Any Chance To Move A Progressive Agenda Forward This Year?

On Thursday, crackpot Trumpist Ron Johnson (R-WI) tweeted that "Democrats can't have it both ways: an unconstitutional impeachment trial & Senate confirmation of the Biden admin's national security team. They need to choose between being vindictive or staffing the administration to keep the nation safe. What will it be: revenge or security?" Today, Pelosi announced that she will send over the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday for a trial that will begin Tuesday afternoon at 1pm (or, it turns out, maybe not). A few minutes later the Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense 93-2, Johnson voting with the majority, just as he had on the 10th when the Senate confirmed Avril Haines as director of National Intelligence. (10 die-hard obstructionist Republicans, like Cruz, Hawley, Blackburn, Ernst-- basically, the shit scraped from the bottom of the boots of a sewer worker-- though not Johnson, voted no.)

Meanwhile, CNN reported that McConnell and other influential Republicans-- including former top Trump Regime officials-- are quietly lobbying senators to convict Trump and be done with him before he does even more harm to the already toxic party brand. "The effort is not coordinated but reflects a wider battle inside the GOP between those loyal to Trump and those who want to sever ties and ensure he can never run for President again... 'Mitch said to me he wants Trump gone,' one Republican member of Congress told CNN. 'It is in his political interest to have him gone. It is in the GOP interest to have him gone. The question is, do we get there?' ... It would take 17 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in order to convict. While the bar is high, some GOP sources think there is more of an appetite to punish the former President than is publicly apparent."

That pre-supposes that proto-Republicans Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are onboard with impeachment. But even with OpenSecrets reporting today that that shell companies and dark money are hiding the details of how Trump financed the aborted coup and failed insurrection, most Republicans adamantly oppose convicting him. Anna Massoglia wrote that Trump's presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating the Jan 6 rally inciting the mob to attack and pillage the Capitol. "Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign, as first reported by the Associated Press over the weekend. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides. Trump’s campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the Jan. 6 rally. But FEC disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign’s financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when."

One would assume that some of this reporting is what propelled Charlie Sykes to write this morning that the GOP remains an unserious party-- "even without Trump. A serious party, for example, does not number in its ranks someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene. She is, not to put too fine a point on it: a nut, a fabulist, and a conspiracy theorist of the most wretched water. But today’s GOP has not only elevated her to a seat in Congress, but has made her a member in good standing, embraced by party leadership, and supported by the party’s apparatus and dollars. A serious party has at least minimal standards of political hygiene, but when she and fellow crazy person Lauren Boebert were elected, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy welcomed and defended them... Since then, of course, Greene and Boebert have become the new hotness on the right… which tells you a great deal about the state of both the conservative movement and the GOP. Greene has quickly become a vector of disinformation, recklessness, and dumbness."

It would be comforting to believe that Greene and Boebert are merely aberrations in the GOP. But they are part of a growing Caucus of the Insane that is increasingly defining the party. (A short roster includes Louis Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Bob Good, Marsha Blackburn, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko.…)
...Yes, you can still convict an ex-president.
“We differ from one another in our politics, and we also differ from one another on issues of constitutional interpretation,” wrote the signatories, which include the co-founder and other members of the conservative Federalist Society legal group.
“But despite our differences, our carefully considered views of the law lead all of us to agree that the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents.”
You can read the whole letter here."

Writing for The Atlantic this morning, Syreeta McFadden offered a short essay everyone is talking about, Unity Is Not What America Needs Right Now. She holds the polar opposite position of the aforementioned Ron Johnson. "Biden’s pursuit of solidarity is well intentioned," she acknowledged. "But without concrete plans to hold bad actors accountable, his efforts will be useless... Much has been made of the word unity in the past year. After the Capitol attack on January 6, many Republican legislators called for unity, responding to the righteous ire from their fellow lawmakers who demanded investigations, arrests, and impeachment. The unity theme was also a main pillar of the Biden-Harris campaign, messaging intended to implore the nation to fight for a new future. Unity, for some, is pure sentiment. A quick, uncomplicated cure-all that is achieved merely by being summoned. For others, however, unity calls for hard work and accountability, or it risks granting unearned forgiveness for harmful transgressions, papering over deep injustices.

To his credit, Biden acknowledged the daunting challenge of achieving unity in a nation that hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War: “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days,” he said on the Capitol steps. “I know that the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured.” The inauguration backdrop of an abnormally empty Washington, D.C., fortified by 25,000 National Guard troops, dramatized that battle, showing the enormous distance between the unity ideal and the country’s stark reality.
Biden called white supremacy by its name and rejected euphemistic language that obscures meaning. Although these were welcome acknowledgments, questing for unity without executable ways to hold bad actors accountable will render the pursuit useless. Disunion was a cornerstone of the previous administration: family separation at the border; the banning of immigrants from Muslim-majority nations; the telegraphing of support for white supremacists; and the political weaponization of the coronavirus pandemic, to name a few examples. To achieve unity moving forward requires swift and decisive steps from lawmakers to correct these wrongs and stamp out their effects through clear policy initiatives.
...Biden’s inaugural address acknowledged “the work ahead of us” and attempted to map a path forward, one that provides space for civil disagreement rather than “total war.” But the president’s unique challenge is that his vision for unity puts him at odds with his impulse for compromise with Republicans who have consistently evaded accountability and consequences for their actions. For now, the image of Wednesday’s multiracial, bipartisan dais at least demonstrated for Americans this administration’s commitment to the democratic experiment. Whether that performance of unity amounts to more than just that depends on Biden’s ability to move past sentiment and into hard work.

In a sense Edward-Isaac Dovere's centrist-friendly piece, How Biden Plans To Beat Republican Obstructionism, also for The Atlantic this morning, is a perfect accompaniment for McFadden's musings on "unity." Dovere wrote that "History suggests that Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to have a tough two years and a disaster in the midterms" and then offered up Team Biden's plan to avoid that.

He pointed out that "Basic competence of government could go a long way: Imagine the political boost Biden could earn when people start going to the movies again, or children start seeing their grandparents. Biden is already planning to push ahead on an additional $1,400 in relief checks (a disappointment to those who wanted another $2,000) and a $15-an-hour minimum wage-- both part of a $2 trillion relief package. He’s also planning an infrastructure bill that would create new green jobs, and include other measures to help fight climate change. Biden is trying not to repeat the mistakes that have led to rocky starts for other presidents, and midterm disasters for their parties. So Biden’s team and allies in Congress are planning the most aggressive legislative agenda and political strategy Democrats have advanced in decades."

Republicans are already calling it DOA. "There’s a consensus that one of the mistakes of ’09 was playing footsie for a long time with Republicans who never had any intent to actually get to yes," said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a moderate in the real sense of the word, not a conservative that DC media calls "moderate." Murphy added that "the dynamics in the Republican caucus have gotten worse since then, not better.” Leave it to Dovere to find a weak, irresolute Democrat who has never been ready to fight, just to wave the white flag and call it a compromise. And I'm not talking about Murphy.

The trick, says Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, will be lowering the expectations of an impatient Democratic base that is eager to press the party’s slim advantage by forcing votes on issues like Medicare for All or by making structural changes that could secure the party’s power. Booker says there aren’t enough votes to pass statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico right now, nor for expanding the Supreme Court. He’s taking his own lesson from the early Obama years.
“I applaud Obama for doing health care and saving the economy, but a lot of Americans felt that that was them losing their autonomy over their health care and a big Wall Street bailout. Then we got demolished in the midterms,” Booker told me. “This is a chance for the Biden administration to do the kind of things that immediately make a difference in people’s lives.”
Democrats are planning to vote early and often in the new Congress, and to essentially dare Republicans to stand in their way on politically popular measures. In recent years, the fight over the momentum-halting filibuster in the Senate has centered on somewhat arcane issues like Cabinet and judicial confirmations. Going forward, look for arguments over the filibuster to instead focus on COVID-19 relief (which will almost certainly end up tied to the infrastructure bill) or a new Voting Rights Act.
If Republican senators hold those bills up by filibustering, Democrats would accuse them of standing in the way of helping Americans, or standing in the way of voting rights. Ending the filibuster would then be an easier sell.
As important as the filibuster requirement is, ending it is not the only way to get around Republican opposition. Democrats are already looking into expanding the process known as reconciliation, a quirk of Congress that allows certain bills to pass with simple majorities. The new Senate Budget Committee chair, <>with significant influence over reconciliation</>, will be Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is very supportive of Biden’s relief proposal.
Biden’s history of making concessions to Republicans to seal deals during his time as vice president has many Democrats concerned. After one negotiation in which then–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thought Biden bent too much to Mitch McConnell, the Nevada Democrat didn’t talk to Biden for months. “I’ve worked with Senator McConnell, and I wish [Biden] luck,” Reid, still skeptical of Biden’s attraction to bipartisan dealmaking, told me in 2019.
Yet despite Biden’s commitment to healing the country, he has little interest in following Obama’s lead in performative bipartisanship, like the year Obama spent chasing Republican votes for the Affordable Care Act-- votes that never materialized. Biden’s instinct is to try compromise first, which is why he pushed back on Democrats who wanted to pass a coronavirus relief bill immediately, with or without Republican votes. Biden doesn’t want Democrats to go it alone without first trying to make a deal. If the GOP is seriously interested in uniting the country, he will eagerly engage. But if they use calmer rhetoric as a feint for obstruction, he is prepared to call that out.
And if the Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election continue to push their claims of voter fraud, or if any are found to have had more direct involvement in the attack on the Capitol, that will change Democrats’ negotiating strategy, too. “There are so many moving parts to this that we still do not yet know in terms of people’s involvement,” Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware told me, after reflecting on her own traumatic experience in the riot. “I am a believer in healing, but I know that in order to get there, we have to go through it, not around it.”

Dovere reported that Democrats are hopeful that they will continue to win the ONLY way they know how to win-- by being the lesser of two evils party. "If Republican primaries keep producing QAnon adherents," he wrote, "and QAnon keeps getting more known and starts getting less popular, Democrats see even more opportunities." Nothing about doing anything for people. Democrats never seem to manage to deliver. Progressives want to of course, but the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment will never allow that to happen.

A couple of days ago, Liam O'Mara, the progressive Democrat taking on entrenched Republican Ken Calvert in southwest Riverside County, told me that "If we are to hold onto Congress in 2022, Democrats need to squeeze through some big improvements in the lives of ordinary Americans, and do it in a way that people can understand, right away, that they have been helped. If we are to restore faith in our democratic system and in the Democratic Party, we need to be bold and progressive in our vision, not timid and in preëmptive surrender to Republican opposition. In 2008 we had an opportunity to turn a corner. We faced a major economic crisis and a failing health care system. But instead of true and lasting reform, the Obama administration made sure to restore the same economic order which caused the recession, and Pelosi's House so badly bungled the ACA that we were crushed in the 2010 midterms. As a result, most American families still haven't recovered from that last recession, and our health care system is as broken as ever. We need to get back to a Democratic Party which knows how to lead, and which can present a vision to the American people of prosperity and success. We need to tackle big issues and do them in a way that will convince more of the population that we care about their well-being. We need to stand FOR something, not just against the Republicans. To prevent a return to neofascist rule, we need to tackle the deep socioeconomic issues which made it viable in the first place. The clock is ticking-- it's time to get to work."