discredit them—either by focusing on elements of the plans that may be unpopular with conservative audiences, or by changing the subject to culture-war confrontations, such as the surge of undocumented minors at the border.
Biden “is going to be disappointed” in how GOP-leaning constituencies react to these programs, David Kochel, a veteran Republican consultant based in Iowa, told me. “All of the negative partisanship and cultural motivation is going to be out of his control, and Republicans and the conservative-media machine [are] going to continue to fill” GOP voters’ heads “with all of these left-wing priorities” that are part of these packages. Both plans “are so big, there is so much in there, they will be a target-rich environment,” Kochel continued. “And voters will be able to rationalize that ‘I did like getting this new bridge, but I don’t like that we had to spend $2 trillion to get it.’”
Read: Why an infrastructure deal everyone wants may fail
Even many Democrats, such as Link, agree that Republicans may not immediately suffer for opposing these initiatives. But longer term, Democrats see more of an opening because assistance will be flowing so visibly that voters may note tangible effects contradicting the negative portrayals from GOP leaders and conservative-media voices. When policies are still being debated and “we are talking about hypotheticals, it is very hard for Democrats to get past the right-wing media landscape,” says Matt Hildreth, the executive director of RuralOrganizing.org, a group that argues for progressive causes in rural America. “After things pass, I think [it’s] a fundamentally different thing, especially when we are talking about policies that will impact people in their daily lives.”
Both the stimulus package and the infrastructure proposal are so expansive that they essentially replace “either/or” politics with “both/and”: They provide large-scale benefits to traditionally Democratic groups as well as to Republican communities and constituencies.
For progressives, for instance, the stimulus’s major calling card is that it’s expected to drive the largest reduction in child poverty since at least the Great Society of the 1960s. But the bill is also unusual in how far its key benefits reach into the middle class, including its $1,400 stimulus payments, its provisions increasing Affordable Care Act subsidies (while simultaneously broadening eligibility), and, above all, its huge expansion of the child tax credit, which will be fully available to married couples earning up to $150,000 annually.
Low-to-middle-income white Americans, many of them without college degrees, will be among the major beneficiaries of those programs, social-policy analysts predict. According to an analysis provided to me by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy, at Columbia University, 95 percent of children in families headed by a white parent without a college degree will receive benefits from the expanded child tax credit. The average benefit for those families will be more than $1,800 over the next year. That’s a higher share of beneficiaries than among white people with a college degree—and a larger benefit. Non-college-educated white people will derive benefits from the plan that are comparable to those that Black and Latino families will receive, the analysis found. “The child allowance is going to be a near-universal program, and in the short term, people well into the middle class will benefit," Irwin Garfinkel, the center’s co-director, told me.