Updated: Jul 28, 2021
With Manchin and Sinema blocking all attempts by the Democrats to pass any legislation that the party's candidates could point to in the midterms as a reason to reelect-- or elect-- them, the DCCC and DSCC are settling back into their one and only comfort zone: "we may suck, but they suck worse; we're the lesser of two evils." That's why the insurrection hearings are so politically important to the Democrats and why stretching them out into 2022 is so crucial. They are likely to motivate the base and, at best, maybe persuade a handful of swing voters, but they sure won't turn any Trump voters around.
What about executive orders? Well... there are things Biden can do that could make a difference-- but they all go against his conservative nature. Today Chuck Schumer joined progressive firebrands Elizabeth Warren and Ayanna Pressley at a press conference where they urged Biden to extend the pause on federal student loan payments (which expires in September) and wipe out $50,000 per borrower of the $1.6 trillion students owe the federal government, something Biden has said he isn't in favor of.
Warren: "These people live with a sword hanging over their heads. And every day that goes by that sword draws a little closer. This is a matter of economic justice. It is a matter of racial justice. The president of the United States can remove this sword. The president can prevent this pain."
Can. But will he? During his campaign Biden promised promised to lower the Social Security eligibility age to 60. After he was elected, he never mentioned it again.
Today, Salon published a piece by Norman Solomon, Joe Biden's relapse: Can the president shake off his fantasies about Republican leaders? The time for magical thinking is over... Solomon wrote that "For a while, President Biden seemed to be recovering from his chronic fantasies about Republicans in Congress. But last week he had a relapse-- harming prospects for key progressive legislation and reducing the already slim hopes that the GOP can be prevented from winning control of the House and Senate in midterm elections 15 months from now. Biden's reflex has been to glad-hand his way across the aisle. On the campaign trail in May 2019, he proclaimed: 'The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.' A year and a half later, the president-elect threw some bipartisan bromides into his victory speech-- lamenting 'the refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another,' contending that the American people 'want us to cooperate,' and pledging 'that's the choice I'll make.'"
But Solomon, a former candidate for Congress, wrote that "the notion of cooperating with Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy was always a fool's errand. That reality might as well have been blinking in big neon letters across the Capitol dome since January, as Republicans continually doubled down on complete intransigence. By early March, when the landmark American Rescue Plan squeaked through Congress, Biden had new reasons to wise up." But no a single Republican in either House voted for it. In fact, Senate Republicans filibustered it.
The obstacles to enacting long-term structural changes will be heightened, to the extent that Biden relapses into a futile quest for "bipartisanship." This year, the GOP's methodical assaults on voting rights-- well underway in numerous states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors-- could be somewhat counteracted by strong, democracy-oriented federal legislation. That simply won't happen if the Senate filibuster remains in place.
Yet Biden, even while denouncing attacks on voting rights, now seems quite willing to help Republicans retain the filibuster as a pivotal tool for protecting and enabling those attacks. During a CNN town hall last week, Biden said he favors tweaking the Senate rules to require that a senator actually must keep talking on the floor to continue a filibuster-- but he's against getting rid of the filibuster. Eliminating it, Biden said, would "throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done." On voting rights, the president said, he wants to "bring along Republicans who I know know better."
Many activists quickly demolished those claims. "This answer from Biden on the filibuster just doesn't make sense," tweeted Sawyer Hackett, executive director of People First Future. "Republicans aren't going to wake up and 'know better' than suppressing the vote. The filibuster encourages them to obstruct and our reluctance to end it emboldens them to do worse."
The response from the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, was aptly caustic: "What are their names? Name the Republicans who know better. This is not a strategy. The time for magical thinking is over."
As Biden slid into illogical ramblings on CNN to support retaining the filibuster, the implications were ominous and far-reaching. In the words of the Our Revolution organization, Biden "refused to support doing what must be done to secure voting rights. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he continues to entertain the possibility of getting 10 Republican votes for voting rights. Back here, in reality, precisely zero Republicans voted in support of the For the People Act, and there is no reason to expect that to change."
When Biden became president, the Washington Post reported that he had chosen to place a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the most prominent spot inside the Oval Office, as "a clear nod to a president who helped the country through significant crises, a challenge Biden now also faces." But Biden's recurrent yearning not to polarize with Republican leaders is in stark contrast to FDR's approach.
Near the end of his first term, in a Madison Square Garden speech condemning "the economic royalists," Roosevelt said: "They are unanimous in their hate for me-- and I welcome their hatred." But now, in his recurrent search for cooperation, Biden seems eager for his Republican foes to like him. It's a ridiculous and dangerous quest.
I asked the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidates for a sentence or two that explains how they make a case to the voters that differs from the DCCC's "lesser of two evils" position. Jason Call, for example, is a progressive candidate in northwest Washington state. He's taking a few days off from his campaign though, to canvass in Cleveland for Nina Turner. Still, I caught up with him while he was door-knocking and he told me that his "campaign’s tagline is 'Demand Better' for good reason-- we see the same tired old fear tactics from the establishment Democrats year after year. Sadly, they have been effective with long time party line voters, and my canvassing efforts here for Nina Turner here in Cleveland tell me they’re still working. People fear the return of Trump in 2024, but they can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that the best way to ensure Republicans remain in the minority is to immediately improve people’s lives. That is, after all, what the Democratic Party claims to stand for. So when I talk to people about my own race and others, I talk about Demanding Better. Demanding that Biden expand the Supreme Court and overturn the filibuster and for goodness sake put pressure on holdout Senate Dems to fall in line. I’ve said this before but can you imagine LBJ taking this crap from Manchin and Sinema? But again, and of course, we’re stuck here because the rank and file refuse to accept that the Blue team and the Red team are both working for the military industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry, the for-profit health industry, and so on. As we swelter in yet again the hottest summer on record, one wonders if our only avenue to progress isn’t by attrition. One funeral at a time."
Ally Dalsimer is the progressive candidate challenging corporate Democrat Gerry Connolly in the northern Virginia DC suburbs. "The DCCC, she told me today, "makes excuses for Republican-lite members of the Democratic caucus with the constant threat of a Republican taking control of the seat. The only problem with that argument is that it’s rooted in deception, especially in districts like mine. VA-11 is 75% Democratic. So, when voters express concerns about a primary challenge because they fear a Republican flip, I explain that our district is one of the bluest in the nation, and that the last Republican Representative to be elected here was in 2006. For those folks who aren’t fooled by DCCC framing, they realize the bogeyman is just that-- a made-up monster to scare people into sticking with the status quo, even when what they'd like is to have changes that improve their lives."
Please consider contributing to Ally's and Jason's campaigns by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer above. Neither of these candidates accepts corporate PAC money and their campaigns are funded by small dollar contributions.