West News Wire: As we begin a new year, there is every indication that the Biden presidency, with all of its promise and transformative potential, will expire in 2022. When circumstance, intentional ignorance, and a complete disregard for governmental success and good governance combine to destroy desire, no amount of policy reaction will be enough to save the day. Only zeal and rage have a chance of succeeding.
Joe Manchin, a US senator from West Virginia, enters the fray to put the progressive movement’s revolutionary vision on life support in America. There is plenty of “democratic” ridiculousness within the avalanche of terrible news. Manchin earned a six-year US Senate seat from West Virginia with a massive 290,510 votes in his last reelection in 2018. Joe Biden was elected president of the United States in 2020 with over 81 million votes. So, what’s the point? Manchin’s personal agenda, the goal of the fossil fuel industry, and evidently the agenda of a sliver of America trump the agenda of a president chosen by a substantial majority of all Americans who voted in the presidential election in the United States of America.
Manchin and a handful of other US senators have veto power over practically all legislative attempts due to the Senate’s prolonged institutional stalemate. This paralysis has become so entrenched that the outcomes are almost always predetermined. The Republican Party in America’s two-party system is currently dedicated completely to a scorched-earth campaign for electoral triumph at the expense of even the most fundamental policy debates.
Corruption and influence peddling flourish in this fertile terrain. Manchin has stepped up to the plate once more, this time to pee on the 93 percent of West Virginia children who are qualified for a child tax credit that is due to expire. Manchin’s unique attempt to kill the measure can only be explained by devotion to some special interest that doesn’t give a damn about those youngsters, given that there should be a significant incentive for him to support the extension of the child tax credit.
Moreover, the child tax credit is just one pillar of the transformational safety net legislation that Senator Manchin and those who have likely bought his vote are attempting to bury. Corrupting special interests and their right-wing Republican allies are also hard at work scuttling universal pre-school education, childcare and elder care assistance, increased nutritional security for children, paid family leave, some measure of drug price controls, improved Affordable Care Act access and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and support for affordable housing alternatives.
Critically, as well, the proposed transformational social legislation that has already been passed by the US House of Representatives includes a significant (yet modest) effort to meet our national and international commitments to confront climate change. In fact, it may be antipathy toward these latter provisions that has pushed Manchin to abandon the West Virginia children and their families he would like you to think he cares about.
Much of this should come as no surprise. After all, the legislative process in America is working as it was designed to work, ensuring that corporate interests, corrupt influence peddlers and wealthy Americans are able to bludgeon democratic reform with impunity. Unfortunately, no amount of policy response will win the day tomorrow in the face of the perfidy that is winning today. It will take a street fight to even begin to turn the tide.
I do not say this lightly, but I see no other way forward. Adding voting rights, abortion rights, gun control and police reform to the scrapheap of history will make the rout complete. So, all Americans who understand the nation’s peril either seize this moment or they will continue to live in a country rife with inequality, racial and social injustice, gun violence, fundamental inequity and corruption. America will never be better if no one forces it to be better.
To start, President Biden has to step up and demand that the key elements of the social safety net and climate change legislation be passed now. He must identify a legislative path forward and demand in no uncertain terms that all applicable legislative tools need to be utilized to that end. He must also make it clear that he will go directly to the people as their president to forge the necessary alliances to meet his legislative objectives. Then, every senator and every representative must be required to cast a vote, for or against. There is no choice.
If the legislation fails to pass the Congress, then Biden must call the people to the streets. This means that those of us who care on our own behalf or on behalf of others either answer the call or accept an America unworthy of our allegiance. There is no choice.
Meanwhile, it is way past time to eliminate minority rule in the US Senate, not just for the moment but forever. Understand that there will be no voting rights legislation, no abortion rights bill, no gun control measures and no police reform measures if a Republican Party in the minority in Congress can effectively prevent the majority party and its president from confronting the issues they were elected by the majority to confront. Again, back to Biden and his legislative allies, this time to demand an end to the filibuster to move critical legislation forward. There is no choice. Although much attention has been focused on the social safety net, climate legislation and infrastructure funding, critical voting rights legislation must now be moved front and center. Any talk of seizing the moment based on today’s majority will be rendered meaningless if today’s majority cannot vote in tomorrow’s elections.
The vilest forces on America’s political landscape are now laser focused on control of the right to vote at all levels of government and then using that control to ensure electoral outcomes that reflect a narrow right-wing and racist agenda. If successful, this path will enshrine economic, racial and social inequality for generations to come. That pernicious work is well underway and advancing with success.
In this context, I am far from the first to say that a democracy that correctly promotes a minority voice in its political discourse ceases to be a democracy when that minority is allowed to rule without bearing any duty to govern. Unfortunately, this is the current state of affairs in Congress. It will only change if President Biden and his friends summon us to the streets, where we will answer in unprecedented numbers.