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It Will Be A Colossal Error For Progressives To Think For A Moment That Biden Is On Their Side




Although there's still one quasi-uncalled race-- CA-25-- pitting a Republican incumbent, Mike Garcia, against a Democratic challenger, Christy Smith, the Republican leads 169,464 (50.1%) to 169,059 (49.9%)-- 405 votes out of 338,523 cast. That means that nationally, the Democrats managed to flip just one contested Republican seat-- GA-07 in the Atlanta suburbs. The winner, Carolyn Bourdeaux, is an anti-progressive New Dem and were the Democrats in L.A. County to miraculously come up with a net of 406 votes for Smith, she is probably even more anti-progressive than Bourdeaux and more likely to be a drag inside the House Democratic Caucus on any attempts to do anything at all that favors working families at the expense of Wall Street and corporate America. Progressives are literally better off if she loses (which appears all but certain).

This morning, Rebecca Morin, reporting for USA Today, wrote that progressives aren't interested in giving Biden a honeymoon. "After helping to mobilize election turnout of young people and left-leaning Democrats, progressive leaders want to hold the Biden administration to promises made on the campaign trail: addressing climate change, combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and offering student debt relief."

She quoted AOC speaking at a rally for progressive activists and grassroots voters: "This isn’t 2015 anymore. This isn’t 2010 anymore. It’s not 2005 anymore. The movement got us here. You all got us a seat at the table."

Even if Warnock and Ossoff win in Georgia, making Chuck Schumer majority leader instead of McConnell, the Senate will still be controlled by a transpartisan conservative majority-- not by a fascist majority but by status quo-oriented careerists who don't prioritize the legitimate interests of working families. And in the House... Pelosi is unlikely to force progressive priorities onto the floor, where the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the Blue Dogs and New Dems) have more in common with and are more comfortable working with mainstream Republicans than with the progressives who they fear and loathe.

Morin wrote that "As a result, progressives are turning to processes where they believe they can make the most impact: The use of executive power and who Biden appointments to serve in his administration." The question, of course, is will Biden put any progressives-- or enough to make areal difference-- into positions of power inside his administration. Anyone who tells you he will is either naive or grifting for contributions. Biden is a lifelong conservative Democrat who doesn't believe in progressive values and he is appointing people from that camp. He will throw progressives a bone or two (Secretary of Labor maybe) but nothing that will make a difference in his administration's overall approach and agenda. Regular DWT readers already know that there will be far more lobbyists in the Biden administration than progressives.


It's still worth trying to push Biden on appointments-- if only as an organizing effort for the 2022 midterms and the primaries preceding them.

Justice Democrats, along with Social Security Works and Data for Progress, launched a campaign petitioning against Bruce Reed, Biden's former chief of staff, from joining the administration. The petition has the support of not only progressive activists, but key progressive lawmakers like Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and newly elected Reps. Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman.
The Sunrise Movement, an organization focused on climate change that spurred out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign, criticized Biden’s appointment earlier this month of Rep. Cedric Richmond as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The group called Richmond’s appointment a “betrayal,” claiming that the congressman “cozied up to Big Oil and Gas” more than nearly any other Democrat during his time on Capitol Hill. Richmond, who represents a Louisiana district that spans from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, was national co-chairman of Biden's campaign.
Other groups, like Justice Democrats, have hit Biden for some appointments that they say are “corporate friendly," including Steve Ricchetti being named as counselor to the president. Ricchetti is a former lobbyist, and his firm Richetti Inc. has represented the American Hospital Association and the Health Insurance Association of America, drugmakers such as Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis, and communications firms such as AT&T and Nextel.
“If Joe Biden continues making corporate-friendly appointments to his White House, he will risk quickly fracturing the hard-earned goodwill his team built with progressives to defeat Donald Trump,” Justice Democrats executive director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement earlier this month.
Two weeks ago more than 40 activist groups released a list of 400 progressive policy experts they want Biden to consider for positions in his administration. This week, five progressive organizations led by Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project launched a website for a campaign called “No Corporate Cabinet,” which aims to keep corporate insiders out of the Biden administration.

So far Biden has completely, 100% ignored all of it, announcing one corporate whore after another. Yes, I know Janet Yellin once said something that could possibly be interpreted as vaguely progressive... but she's 74 years old and that's the only time she stepped out in that direction in her entire life, so give me a break. It's not like Biden was considering Larry Kudlow for the job. Let's keep in mind what Luke Save wrote for The Atlantic today: "For the left to be effective in a post-Trump Washington, it must avoid the culture of deference that set in after Obama’s victory... When combined with the fatigue that inevitably accompanies any sustained period of Republican rule and a victory of historic proportions, Obama’s kaleidoscopic rhetoric-- a dizzying medley of Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and FDR-- gave politics-weary liberals the implicit permission to abandon their activist posture and let the administration operate on its own inertia. During Bush’s second term, a less-than-negligible swath of Democrats and would-be progressives had come to see themselves as dissidents waging an uphill struggle against special interests and defective institutions; during Obama’s first, many would abandon oppositional politics entirely, pivoting instead to the post-partisan platitudes that inspired 2010’s quasi-ironic Rally to Restore Sanity... [T]he major theme after Obama’s inauguration was that the war had been won and the adults were now in charge."


Sound familiar? And Obama was more a moderate than a Biden-type of conservative. In fact, one of the reasons Obama selected Biden was to balance the ticket by making it more ideologically conservative. Now the adult in the room is an Eisenhower-era Republican with a "D" next to his name. Progressives tended to shy away from criticizing Obama, even after his first appointment was Rahm Emanuel. He also chose Debbie Wasserman Schultz to head the DNC. You're not going to find worse than Emanuel and Wasserman-Schultz in the Democratic Party-- although I bet Biden will never stop trying to. Savage reminded his readers that "Signs that the administration was setting a more conservative course than grassroots enthusiasts had expected came quickly, but criticism was often muted to nonexistent during its critical first two years. The public option for health-care coverage, already a climbdown from the single-payer model supported by rank-and-file Democrats, was dropped with minimal outcry even though it had a chance to pass the Senate. When the administration walked back its flagship labor legislation, union leaders offered not resistance but praise. As a recession gutted livelihoods and produced a wave of home foreclosures, Obama rejected a New Deal–scale transformation of the economy. Yet no progressive insurgency materialized to demand a more aggressive approach. (On the contrary, thanks to the Tea Party, populist anger would become the terrain of the right.) The retreats of 2009 and 2010 were a disaster for the activists and progressives whose enthusiasm had helped bring Obama to power; they also proved highly damaging to the Democrats, who held fewer elected offices nationwide than at any period since the 1920s by the end of his second term."

Expectations are far lower for Joe "Nothing Will Fundamentally Change" Biden than they were for Barack "Hope and Change" Obama. And Biden is living up to those low expectations already. Sure, we should continue pressuring him to not hire not-really-lesser-evils like Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel but Savage sagely noted that there are other approaches as well.


Equipped with an ambitious legislative agenda and battle-hardened by Bernie Sanders’s two insurgent presidential campaigns, activists and their political surrogates are much better placed today than in 2008 to offer an alternative to the usual liberal incrementalism. Rather than wait for the administration to act, progressive lawmakers are continuing their push for Medicare for All—“universal health care” no longer being a vague catch-all but a clearly defined goal. Where it was once considered bold for liberal politicians to rhetorically embrace the science of climate change, the most important environmental litmus test is now the ambitious Green New Deal. Further initiatives around criminal-justice reform, the taxation of extreme wealth, and the cancellation of student debt give added substance and coherence to a progressive movement that simply did not exist—independent of the ever-circumspect Democratic mainstream—the last time a liberal president entered the White House.
In the short term, pursuing and strengthening this alternative will require sustained public pressure on the incoming administration, particularly with regard to cabinet appointments. In the longer term, it will require standing firm on marquee progressive priorities while consistently meeting Biden’s conservative instincts with a countervailing force. Even if it lacks a Senate majority, the administration will have plenty of potential latitude to make change via executive order. From postal banking to Wall Street regulation, from drug prices to student-debt relief, the Biden administration could realize quite literally hundreds of progressive measures without ever descending into the labyrinth of Congress. Most are unlikely to see the light of day unless a progressively minded opposition is willing to fight for them.
In 2008, amid an economic crisis and a national hunger for change, progressives allowed a Democratic victory to drown their ambitions and inspire a culture of deference and passivity. As Donald Trump leaves office, in the aftermath of street protests and as a pandemic ravages America, it’s a history the activist left cannot afford to repeat.


©2000 by Howie Klein. Leading The Progressive Fight Online Since 2000

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