The suggestion that the progressive/left wing in the Democratic Party is the “Squad,” plus Bernie and a couple of other Congressional Democrats is factually wrong and politically counterproductive. It’s small circle thinking – a mode of thinking that is at cross purposes with reality and politically self-limiting.
Biden and Congressional Democrats, like it or not, will have to make some hard spending decisions as it appears that Manchin, Sinema, and a few others are dug in in their opposition to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. How to do this in a way that maintains the unity of Democrats and the larger coalition that elected Biden will be a challenge.
Hopefully we won’t see a lot of posturing and grandstanding from leaders and activists that who “militantly” insist that the full package could have been won. A far better response would be a renewed commitment to win larger Democratic Congressional majorities in next year’s elections and an acknowledgement that the coalition that elected Biden – not least the left broadly defined – stood largely on the sidelines during this struggle.
The resistance to taking the necessary steps – getting vaciinated, wearing a mask, supporting mandates, and acting prudently – to contain and eventually eradicate Covid makes me wonder if our society has the capacity to confront and resolve any of the existential crises it faces in the coming years. Even in the best of circumstances, the successful resolution of these crises would be a magnificent achievement and testimony to the human spirit and genius.
But we don’t live in the best of circumstances. Indeed, circumstances are such that it is easy to feel despair about humanity’s future. Setting aside the built-in destructive tendencies of capitalism, we have a major party – one of the two – and its supporters numbering in the tens of millions who resist even miniscule steps to ameliorate a deadly and disruptive pandemic. If anything their behavior drags out the pandemic, resulting in more death and disruption.
All of which makes me ask: is there any reason to think that this party and its supporters will be any more amenable to addressing other existential crises – climate change in the first place – that are staring humanity in the face?
I don’ think so. In fact, if allowed to gain the levers of power once again in 2022 and 2024, this political bloc of misanthropy and irrationality will take our country and the world over a steep cliff from which there is no recovery.
What then needs to be done? Crush the GOP and white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarianism at the ballot box in the first place.
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?
It was during the Trump interregnum that I gained a fuller appreciation of the importance of the relative independence of the media and judicial system from the dictates of the political bloc in power, not to mention a more nuanced understanding of the role of the Democratic Party in our politics. Each in their own way were instrumental in bringing down Trump. In fact, it is fair to say in their absence Trump would be sending out his destructive, daily, and sometimes deadly rants from the White House and white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarianism or, maybe worse, would be riding roughshod over the “relative independence” of the institutions of our Republic as well as the rights and liberties of tens of millions.
It also caused me to reflect on my willingness to accept, even defend, their absence in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries that went belly up 3 decades ago. In that era, I understood democracy in socialist society instrumentally, that is, subordinate to the “wisdom,” decisions, and power requirements of the “Marxist Leninist vanguard party” and mistook, perhaps conveniently, the formal representations of democratic governance and rights as actual ones.
Life is complicated, isn’t it.