So first things first, both of these wayward, faux-Democratic Senators are witless dickheads, OK? End of the day, despite all the earnest press accounts dissecting their motives and making excuses, that’s where I come out, and I’m done with the debate, I don’t want to hear it. Manchin is on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry and a dyed-in-the-wool, Ayn Rand-worshipping 1990s-style Republican, all worried about how Libs would let masses of unworthy slobs freeload off the state, gorging themselves on ill-deserved entitlements – horrors! – while he professes love for billionaires and pretends to care about deficits, and Sinema – well, who the fuck even knows what Sinema’s about? What does she actually think, supposing she thinks anything at all? What does she care about, besides herself, and the delights of standing in the spotlight and being oh-so-cleverly contrary?
In the midst of an emergency, they practise politics as usual, oblivious. It’s hard to know who to despise with greater passion, it really is.
For months, now, poor Joe Biden and the progressives who support his agenda have been trying to leverage the Democratic Party’s razor-thin, tragically ephemeral majorities in Congress to effect some real, positive change in people’s lives, and prove to the wider public that the American form of democratic governance can still work for ordinary citizens. All the while, these two have been digging in their heels, whining no, no, no, like spoiled little brats, playing the role that would once have been filled by the GOP, before the GOP decided to opt out of government altogether in favour of pursuing the Big Lie and scheming to topple the Republic so that Orange Idi can assume his authoritarian mantle and solidify White minority rule come 2024. It’s been infuriating, utterly crazy-making to watch, especially over the past couple of weeks, when every hour seems to bring a new announcement about another hugely worthy, immensely popular Build Back Better agenda item that one or the other of them absolutely, positively, will never permit come Hell or high water:
McConnell and his Republican pals must be laughing themselves stupid from the sidelines, while the Dems garner nothing but lousy P.R. over their internal squabbles, and everybody ignores that all 50 Senators in the GOP are even more resolutely and stone-facedly opposed to anything that might help regular voters than Manchin and Sinema ever could be. Meanwhile, the press forgoes any discussion of what’s actually in the proposed bill, and obsesses only over the supposedly huge multi-trillion dollar price tag of Biden’s proposals, ignoring that even the $3.5 trillion opening bid was meant to be spread over ten years, which equals, for the numerically challenged, a mere 350 billion extra per year in a federal budget that already spends over 720 billion annually on defence, and equal amounts for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, while all of the proposed new spending would be paid for anyway by richly-deserved tax hikes on the super-rich and the corporations they control. Leave aside that at current rates the U.S. Government can borrow money for free (better than for free, when inflation is factored in); the Build Back Better plan, as drafted, doesn’t involve borrowing at all! None of that rates a mention. Instead it’s all horse-race-this and who’s-winning-that, leaving an ill-informed public to grow restive and dissatisfied.
Finally, desperate, Biden gathered the caucus together yesterday and laid it out for them, almost pleadingly, saying “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week”, and all but begging on his frigging knees for a vote to pass something. Since nobody seems to know what Manchin and Sinema will agree to, Biden’s suggested his own package, at $1.75 trillion only half of what he wanted, and now asks for approval. It’s a poor second best, no argument, but still an ambitious set of initiatives, even allowing for what’s being left out:
Will the Diabolical Duo go for it? As I write this, it’s still not known.
Let’s try to be optimistic, though, just for a change of pace. Just because it’s Friday.
Look, yes, it rankles that an old, white male bastard like Joe Manchin has the power to insist that the United States remain one of only a handful of countries, not among the western industrialized nations, but in the whole world, that has no government program of paid family leave. Sure, it rots every sane person’s socks that a manifest twit like Kysten Sinema can please her Big Pharma pals by refusing to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices – I mean, if you didn’t know it was true, could you even imagine? It’s actually against the law for the U.S. Government to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over the prices of their products, gee, I wonder how that came to pass. And yeah, nobody in their right mind will ever understand how somebody like Manchin reckons he’s standing up for the toothless hillbillies in his West Virginia base by refusing to extend Medicare to cover dental, or why he thinks it’s a good idea, in a society in which a high school diploma counts for exactly Jack/Shit, to kibosh an initiative like free community college. He just figures that people will get too entitled, I guess, which is rich coming from a guy like him, but whatever.
If Biden yet manages to get them all to vote for the pared-down bill he now advocates, that’s still a huge accomplishment, which will arrive in concert, remember, with an equally enormous bi-partisan infrastructure plan that’s now tied up in the same legislative wrangling, and which would also be passed as part of the deal. The two initiatives together would make an immense and immediate difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, and would begin to address a whole range of vast, almost intractable societal problems that the Republicans have been content, for decades now, to let fester, including, God be praised, the problem of climate change. We might therefore be on the cusp of the biggest thing since Roosevelt’s New Deal, and that’s not nothing. Think about it. In a year, which is several forevers in modern politics, the whole landscape could be different. Goosed by all the spending, the economy could be booming. Unemployment could be at its lowest since Clinton, and a great many of the new jobs would be good, high-paying, union jobs. As kids get vaccinated, and the ranks of the obstinate, infinitely ignorant anti-vaxxer holdouts begin to thin, COVID could finally come under control. The public might go into to the mid-term polls amid nothing but good news, as roads and bridges get fixed, the electrical grid gets repaired, and hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, find good work in new clean energy industries, while the kids go back to school, and the costs of raising them are significantly defrayed by new programs and tax policies, lifting millions out of poverty. The cackling swine of the GOP, now imagining themselves in the fabled cat-bird seat as the 2022 elections approach, might instead find themselves facing an uphill battle against a manifestly effective Democratic government that delivers for the common folk. It’s possible! They might!
Yeah, I know, I hear you. Sure they might, and all that might even matter, If the popular vote still matters too, that is.
Which brings us to voting rights, the persistent efforts of the GOP at all levels to undermine democracy, and the roadblock established, yet again, by Joe Manchin (D), West Virginia, against fixing the mess with federal legislation. We know to a certainty that the Republicans won’t allow voting rights legislation to pass through the Senate. Not now, not ever, never. They haven’t just blocked a vote on the Dem’s legislation, they filibustered debate. The only way through, now, is filibuster reform, and Manchin has said all along he won’t go for it, blockhead that he is, but it’s getting down to crunch time, the stakes are dire, and I wonder. A while back, I wrote this, when Manchin’s own, carefully restricted proposals on voting rights, a deliberate and overt attempt to bring the Republicans on board, as Joe kept insisting was possible, were almost literally laughed out the door by Mitch and his Merry men:
Never mind, it might leave him all confused and befuddled, it might make him sad, but what Joe’s managed to do, amazingly, is exactly what you’d do if you were planning to trick McConnell into giving you an excuse to go back on your prior opposition to filibuster reform. It’s the perfect move as a prelude to saying to your own voters that hell, you tried, you gave it your very best shot, met them more than half way, bent over frigging backwards, and still – still – nothing but obstruction from the other side, and folks, that’s bad faith. That right there is just a plain, bloody-minded, do-nothing refusal to govern in the public interest, and faced with that sort of ugliness, well, all bets gotta be off. A fella’s gotta do something, even if it means changing your mind on matters once assumed to be sacrosanct. They leave you no other choice, much as it breaks a guy’s heart.
That still holds. It remains possible – maybe not probable, but possible – that Manchin will finally buckle under the overwhelming weight of the logic, and concede to some sort of filibuster reform that will allow his own voting rights legislation to finally get through the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, maybe something along the lines he proposed himself, a few months back, when he floated the idea of reviving the old school “talking filibuster”. After all, it’s either that, or neither he nor any Democrat who comes after him is ever likely to get another opportunity to wield legislative authority in Congress, not for as long as any of us lives. He can see that, surely. He’s not crazy. And granted, he’s not exactly the Chapter Head of West Virginia Mensa Local 558, but he’s not an abject moron either, is he? Right?
That’s right, right?
So let’s take heart. Let’s have hope. Better days lay ahead, when all this strife, ugly legislative sausage-making, and GOP rat-fucking will be but a memory, while the January 6 plotters get their just desserts, and Donald faces too many indictments to even think about anything but his own legal problems, forget about running again in 2024.
Believe! You should all be optimistic, just like me!!