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"The Issue Is Not Just Mr. Manchin." What Does The Democratic Party 2022 Stand For?

This morning, Morning Consult released a new national tracking poll for Politico. Some of these favorable/unfavorables are interesting to contemplate. Asked about how they see these categories of people, below are just respondents who replied "very unfavorable:

  • Antifa- 49%

  • White supramacists- 76%

  • White nationals- 56%

  • Proud Boys- 46%

  • Trump supporters- 41%

  • Biden supporters- 31%

  • Democrats- 31%

  • Republicans- 29%

Later in the survey, respondents were asked whose fault the sacking of the Capitol was last January. These results combine "very respinsible" and "somewhat responsible."

  • Democrats in Congress- 35%

  • Republicans in Congress- 47%

  • Ted Cruz- 37%

  • Josh Hawley- 27% (Most people have no idea who he is)

  • Local law enforcement- 35%

  • Pentagon- 32%

  • Trump- 59%

  • Pence- 30%

  • Biden- 28%

  • State election officials- 35%

  • News media- 59% (same as Trump)

  • Social media companies- 66% (more than Trump)

Only 26% (15% strongly) oppose the congressional investigation into the attempted coup. 47% say it will have no impact on how they vote in the midterms. Asked how they feel about the criminal charges that have been lodged against the attackers, 18% say they are too harsh, 27% say they are about right and 38% say they are not harsh enough.

This morning, David Siders reported that "Trump has already telegraphed the remarks he plans to give at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. If he follows the script laid out in his announcement of the news conference, he will commit a whitewashing of the day, repeating the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and defending his part in fomenting the insurrection-- all while a solemn prayer service is held at the Capitol, in a vivid split-screen moment. And, as Trump castigates Republicans not toeing his line, his event will also serve as a marker of Trump’s extraordinary dominion over the GOP... One year after the riot at the Capitol, nearly three-quarters of Republicans still believe Trump’s baseless claim that Joe Biden won the presidency due to voter fraud, according to a Monmouth University poll. Rank-and-file Republicans’ interest in litigating the events of Jan. 6 has faded. And according to a Quinnipiac University survey, nearly 8 in 10 Republicans want Trump to run for president again in 2024.

[T]he Jan. 6 select committee investigating Trump’s effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election is still working, with the potential that its findings will spark criminal prosecutions. In mid-December, the committee released a series of text messages from lawmakers and Fox News hosts urging Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to press Trump to do more to end the violence.
“This Jan. 6 committee is going to have an impact on how everybody sees what happened that day, and how everybody sees Trump,” said Heckman, the Republican consultant. “Some of the stuff we’ve seen-- the emails and texts that were going to Trump-- have rattled a lot of people on the Republican side.”
But Trump has rattled Republicans so often before-- and with no significant long-term effect-- that few are confident anything could displace him in the party.
After Jan. 6, “there was a two- to three-day window where his most hardcore supporters-- where even they were a little blown away, surprised by what happened,” said former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who unsuccessfully challenged Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. “But by the end of that first week, they’d regrouped.”
A year later, Walsh said, Trump is “by far” more influential in the GOP than he was in the final month of his presidency.
“He survived that,” Walsh said. “He’s stronger than ever."

Well... at least the Republicans think they know what their party stands for-- fascism, but they don't call it that-- and are overwhelmingly reconciled to it. What does the Democratic Party stand for? Is there something to rally around other than "we're not as bad as them?" If you didn't watch that Bernie video up top, now's the time to do so. Writing for Jacobin Magazine, Branko Marcetic pointed out the disconnect between the Democratic Big Tent and reality: Biden’s Agenda Is Dying Because the Interests of the Rich and Poor Are Irreconcilable. How can Bernie, AOC, Pramila, Cori, Rashida, Ilhan, Mondaire, Jamaal, Ayanna be true to their professed beliefs and be in a political party with Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Kurt Schrader, Henry Cuellar, Josh Gottheimer, Ed Case, Jim Costa, Lou Correa...

This evening, Lourin Hubbard, the progressive in the race for the Central Valley district that Costa is trying to move into, told me that he thinks that "the Democratic Party has simply become the party of 'not Republican.' Idealistically the Democratic party would stand for protecting the individual person by enforcing fair rules and regulations on society and a focus on promoting social and economic justice, but there are many in the party who don’t embrace those ideals. Poll after poll shows there is overwhelming support of ending Citizens United, securing voting rights, universal healthcare, and debt free college but instead of running on these incredibly popular ideas right wing Democrats scoff and say 'How are you going to pay for that?' They call proposals like cancelling student loan debt 'pie in the sky' nonstarters. We progressives seek to extend freedom, opportunity, and security to all Americans while Republicans and some of those right wing Democrats work to limit freedom, opportunity, and security. They’re working to redistribute wealth toward the wealthy, power toward the powerful, and privilege toward the privileged."

Marcetic points out that the failure of Build Back Better-- not to mention the rest iff the Democratic agenda, from voting rights to the minimum wage-- shows what a worthless pile of crap corporate Democrats' core arguments have been-- and that includes the Corporate Democrat-in-Chief living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "Biden’s campaign," he wrote, "was predicated on the dubious idea that you could forge a political coalition, or at least a temporary alliance, between the superrich and the vast majority of working people. The first time he publicly hinted he would run for president-- tellingly, at a Las Vegas hedge fund conference run by one-time Donald Trump comms director Anthony Scaramucci-- he outlined this basic vision, pleading with the collection of Wall Street mavens in front of him to see it was in their interest to pay just a tiny little more in taxes to be invested in the country and its economy, for the sake of everyone’s future prosperity... That same year, Biden convened a panel called 'Win-Win: How the Long View Works for Business and the Middle Class,' where, alongside a collection of corporate executives and finance bigwigs, he urged big business to reinvest profits in job-creating activities instead of shareholder payouts, explaining that 'you can’t have a healthy country without a strong middle class.' A couple years later, he infamously told a crowd of ultrawealthy donors, as he begged for their money, that 'nothing would fundamentally change' if he was president-- that he would simply tinker around the margins, just enough to keep a lid on the populist anger that was erupting around the country. This was Biden’s fundamental pitch as president: that he would act as a liaison between the relative few at the very top and the vast majority at the bottom, figuring out a sweet spot where the first group sacrificed enough, and the second one gained enough, that the country would keep pottering uneasily on as it had done until Donald Trump’s shock win."

Biden ran the standard modern Democratic campaign, making a laundry list of ambitious promises, while taking record-high truckloads of cash from the corporate interests whose profits relied on them never being enacted. He promised a public health insurance option while taking money from the for-profit health sector. He pledged to tax the rich while going hat in hand to billionaires. He threatened to break up big tech while using Silicon Valley for both funding and staffing.
Even if we allow that Biden earnestly believed what he was saying, we already had enough real-world evidence to know how silly this idea was. For one, this had already been tried a decade ago, when Barack Obama fueled his vaguely populist campaign with record amounts of Wall Street cash, then designed an economic recovery overwhelmingly weighted toward financial interests over ordinary people. There was also the 2014 peer-reviewed study that concluded, after comparing the policy preferences of average Americans, wealthy ones, and powerful special interest groups to nearly two-thousand policies enacted in the twenty years after 1981, that the United States was an oligarchy where laws pass largely on the back of how much elite and wealthy backing they get.
But if you weren’t convinced by all this, then congratulations, because the Biden presidency just gave you a front-row seat to watch this process play out yet again. What did we just witness over the course of this year? The parts of Biden’s agenda that were backed by corporate America-- namely, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package and the half-a-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill-- sailed to his desk with relative ease. The parts they opposed, namely the now-shelved Build Back Better bill, with its modest tax hikes and new government powers that would cut into corporate profits, failed. Meanwhile, at the same time as Biden’s social spending was slashed over inflation concerns, the military-industrial complex just got a gargantuan new spending bill care of huge congressional majorities.
...Biden’s decision to package a smorgasbord of social safety net expansions and tax hikes together with massive infrastructure spending posed a dilemma for corporate America, who were desperate for the second but preferred not to have the first. So, what happened was that, first, a collection of corporate-backed Democrats and Republicans played on Biden’s bizarre obsession with bipartisanship and persuaded him to pry apart the bits that big money interests wanted from those bits they wanted to kill.
Next, the social spending package was stalled and hacked to death over a period of months by two of the Democrats’ most prolific corporate fundraisers, Kyrsten Sinema and, particularly, Joe Manchin. The Senate duo, who are bankrolled by fossil fuels, Big Pharma, and lobbyists, and were fundraising from and literally conferring and strategizing with the business interests opposed to Biden’s agenda, used the leverage granted to them by Democrats’ barely existent Senate majority to systematically demand more and more of the profit-denting measures be dropped from the bill, from a higher corporate tax rate and Medicare drug price negotiation to a clean electricity standard and climate spending. All the while, an avalanche of corporate lobbying barreled into the halls of Congress to keep members in line.
Meanwhile, after briefly pretending they’d boycott donations to Republicans after the January 6 fiasco, corporate donors went right back to pouring money into the GOP’s coffers, the flood of oligarch money helping propel the party’s stunning gains in November’s elections. Spooked by the victories, Biden and the Democrats quickly pushed through the corporate-backed infrastructure bill in response, giving up the only leverage they had over holdouts like Manchin, whose intransigence soon forced Biden to give up on the rest of his agenda entirely-- just as the big money interests had wanted from the start.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a clearer play-by-play of how concentrated wealth operates inside a nominally Democratic structure to stall reform while winning benefits for themselves, playing on the greed and ambition of individual members, and exploiting whatever openings emerge to get their way. None of this was illegal, and most of it was entirely out in the open. This sequence of events wasn’t inevitable, either. It’s just that one side-- the big money side-- had far more resources, manpower, and pressure to get their way, and perhaps most importantly, a credulous and sympathetic ear among the country’s top leadership, who preferred accommodation to opposition.
The US oligarchy didn’t do this because they’re cackling supervillains who enjoy making people suffer. They did it because they’re operating by the (narrow, short-term) logic of profit-seeking-- which as any dyed-in-the-wool capitalist will tell you is the way this economic system is supposed to work. It would be nice if Americans didn’t have to live in poverty to afford lifesaving medicine, but then Big Pharma would make less money. It would be swell if we could prevent climate catastrophe in the medium to long term. But then the fossil fuel industry would go bankrupt. It would be nice to tax the rich to fund basic social services for anyone else, but then that leaves the rich, again, with a smaller pile of cash at the end of the day.
The interests of the oligarchy are fundamentally, directly in opposition to the interests of middle- and lower-income Americans, because the miseries plaguing the second group are how the first one makes its money. This isn’t some half-baked talking point. We all just watched it happen.
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