President Joe Biden is hard at work signing executive orders. As someone who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, I don’t envy Biden in the slightest. Several of these orders, such as rejoining the Paris climate accord, were expected reversals of Trump-era policies. Others, such as canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, were welcomed surprises. I would be amiss if I didn’t also mention the many orders that will, hopefully, help bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
Beyond Biden’s pressing of the proverbial reset button, progressives have cause to celebrate with Bernie Sanders ascending to the position of Senate Budget Committee Chairman (i.e the Senate committee that “controls the purse strings”). Although Senator Sanders may soon be “locking horns” with Neera Tanden (Biden’s pick for Office of Management and Budget Director), Bernie’s power and influence on this committee shouldn’t be underestimated.
So, even though we’re less than a week in, we seem to be off to a good start. But, will this last? In a previous article, I stated the following:
Biden’s victory over Trump coincided with centrist Democrats losing down-ballot races. Voters effectively rejected both fascism and neoliberalism at the same time. While the Democratic establishment eschews progressive policies, such policies, in the form of ballot measures, passed decisively in even the most conservative parts of the country. This should be a wake-up call for Democratic Party leadership to reform their agenda to reflect what people in this country actually want, and then genuinely fight for policies that will benefit the masses, instead of a handful of wealthy donors. Anything less, and we’ll be right back to where we are now.
I’m not expecting that the entire progressive agenda will be fully implemented any time soon; the progressive faction in Congress is still relatively small. In fact, one could argue that the “failure” #ForceTheVote highlighted the limits of how far some lawmakers are willing to go, but progressives were still able to extract some concessions from the establishment. And, I have no doubt that “The Squad” and other progressives in the House and the Senate will continue to fight for bold policies in the spirit of #NotMeUs.
At a minimum, you would think that the Dems would try to get everything in their own platform enshrined into law. Full disclosure: as a 2020 Democratic National Convention Delegate, I voted against the platform because it didn’t contain a plank for Medicare for All. Nevertheless, there are many good ideas in the platform worth implementing. And, with the Blue Team in control of the trifecta, what’s to stop this from happening?
“Blue Dog” Democrats and “bipartisanship”, of course.
Blue Dogs are conservative Congressional Democrats. They are often referred to as DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) since their voting records tend to diverge significantly from the Democratic Party platform. This begs the question: if members of a political party are not expected to adhere to their own party’s platform… what’s the point of having a platform? Or a party?
Blue Dogs gained notoriety for nearly torpedoing the entire Affordable Care Act back in 2009. Joe Leiberman, who was “King DINO” at the time, single-handedly killed the public option in the Senate. These days, the dubious honor of “King DINO” belongs to Senator Joe Manchin (WV) who, in at 50-50 Senate will, like Lieberman, wield a disproportionate amount of power. Recently, he was gung-ho for killing the $2,000 stimulus checks, although he seems to have softened his stance. Perhaps his corporate donors, who stand to gain from the stimulus, told him to knock it off? Senator Krysten Sinema (AZ), whose 2019 voting record was actually more conservative than Manchin’s, may also prove to be problematic. The good news is that the “Blue Dog Coalition” in the House of Representatives is down to only 18 members.
Blue Dogs frequently invoke “bipartisanship” as a justification for collaborating with Republicans and sacrificing traditional Democratic policies and values. This practice may already be manifesting itself in the negotiations taking place between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnel, which includes, among other things, Senate committees consisting of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, though tie votes would be allowed to advance to the Senate floor. Negotiations are currently stalled on the preservation of the legislative filibuster, which neither Sinema nor Manchin are keen on abolishing.
Bipartisanship is like laissez-faire capitalism: it sounds like a good idea, it rolls off the tongue nicely, but it winds up hurting a lot of innocent people. Ironically, Republicans tend to emphasize the importance of bipartisanship when they are in the minority but eschew bipartisanship when they’re in the majority. This strategy has proven to be pretty effective over the last 40 years: Republicans managed to push our country so far to the right that fascism became appealing to a sizable chunk of the population. I am not sure if that’s was their aim, but at least a few Republicans have expressed regret for selling their souls to Trump.
Despite their slim majorities in both houses of Congress, our country has given Democrats a mandate to govern. Unfortunately, when given such a mandate, Democrats have developed a reputation of squandering it. Obama ran for president as a progressive but governed as a centrist, unnecessarily wasting too much time and energy trying to negotiate with Republicans who had no interest in working with him in the first place. And, what happened then? The Dems got clobbered in 2010.
Time will tell if Biden has learned from the missteps of his “former boss” or if history will repeat itself. Nobody knows for sure what the outcome of the next election cycle will be or the one after that, but Republicans seem to understand the saying “making hay while the sun shines” better than Democrats do. In many ways, it makes perfect sense to try to get as much done as possible when your party is in power. Republicans do this all the time, why not Democrats?
Again, I’m not expecting that the entire progressive agenda will be fully implemented any time soon. But the Democrats have been handed the “keys to the kingdom” and if they don’t deliver something, proverbial “beheadings” are likely in 2022. There’s no justifiable reason for conceding power to Republicans or fake Democrats when the public has no tolerance for “business as usual.” This country is not as “center-right” as the Red Team would have us believe.
So, let’s get to work. Let’s get as much done as we can. If we do get wiped out in 2022, at least we’ll have something to show for it. Besides, Republicans are going to call us “radical socialists” no matter what we do. So, f*** them and f*** the DINOs too!
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