I don’t know if it is true or not, but supposedly FDR once met with a group of activists who sought his support for bold legislation. He listened to their arguments for some time and then said, “You’ve convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.” Even if it isn’t quite factual, it was, and still is, good advice for democratic minded and progressive activists, when a Democrat sits in the White House. Like now, we have a Democratic President in the White House who is meeting opposition from Republicans and a handful of Democrats to his signature piece of legislation that would materially improve the lives of tens of millions – not to mention represent a break from neoliberalism and Reaganism.
This being so one would think it would be a no brainer for the coalition that elected Biden to “make Congress do it,” that is to, weigh in on the side of this transformative legislation and President in ways that rattle the country and shake up the opponents of this bill. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, the advice has been turned on its head in some progressive and left circles.
Emblematic is a column that appeared in the Nation this week, written by one its most respected journalists, John Nichols. Instead of making a case for popular and massive action in support of Biden’s legislation, Nichols is critical of Biden for his failure to campaign across the country for the bill. I don’t entirely dismiss Nichols’ argument, but it strikes me as ducking the larger problem: the passivity of progressive (and left) organizations and people in the face of this monumental legislative struggle, for their failure to lift barely a finger to “make Congress do it.” I
Isn’t that what the present moment calls for, isn’t the rumbling of hundreds of thousands, better yet a million and more, on the streets what is urgently needed?