Paul Waldman in today’s Washington Post pointed out an obvious fact about Senate votes in an op-ed laying out why it’s wrong to blame progressives for Biden’s failure to keep campaign promises to pass transformational and widely popular measures that include funding proven measures to decrease child poverty, billions to fund programs to slow climate catastrophe and the protection of older Americans, new parents, their children and democracy itself. Biden faces a wall of 52 obstructionists in a minority controlled 100 member lawmaking body that requires 60 votes to move anything forward — TO EVEN DEBATE A BILL.
It’s not that the filibuster simply shuts down a vote, which of course it does, it shuts down a public debate on the issues in bills the House sends to the Senate for debate and a vote to pass it into law.
Compare Biden’s razor thin majorities to those of his two Democratic predecessors, as Waldman does here:
The Senate is divided 50-50 and Democrats have just a 10-vote margin in the House. Compare that to the majorities Barack Obama had in 2009: 60-to-40 in the Senate, 257-to-178 in the House. Or Bill Clinton in 1993: 57-to-43 in the Senate, 258-to-176 in the House.
The only reason the now hugely popular Obamacare passed was that the Democrats had an unfillibusterable majority in the Senate. Of course, the private health insurance-based bill came out of a conservative think tank, which made it more palatable to conservative Democrats who are generally called “moderates” or “centrists,” like today’s corrupt and contemptuous autocracy-enablers Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Fucking Sinema. Sinema and Manchin are 100% against any changes or carve outs to the filibuster, other than the one Sinema voted for last month to raise the debt ceiling, the one McConnell and more than a dozen Republicans also supported on the theory that it would leave Democrats with the sole blame for reckless spending to cover debts incurred by Trump (while preventing an unprecedented international economic crisis when the federal government shut down and the US defaulted on its debts.)
But back to Biden. He is often lambasted for lack of strength and resolve, for not twisting arms, breaking them if necessary, to get these critical voting laws passed. LBJ, Master of the Senate, did just that in 1964 and 1965 getting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed over feverish opposition. Restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a massively successful law that five un-elected right-wing zealots eviscerated in 2013, and a 6-3 majority beheaded last year, to give their side a partisan boost in elections, would require convincing twelve lockstep Republican senators to defy the vengeance of their famously vindictive party leader, come forward and vote with 48 Democrats.
Although we hear that 16 Republican senators who voted for the 2006 re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act (it was reauthorized 98-0 under Dubya and Cheney) are still in the Senate, times have changed. If every eligible voter was allowed to vote, and have their votes counted by nonpartisan officials, the extremist Republican party, currently in thrall to a maniac who demands fealty to a series of demonstrable lies, rightfully reasons they would be finished in national politics. The obvious answer, employed so far by 19 states since Trump was voted out, is to restrict who can vote, criminalize certain voting-related practices (no water to Blacks waiting hours on line to vote in Georgia, that’s outlawed now) and place partisan election officials as the final word on who won the election in each state, crucially each “swing state”.
Here is the Congress LBJ was working with when he got the 1965 Voting Rights Act, since nullified by the Supreme Court, passed:
Now, in fairness to LBJ, a master politician, those numbers are misleading. The solidly Trumpist/Republican former Confederacy was then solidly Democratic, since the hated Lincoln had been a Republican, as had the hated Radical Republicans who, after the war over states’ rights (states rights to own slaves) that the south never lost, briefly tyrannized the region by changing the Constitution at bayonet point and trying to force them to treat their Negroes as equals of the White Man. LBJ faced at least 22 Dixiecrats (two from each state of the former Confederacy) who’d be as dead set against a law ensuring despised minorities could vote as they were against making lynching of those same troublemakers a federal hate crime. LBJ had to use all his tools to convince several members of the Ku Klux Klan Kaucus, a powerful part of the Democratic party in Congress for generations, to risk their careers to cast the votes needed to pass the reboot of the Civil Rights Act passed right after the Civil War, and a Voting Rights Act to enforce the 15th amendment that proved effective in ending racist/partisan voter suppression practices in many parts of the country. Johnson knew that passing this law would swing the former Confederacy solidly Republican for generations, which it did, but with the Voting Rights Act in place it was a reasonable tradeoff for progress toward a more perfect democracy.
Let’s also acknowledge that the GOP today is an openly racist outfit, every elected member either loudly dog whistling it, shouting it or remaining strategically silent about it — while piously quoting a sanitized, kindergarten version of Martin Luther King, Jr. on his day every year. It turns out you can rebrand racism at law “partisanship” (as the 6-3 Trump Supreme Court did in beheading the Voting Rights Act last year) and let the games begin! Manchin and Sinema are applauded by right-wing partisans and open racists everywhere for their “bipartisan” stand against allowing the majority to overrule the will of the Trump Supreme Court.
Much of this Biden Failure has little to do with Joe Biden. The corporately funded Democratic party leadership that orchestrated Biden’s candidacy is infamously spineless and reflexively accommodating to the needs of the most powerful among us, while taking the votes of the people who wait on line for hours to actually vote them into office for granted. They are also shit at “messaging” — have nothing to compare to “Lock Her Up!” or “Build the Wall!” in terms of an idea that even morons can lustily repeat to each other, in our ad and sound byte driven polity as rationale for their “ideology”.
That said, the perception that Biden is a failure is the product of a morally supple, corporate ad-fueled mass media that constantly equates things that are not equal (like unified obstruction and a willingness to compromise), offers reasonable spins on incoherent Republican arguments, gives allegations, no matter how wild and unlikely, the same benefit of the doubt it gives to proven facts, avoids discussion of the actual issues underlying policy decisions, like the moral imperative to decrease child poverty in the wealthiest nation in history, in favor of exciting horse race coverage of zero-sum electoral politics, sandwiched between commercials.
We see the world through the filter of “respectable” journalism, whether it’s the echo chamber of the far-right, where every crackpot conspiracy is carefully considered and promoted for months on end, or in the corporate “liberal media” where both sides are generally given a fair chance to influence the polls that will tell us who is the winner and who is the loser on any given issue, based on polling. And, as we all know, the polls never lie.
But also, come on, man, it’s not that Biden isn’t working his ass off. He made a big miscalculation that people, benefiting from his policies, would get behind them and move the needle back toward sanity. That ain’t happening at the moment and he should have known from day one that you can’t work to build common ground with committed Nazis bent on destroying you politically, folks who will use even safety precautions during a pandemic as a battering ram against “government tyranny”.
Politics is different now, everything is weaponized, as in Newt Gingrich’s wildest wet dream, and we have Exhibit A, Kyrsten “dagger to the throat of democracy” Sinema, filibuster absolutist (except when voting for a carve out to pay our bills) who gets most of her campaign money, 90% of it, reportedly, from lobbyists outside the state that elected her to represent them in the Senate. And as the 5-4 Supreme Court taught us a few years ago in Citizens United, to limit the dark money campaign spending of politically motivated billionaires is anathema to the First Amendment — might as well put a gag on these poor corporations and hereditary billionaires and hang them from a tree as silence their free speech in this greatest Christian, White nation ever created by the hands of men.
How all this shit is Biden’s fault? It’s not. It was reported the other day that the ten richest men in the world doubled their already record-shattering fortunes since March 2020, trillions in pandemic windfalls. Biden and 99% of the rest of us favor taxing them. That Biden can’t do it? Not strictly his fault.