Louisiana scumbag John Kennedy introduced an amendment forcing the Democrats to find 10 Republicans if they wanted to keep the cap on insulin prices at $35/month. Kennedy, of course, was certain there were not 10 Republicans who would vote for it. So it died— as will people who can’t afford the outrageously high prices of insulin. Only 7 Republicans voted with the Democrats. I wonder what Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Rand Paul are going to tell their voters in November.
How do these people stay in office? When Data For Progress asked voters if they support a proposal to keep insulin capped at $35/month, 94% of Democrats, 84% of independents and even 82% of Republicans said they do. The most opposition came from Republicans but even that was miniscule— just 11%. So, again, how do these Republicans stay in office? Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel wasn’t trying to answer that question Friday when she addressed the Democrats’ working class deficit, but it does help answer the question. “Republicans,” she wrote, “are beginning to consolidate a multiracial coalition of working-class voters.” The Democratic establishment pundits like James Carville and Ruy Teixeira blame progressives.
Vanden Heuvel asked how do we “make sense of this house of mirrors. After all, Biden is the president, not Bernie Sanders. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer lead the House, not ‘the Squad’ or the Progressive Caucus. Centrists have sabotaged Biden’s economic plan, not the left. Murder rates are up in red and blue states alike— and Biden has called for funding the police more than reforming them. Job creation keeps setting records. Abortion, gun control, and the idea of defending democracy all enjoy majority support— central reasons why Democrats lead among college-educated voters. And if, as the pundits argue, working-class voters feel looked down upon, nothing Black Lives Matter has done has been as poisonous as Hillary Clinton’s calling half of Trump supporters ‘deplorables.’ Yet Democrats are right to worry that the activists of their base— the young, African Americans, immigrant and climate activists, women— remain demoralized, while those on the right are aroused and on the march.”
Trump’s administration was a hot mess, but the corporations got deregulation, evangelicals got zealous judges, the rich got tax cuts, Big Oil got climate action blocked. And for communities ravaged by plant closures and jobs shipped abroad, Trump called out the elites that had failed them and broke with neoliberal “free trade” shibboleths. He might not have had a coherent plan, but he did something. Republicans delivered to their base, even when most Americans disagreed.
Democrats, by contrast, spurn their activists. Promises on student loan relief have been broken, action on voting rights and immigration stymied. Biden is more pro-labor than his Democratic predecessors, but labor law reform is going nowhere. The party says it is all in on saving abortion, but that didn’t keep Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from fending off a pro-choice primary challenger to Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, who opposes choice and much of the rest of the Democratic agenda.
The Democrats’ problem among the working class isn’t the Squad or pro-choice activists. It’s that this economy doesn’t work for working people. The rich capture the rewards of growth, while working people grow less secure. Working-class Americans struggle to afford necessities: health care, housing, education, retirement security— and now food and gas.
Centrist Democrats from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama championed the neoliberal policies— deregulation, free trade, privatization— that led to this crisis. What Democrats need isn’t a turn to the right on social issues but a populist agenda on economic issues. They must be clear they are willing to ensure that the rich pay their fair share in taxes, to invest in rebuilding America, to take on the monopolies— from Big Pharma to Big Oil— that are driving inflation, and to empower workers and hold CEOs accountable. And they have to deliver.
If Democrats can’t produce for working people, while Republicans continue to serve corporations and the rich, our divisions will fester, and the future of our democracy will be in doubt.
Does this Build Back Worse bill they passed through reconciliation today count as producing for working people? Not much. It was hard for the senators and there was plenty of drama in their world but for ordinary people… sorry— not much, just a bunch of shitty compromises that including basically no fundamental change, no matter how many tears Brian Schatz wants to shed over it. Better than nothing? Yes, of course. Bit delivering for working people? Don’t make me laugh. Raising the minimum wage would have. Jacking up the tax rate on the rich would have. Free college would have. Lowering the Medicare and Social Security ages would have. Allowing Medicare to negotiate on all drugs, not just a tiny handful (just a pathetic 10 starting in 2026), would have. The childcare subsidies would have. It helps a little with global warming but a little isn’t what’s needed now. This is unimaginably non-transformative, no matter how much Chuck Schumer wants to pretend he just passed the New Deal.