Trump made the smart-- albeit completely insincere-- move last night and demanded that Congress revise the crappy pandemic relief bill so that instead of the hideously insulting $600 checks that Mnuchin, McConnell, Manchin and Gottheimer insisted on, each worker get $2,000. This sure makes Biden and the establishment congressional Democrats look like pikers-- exactly what Trump meant to do. McConnell will ignore his request, of course, and Trump will look like the "good guy" while the rest of the political establishment looks like... exactly what they are: enemies of the people.
I sat in on a Democratic Policy & Communications Committee press call Ted Lieu hosted yesterday. It was interesting; Ted started off by explaining that there are some good things in the bill-- and he listed them-- but admitted that the $600 check wasn't one of them, calling it "better than nothing" and "just a down payment." One of his colleagues, Palm Springs New Dem Raul Ruiz-- who sports an "F" from ProgressivePunch-- then started celebrating how the Democrats forced the Republicans to include the $600 check... and later repeated at least 4 times that the Democrats want to fund the police. The guy is on another planet. If he's doing messaging for the party, it's just another indication that the Democrats really are on a suicide mission leading up to the midterms.
After the call Ted reiterated the progressive position, telling me that "This relief package is not enough to address the massive scale of the dual public health and economic crises we are facing. But I voted for it because it’s better than nothing. I have said from the beginning that the federal government must have a sustained and substantial role in addressing the pandemic and economic recession. Millions of American families are depending on us to help them through these challenging times, and frankly we are letting them down. Don't believe the gaslighting from Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans. The truth is, if they wanted to support those who are struggling they would have acted back in May when the House first passed the HEROES Act. It is also striking that Donald Trump-- who billed himself as this great deal maker-- has been completely MIA in these negotiations. If he had put some pressure on the Senate I'm convinced we could have passed a more substantial deal. But here we are. I view this latest package as a down payment. We will need to do much more to protect families and secure the American economy in the coming months. Thankfully we will have a new Administration in less than a month. Let's hope we have a new Senate Majority Leader as well."
A couple of hours after the call, Rev. Warnock tweeted "When we take back the Senate, Ossoff and I will pass $1200 stimulus checks. That's good messaging. Great messaging would have been more in line with what Ted has been saying "$2,000 a month for the duration of the pandemic."
Yesterday David Sirota noted that it was Biden's predictable embrace of the conservative austerity plan put forward by DINOs Joe Manchin and Josh Gottheimer that helped cut the stimulus in half. (Had Obama not chosen Biden to be VP and if he was still Senator Biden, it would have been him, not Manchin working with the Republicans and Gottheimer to screw over the working class, something Biden has done as a matter of course for his entire career.)
Sirota wrote that Biden "has obsessively pushed for Social Security cuts for decades, and he is stocking his administration with deficit hawks-- including today’s announcement that notorious Social Security cutter Bruce Reed will be White House deputy chief of staff. Biden has even threatened to veto Medicare for All legislation on the grounds that it costs too much (even though Congress says it would actually save a lot of money). Now, in the whittling down of the stimulus legislation, we see the first concrete example of how Biden’s ideology can change policy in the here and now-- and in deeply destructive ways. As pain and suffering is crescendoing across the country, Biden refrained from aggressively pushing the bipartisan initiative for $1,200 survival checks. Indeed, at a time when there was a legitimate chance to flip some Republicans--including Donald Trump!-- against McConnell and push for a more robust stimulus, he demurred."
Generally, Democrats keep saying that they will pass a better pandemic relief package when Biden is in the White House. That's crazy talk. After all:
• McConnell will still be blocking everything if the GOP retains the majority
• If the Dems win the majority, Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly will be as frustrating on spending bills as McConnell has been
• Biden is less likely to embrace an adequate pandemic relief bill than Trump has
Greg Olear took Biden up on his own tendency to try comparing himself to FDR. As you can probably imagine, it wasn't pretty. Greg recognizes and is unabashed in reminding his readers that "Trump is a mob money launderer, installed by his Russian whoremasters to sow chaos and weaken the U.S. and our allies. Every single thing he’s done since taking office is to achieve those purposes-- that and to enrich himself personally. He is an abject, catastrophic failure. His singular “achievement” as president is the intentional sabotage of the covid-19 response, when he, Mike Pence, and Acting President Jared Kushner exploited the pandemic for what they wrongly believed was personal and political gain. Already, more Americans have died of the novel coronavirus than fell in the Second World War-- you know, the one in which Roosevelt guided us to victory. But in one important way, Trump did indeed follow in the footsteps of FDR: he wasn’t afraid to try things."
When Joe Biden is sworn in four weeks from tomorrow, he will become president of a nation in crisis. By then, the pandemic will have killed some 400,000 Americans-- a staggering number. The economic fallout will verge on catastrophic. He will have a Democratic House but, in all likelihood, a Senate in the purple clutches of the obstructionist Mitch McConnell, who is more interested in Biden’s failure than the country’s revitalization. He will need to take swift, decisive action, but his hands will be tied.
At 78, Biden will be the oldest first-term president in history-- eight years older than Trump when he took office, nine years older than Reagan. In his long political career, he was known as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, a centrist. For his presidency to succeed, the proverbial old dog must learn-- must master--some new tricks. He must make like FDR and try stuff, and not be afraid to fail. He must out-Trump Trump.
His work, as the saying goes, is cut out for him: Joe and Kamala must end the pandemic-- distribute the vaccine, implement federal mask regulations, provide relief to struggling families and businesses, handle any complications that may come. They must safeguard the United States from further cyberattacks from Russia and other adversaries, and respond in kind to the audacious Russian attack on our computer systems. They must rebuild the State Department, reestablish good relations with our allies, and reassume America’s role as leader of the free world. They must revamp the education system, broken by four years of Betsy DeVos and a lost year of slipshod Zoom schooling. They must fix the USPS. They must safeguard our election systems. They must stop the sclerotic obstruction in Congress, so bills can be voted on, so compromise can be achieved. They must right-- or, rather, “left”-- the imbalance on the pro-dude, pro-landlord, pro-corporation, anti-little-guy Supreme Court. They must root out corruption and prosecute Trump and everyone in his circle who sold out the country. They must go after organized crime, by exposing and seizing offshore accounts, shell corporations, and other dark money. They must combat domestic terrorism, fomented by four years of white nationalist radicalization by Trump and his alt-right allies. And they have to do all of these things as quickly as possible, because all of them are blinking-red urgent.
The Biden Administration cannot be timid, as the Obama Administration too often was, as the Pelosi House too often is. When Mitch McConnell refused to vote to confirm the universally-respected Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Obama sat back and did nothing, assuming Hillary would win. When Trump won the election in November 2016, Obama-- who must have known the truth about Trump’s criminality, and Russian interference-- did not immediately establish a Special Counsel, in deference to tradition; after the transition, while the nation faced the horror of President Trump, he went windsurfing in the South Pacific. When Trumpist lickspittle after Trumpist lickspittle ignored Congressional subpoenas, Nancy Pelosi did not use the powers of inherent contempt, and instead let all the scofflaws skate. What if Obama had forced the Senate to vote on Merrick Garland, instead of acquiescing? What if a Special Counsel had been named by Loretta Lynch in December of 2016 instead of by Rod Rosenstein in 2017? What if the House had locked up Bill Barr and Wilbur Ross when they defied Congressional subpoenas, and fined them both to the Stone Age? None of these ideas are especially radical.
...Trump’s loss in November stopped the republic from falling off a cliff. But the old red-white-and-blue jalopy is still teetering precariously on the edge. It’s up to Joe and Kamala to get us out of this mess. That won’t happen by sitting in the car and waiting to see which way the wind blows. To truly save the country, they need to go full FDR.
Or, as Norman Solomon wrote yesterday, "People on the left did very little to challenge Bill Clinton after he won the presidency in 1992. Two years later, a big Republican wave took control of Congress. People on the left did very little to challenge Barack Obama after he won the presidency in 2008. Two years later, a big Republican wave took control of Congress. Now, we're being told that people on the left should pipe down and do little to challenge Joe Biden. But silence or merely faint dissent would enable the third Democratic president in four decades to again sacrifice progressive possibilities on the altar of corporate power... Pushing the Biden presidency in the direction of progressive populism is not only the morally correct thing to do, given the scale of human suffering and the existential threats posed by economic unraveling, the climate emergency and militarism. Progressive populism can also be the political antidote to the poisonous right-wing manipulation of genuine economic and social distress. In sharp contrast, 'moderate' programs have little to offer."
Over the weekend, under the headline "Biden Cabinet Leans Centrist, Leaving Some Liberals Frustrated," the New York Times declared with typical media framing that "the president-elect's personnel choices are more pragmatic and familiar than ideological"-- as though centrism itself is not "ideological." The newspaper reported that "there is no one yet in Mr. Biden's cabinet carrying the torch for the policies that he campaigned against during the primaries: free college for everyone, a costly Green New Deal, an anti-Wall Street agenda, universal health care and steep increases in the minimum wage."
Silence or grumbling acquiescence as the Biden presidency takes shape would amount to a political repetition disorder of the sort that ushered in disastrous political results under the Clinton and Obama administrations. Progressives must now take responsibility and take action. As Nina Turner says, "everything we love is on the line."