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The Disappointing Endgame Approaches

[ Posted Thursday, October 21st, 2021 – 15:47 UTC ]

So we're now really down to: "Build Back Smaller." Once again, Democrats have taken what could have been monumentally historic change and watered it down to the point where many Democratic voters are going to actually wind up disappointed, even if a deal is struck and something passes Congress and is signed into law by President Joe Biden. Whatever passes will still be historic legislation, just as Obamacare was (and still is), but a lot of Democratic voters will inevitably be left with a strong sense of "what might have been."

As with the passage of Obamacare, no doubt some progressives (including Biden himself -- after all, this is his agenda, that he explicitly ran on in his presidential campaign) will promise to revisit all the things which got left out (or are going to get left out, before we're done). I have two words in response to this, before I ever even hear it: "public option." Still waiting for that one, guys....

Essentially, the clock has almost run out and everyone knows it. There are three deadlines, two external and purely political and one built into the system. The built-in one is the fact that the highway fund is going to turn into a pumpkin (how mixed-metaphorically appropriate!) at midnight on Hallowe'en night. If the House of Representatives doesn't vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate has already passed by then, the fund will run out of money. They could pass yet another short-term extension, but they are angling to finish everything by then (which means also passing the budget reconciliation bill that's currently being haggled over as well).

The two political deadlines are a worldwide climate change conference next month, and the election for governor of Virginia. For the first, Biden must have some sort of proof in hand that the American democratic system still works. Absent that, it is going to be very hard for America to claim any sort of mantle of leadership. Ideally, Biden was supposed to be able to triumphantly present his new law to tackle climate change in a big way, but Senator Joe Manchin has killed any real hope of such progress. Biden now has to at least show that Democrats can do something with full control of the government, or else the other world leaders are not going to be very interested in anything he has to say.

The Virginia governor's race is important for the purposes of political messaging during the 2022 midterm elections. Two states hold their governor's races in the years falling immediately after a presidential election: New Jersey and Virginia. New Jersey probably won't even be close, the Democratic governor running for re-election looks like he'll skate to an easy victory, most likely with a double-digit margin. But Virginia is surprisingly close (in terms of both the election polling and its physical proximity to Washington), so a governor's race that most American voters don't even care about one way or the other might just set the whole media's political tone for the next year to come. If the Republican scores an upset, the storyline will be: "Democrats poised for epic midterm defeats, can't even hold the suburban gains they made in 2020." Or maybe: "Democrats don't do so well when Donald Trump is not on the ballot." You get the idea. Democrats will be doomed, the punditocracy will proclaim. If, however, the Democrat prevails, it'll probably generate much less coverage, something along the lines of: "Democrats win state they were expected to win." It's unfair, but that's probably a pretty good estimate of the coverage, no matter which way it goes.

A big historic legislative victory for Biden might just be the boost Democratic voters in Virginia need to motivate them to get to the polls in early November -- that is the storyline Democrats (from Biden on down) are telling themselves right now. And they might just be right. Biden knows this full well, and he's reportedly been leaning on both sides of the intraparty negotiations with renewed urgency.

The amazing thing is, this might actually be working this time. Even Senators Joe Manchin (D-coal) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Pharma) seem to know that this time it is different, and the end-of-the-month deadline just can't be willfully ignored (as they've ignored all the other deadlines, up until now).

But Sinema and Manchin are making such drastic changes to the bill (again, reportedly, we'll have to see what winds up in the final version) that it will be nowhere near as transformative as it very easily could have been. Sinema has insisted that the corporate tax rate not be increased, and she isn't happy about making millionaires and billionaires pay any more in taxes either. She's also trying to kill prescription drug reform, because while she actually campaigned on the issue of bringing drug prices down, she has now been bought outright by the Pharma lobbyists. Her own advisors are now publicly quitting in disgust, as a direct result. Manchin is adamant about stripping out any of the green energy provisions in the bill, which means it will not be a transformative effort to move America away from fossil fuels at all (some minor green ideas may make it into the final bill, but even that is doubtful at this point). Manchin is also insisting that means-testing and work requirements be added to the Child Tax Credit, which will make the program nowhere near as effective at solving child poverty. Both senators are also reportedly trying to water down what was supposed to be 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family leave for employees. This is now reportedly down to only four weeks, which is better than nothing (what we have now), but could have been a whole lot more effective. Tuition-free community college appears to already be on the cutting room floor, and the eldercare provisions will likely be slashed (at least, monetarily) as well.

When examining what is likely to emerge from this frenzy of negotiations versus what it might have included, one is left to ponder: "With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?"

Both Manchin and Sinema are quite likely to get the lion's share of what they are demanding. Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden really have no other choice. If either senator doesn't vote for the final bill, it will fail. Period. They've used this leverage to maximum effect, and they look to become the ones who "didn't blink" in the negotiations, and thus got what they wanted.

Which is a shame. Because it is going to leave a lot of Democrats out there disappointed, frustrated, and downright angry at their own party's inability to deliver on campaign promises. This will tarnish what should be a grand celebration of Democrats actually getting more done in Biden's first year in office than Trump did in all four of his. Which is why I'm going to close this article with a poetic quote, from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Maud Miller":

For all of sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


19 Comments on “The Disappointing Endgame Approaches”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Another quote, perhaps also from Whittier,

    "Repubs are shitty, but Demos are shittier."

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    As shameful or depressing (take your pick) as this watered-down version of Biden's ambitious program is, there is something to be said for the progressives and the president having overestimated back on Election Day what a 50+VP majority in the Senate really means, legislatively. Non-liberal Democratic senator Manchin put it this way: "You want more liberal Democratic senators? Elect more liberal Democratic senators."
    I tend to take the more pragmatic view, echoing the fallout from Obamacare: no, we're not going to say 'with Democrats like these who needs Republicans'? Believe it or not, a $2 Trillion social welfare/infrastructure bill actually *is* better than nothing, not to mention better than the negative number that the current Republican platform must be counted as.

    I hope progressive Democrats do not respond to this disappointing outcome by being "downright angry at their own party's inability to deliver on campaign promises". Rather, they should focus more than ever on the question of why, after four years of Trump and ample evidence that the Congressional Republicans and the Supreme Court have a worldview opposite to any thought of progressive legislation, the country still only elected the barest of bare majorities in both houses of Congress? How to overcome that going forward - how to take Manchin's self-mocking advice - would be a lot more productive than getting "downright angry" at Biden, Schumer and Pelosi, who are clearly doing the best they can with a remarkably weak hand of Congressional cards.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Yep, I'm pretty disappointed, too. Progressives have been shoved aside since they imploded the Democratic party over Vietnam. Some form of Reaganism (or Reaganism-lite such as Clinton and Obama) has been trashing the American Dream for 90% of us for forty years now. So half measures are such a letdown.

    Death to Manchin, Sinema and every last DINO.

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I've purposefully avoided the day to day wrangling. I figured that I'd skip all the intermediate disappointments and go to the bottom line disappointment. It ain't over yet, but either Biden gets it done or he doesn't. If he doesn't I'll know that by shooting themselves in the foot like this, the Dems are in cahoots with the Repugs on behalf of our Ownership Class, and are no damn use.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    While I'm this pissed off (and about to go poke around the Democratic Socialists of America website) I'll say that both major parties face a split: the Repugs are splitting between Trumpists and a great number of Repugs who are quietly waiting for Trump's legal problems to take him out of the mix. The four Rs that make up the GQP are Racists, Religious nuts, Rubes and the Rich. The racists and rubes will go with Trump (even though a lot of the rubes have figured out that trickle down doesn't work as promised. The rich and the religious nuts will stay with Trump, right up to the nanosecond that Trump is toast. Then they'll be gone like the wind.

    The Dems problem is that much of their base has followed Bernie to the left, while rich Democrats have enjoyed lower tax rates as much as rich Repugs. Yes, people want to be woke and such, but Trump winning the Repug nomination and Bernie coming close twice means that "business as usual" won't get it anymore.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did anyone watch Biden's town hall last night?

    I think the question that needs to be addressed here is why, on God's green earth, are voters poised to reward the GOP with victories in the midterms?

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Yep. If you'd been paying attention to my comments since I arrived down here in Weigantia, you'd recall that I've been saying these things from day 1.

    Of course, Shumer, Pelosi and all so-called "moderates" are DINOs. Big Money owns much of both parties with the plan being, let the plebs fight over abortion and wokeness. They can try and own each other...and meanwhile,
    we'll own the money.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I'd settle for any kind of death so, long as it didn't result in a Republican from taking their seat(s.) IMO, Manchin and Sinema are truly "enemies of the people [us poor bastards in the bottom 90%.]"

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Haha, Southpark! Say, Don, why don't you take 5 minutes to learn how to hang a title'll always be a sandy little butthole... over your links?

    It's right there in "Commenting Tips" and if I can do it on a cracked cellphone you can do it from your OD World Headquarters.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Don Harris wrote,

    5-Not even close. Next week you will again be defending Biden and the DINOs doing business as usual.

    Yes, IF Joe gets it done (and the Dems therefore don't hand the Midterms to the Repugs) twill indeed indeed sing his/their praises.

    IF NOT, I won't. And that's why I've ignored the daily sausage making news.

    Either do, or do not. There is no "try."


  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    close, but not quite.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Exalted Board Mother wrote,

    I think the question that needs to be addressed here is why, on God's green earth, are voters poised to reward the GOP with victories in the midterms?

    A couple of reasons come to mind.

    First off, with a President Biden (versus another four years of...) we've returned to mostly "normal politics" with mostly normal conduct by the pols and scribes (aka our Ruling Class and most media.)

    They're getting away with it because all but the Progressives in "the electorate" seem to have reverted to it's severe political memory impairment along with the usual simplistic and unsophisticated thinking, such as:

    Well the price of gas went up, so it's Biden's fault!

    Covid's still here, so...

    There's too many immigrants at the border, so...

    Biden didn't pass everything ├Čn 100 days, so...

    You get it. Are Canadians like this, Elizabeth? Inquiring minds want to know.

    This means that it seems like noone is saying to themselves,

    Hmmm, let's see... the last TWO Republican Presidents have been disastrous. I mean, it just got WORSE. And Repugs talk about fiscal responsibility but turn around give billions away to the rich. And, so much ruckus, yeesh!

    The Dems SURE aren't blameless, and they sure get carried away with the PC crap. But they DO get things done that tends to help most of us...

    Second, Murica's mostly Corporatist media certainly doesn't point any of this out. That's why CW is constantly complaining about what the media focuses on versus what it ought to. One has to go to The Young Turks (ooo, Ana Kasparian -- every Liberal schoolboy's fantasy) or Olbermann et al to get any damned common sense about what's going on.

    Whopa, POP QUIZ!


    The government you elect is the government you deserve.

    A- Friedrich Nietzsche

    B- Winston Churchill (*sigh* my HERO)

    C-Thomas Jefferson

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Dude, just go read the instructions in the Commenting Tips (link below)

    No worries, poet..

    It''s...easy as pie!

    (thinking to myself, Self, maybe THAT'LL work.)

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    nypoet22 dawg just go read the instructions in the Commenting Tips (link below)

    No worries, poet..

    It''s...easy as pie!

    (thinking to myself, Self, maybe THAT'LL work.)

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Oh. Only NOW does the first one post. Gotta talk to Management about that.

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:




    No! Try not. Do..or do not. There IS no try.

    Properly Quoted Yoda

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:
  18. [18] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I mean, I've always had a serious man-crush on Sir Winston. Once you skim past all the murder and mayhem on behalf of His Majesty leading up to WWII, you gotta admit that he was a wartime Rock Star.

    The only two special bae* in my heart genuine heros have been Churchill and Marina Navratilova. She had amazing courage strength to own her own identity once she was prematurely outed (before she was quite ready) in 1981.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:





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