Bob Sheak, September 21, 2022
A divided electorate
Democrats face a tenuous political situation, despite advancing a mostly democratic agenda
The record is clear. Biden and the Democrats have advanced policies that, at least in part, often benefit or potentially benefit most Americans but are typically now viewed as threatening to the interests of the powerful and rich, the Republican Party, and the interests of the Republicans/Trump base.
In the current highly politically partisan environment, the more the Biden’s administration accomplishes, the greater the party’s chances of Democratic electoral wins. But such potential outcomes face strong headwinds. If the already tenuous democracy of the U.S. is to continue, then the Democratic Party, imperfect as it is, must prevail politically over the ever-more extremist Republican Party.
The outlook would be far better if the transition to a more energy sustainable transformation was occurring faster than it is and if the society devoted far less to military spending. See Ray Acheson’s on the need to drastically reduce military spending in his book, Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages or Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad’s book, The Withdrawal.
The accomplishments of the Biden Administration
According to one source, the accomplishments of the administration as of September 2022 are extensive, and range across 15 policy areas (https://joebiden.com/accomplishments/#). The accomplishments reflect Biden’s executive actions and, in some cases, the ability of Congressional Democrats to win support from a minority of Republicans or pass legislation through a reconciliation process that avoids a Republican filibuster. Often as not, reconciliation requires making compromises with “conservative” Democrats (e.g., Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema) that undermine or weaken the initial intention of the legislation.
Here are the areas of the Biden administration/Democratic accomplishments, and excerpts of what they represent.
Signed the Inflation Reduction Act
President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act to bring down costs, reduce the deficit, and take aggressive action on climate – all paid for by making sure the largest corporations and billionaire tax cheats finally pay their fair share in taxes.
Improved health care for veterans
In his first State of the Union address, President Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to make sure veterans impacted by toxic exposures and their families get the comprehensive care and benefits they earned and deserve. In August of 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act – the largest single bill to address our service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxins in American history.
Signed the CHIPS and Science Act
President Biden signed landmark legislation into law that will accelerate semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. The CHIPS and Science Act will help lower the cost of everyday goods, strengthen American manufacturing and innovation, create good-paying jobs, and bolster our national security.
Took historic action to address the gun violence epidemic
President Biden brought together Democrats and Republicans to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, breaking a 30-year streak of federal inaction on gun violence legislation. The legislation took important steps, including requiring people under 21 to undergo enhanced background checks, closing the “boyfriend loophole,” and providing funding to address youth mental health.
Restored American leadership on the world stage
Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, international confidence in the United States has sharply increased. America is back, and our alliances are stronger than ever.
Ended America’s longest war
In acting to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Biden ended an era of major military operations to remake other countries and refocused our national security efforts on the threats of today – not the threats of 2001.
Took action to address gender-based violence
Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, the Violence Against Women Act is now reauthorized through 2027 and includes new provisions to expand legal services for survivors and support underserved communities.
President Biden also signed historic legislation ending forced arbitration of sexual assault and sexual harassment, protecting survivors and making it safer to report harassment in the workplace.
Passed the American Rescue Plan
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law, an unprecedented $1.9 trillion package that helped combat COVID-19 and supercharge a historic economic recovery.
Helped get over 500 million shots in arms, distribute millions of therapeutics, and dramatically expand testing capabilities. Over two-thirds of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 thanks to the American Rescue Plan.
Delivered needed relief to families by sending over 160 million checks to Americans, expanding food and rental assistance, and providing aid to thousands of small businesses. The expanded Child Tax Credit led to the largest-ever one-year decrease in childhood poverty in American history.
Safely reopened America’s schools and made a historic investment to tackle learning loss and address mental health. Today, over 99% of schools are open for in-person learning. Before the ARP, only 46% of schools were open in-person.
Biggest year of job growth in American history
President Biden is leading America through a historic economic recovery. In 2021, the U.S. economy added over 6.5 million jobs – the greatest year of job growth under any President in history. At the same time, we saw the largest annual decline in unemployment ever recorded and the strongest year of GDP growth since 1984.
Took action to combat COVID-19
Before President Biden took office, there was no comprehensive plan to get Americans vaccinated. President Biden got to work immediately on a national effort to get shots in arms. Funding from the American Rescue Plan helped vaccinate over 200 million Americans and administer over 500 million shots.
Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration, over three-quarters of American adults are fully vaccinated, up from less than 1% before President Biden took office.
President Biden took action to drastically increase the number of free testing sites around the country and secure millions of rapid, at-home tests. The Administration launched COVIDtests.gov so Americans could order tests to be shipped directly to their homes for free.
At the same time, the President expedited the development of numerous, effective COVID-19 treatments including life-saving antiviral pills. In total, the Administration secured 20 million courses of antiviral pills that have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%.
Passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation, transformational investment that will help create thousands of jobs and set America up to win the 21st century. The law provides billions in funding to repair bridges and roads, begin replacing every lead pipe in America, upgrade our ports and airports, and expand broadband access to all. It also includes the largest federal investment in public transit ever and the biggest investment in Amtrak since its creation.
In 2022 alone, repairs will begin on 65,000 miles of roads and 1,500 bridges.
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will rebuild America’s critical infrastructure, create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, and increase our competitiveness for years to come.
Took action to combat the climate crisis and reduce emissions
President Biden has made combatting the climate crisis a top priority. In the first days of his Administration, President Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accords and committed to cutting U.S. emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030.
As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, the Biden-Harris Administration is making the largest investment in clean energy transmission ever. In addition, the law allocated billions to clean up abandoned mines and oil wells, fund research of next-generation clean energy technologies, build zero-emission public transit, and create a national network of EV charging stations.
Expanded health care to millions of Americans
After four years of endless attempts to strip health care from millions of Americans under the previous Administration, President Biden took action to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by expanding eligibility and extending the open enrollment period.
As a result, President Biden has brought down costs and expanded health care access for millions of Americans. Thanks to tax credits in the American Rescue Plan, a record 14.5 million Americans signed up for coverage for this year through the ACA, including 5.8 million new customers. At the same time, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan made quality coverage more affordable than ever, with millions of families on ACA plans saving an average of $2,400 yearly on their premiums.
Nominated and confirmed historic judicial nominees
The President delivered on his promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court when he nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson will be the first Black woman and public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.
President Biden is working to shape a federal judicial system that fully represents America’s diversity. Of the judges confirmed in the President’s first year, 80% were women and 53% were people of color.
Overall, more than 50 of President Biden’s circuit and district court nominees have been confirmed by the Senate – far outpacing recent previous administrations. In his first year alone, 40 of President Biden’s circuit and district court nominees were confirmed by the Senate – the most in any President’s first year since Ronald Reagan.
Took big steps toward a future made in America
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made investments to strengthen our supply chains and encourage companies to bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back home. Among other measures, the President strengthened Buy American rules to make sure more of what we buy in America is made in America. These critical steps towards a future made in America will lower costs at home and set us up to win the 21st century.
President Biden’s Made in America strategy resulted in the largest yearly increase in U.S. manufacturing jobs in nearly 30 years.
Republican attacks on democracy: Examples
Acceptance of 2020 election lies by Trump and his allies
David Leonhardt makes this point, among others (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/17/us/american-democracy-threats.html).
“The party’s growing acceptance of election lies raises the question of what would happen if Mr. Trump or another future presidential nominee tried to replay his 2016 [or 2020] attempt to overturn the result.
“In 11 states this year, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, a position that typically oversees election administration, qualifies as an ‘election denier,’ according to States United Action, a research group. In 15 states, the nominee for governor is a denier, and in 10 states, the attorney general nominee is.
“The growth of the election-denier movement has created a possibility that would have seemed unthinkable not so long ago. It remains unclear whether the loser of the next presidential election will concede or will instead try to overturn the outcome.”
Reject the legitimacy and the documentation of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee investigation
Dana Milbank gives the following examples, among others in his book, The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party.
“Republican lawmakers began referring to the January 6 defendants as ‘political prisoners.’ Twenty-one House Republicans voted against a proposal to award the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6.
“By early 2022, the Justice Department had brought cases against 791 people for their January 6 actions, according to a George Washington University tally, and 281 had been convicted…. Trump suggested he would pardon them all if he were returned to power – while the RNC officially labeled the insurrection ‘legitimate political discourse’” (p. 304).
Obstruction: The filibuster as a Republican weapon
Sharon Zhang reports on Truthout, September 8, 2022, that “17 of 18 Pro-Democracy Bills Were Killed by Filibuster This Congress” (https://truthout.org/articles/report-17-of-18-pro-democracy-bills-were-killed-by-the-filibuster). She writes as follows.
“According to a new report from Common Cause, the Senate filibuster has been at least partially responsible for blocking the passage of 17 out of 18 pro-democracy legislative texts that have come to a vote in Congress before the House or the Senate in 2021 and 2022, according to the group’s analysis of votes for each piece of legislation. The analysis was first reported by Insider.
“The 117th Congress has considered a number of pro-democracy bills and resolutions, ranging from the For the People Act, which tackles dark money in campaigns and expands voting access, to the impeachment of Donald Trump, for his attempt to stoke a violent overturn of the 2020 election.”
Other bills include the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would have strengthened rules preventing racial discrimination in voting, a bill that would have granted statehood for Washington, D.C. and the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which have would placed limits on presidential power in reaction to Trump.
“None of these bills have passed Congress, likely because they were either blocked by the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold or never came to a vote because of their likelihood of being blocked by the filibuster.”
“Only one of the measures that Common Cause analyzed passed Congress: the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate and strengthens requirements for Supreme Court and other federal judges to disclose their financial holdings and stock trades.
“In the end, with high levels of support in Congress and an overwhelming outpouring of public support, Congress ran into one of the reasons our democracy needs to be modernized: the filibuster,” Common Cause wrote of Democrats’ attempt to pass the For the People Act last year.
“Even if conservative Democrats Senators Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia) had been on board with the bill and given it a majority of 51 votes, “the arcane Senate procedure known as the filibuster requiring super majorities just to debate an issue, prevented the Democrats from passing major democracy reform and voting rights legislation or the Republicans from considering negotiating in good faith to get to 60 votes,” the group wrote.
“…’ Opponents of the filibuster also say that it is used to block climate action that is crucial to keeping a livable planet, action to stave off white supremacy, moves to workers’ rights, advance protections for abortion rights, and more.
“In their analysis, Common Cause also tracked votes for various pro-democracy measures for each individual member of Congress. Of the 535 voting members of Congress, only 101 members earned a perfect score, voting for each measure. All 101 of those members were Democrats or progressives.”
Republican revenge on opponents anticipated, if they take the House and/or Senate in 2022
There is a lot at stake in upcoming elections at all levels of the political system, and certainly this is true of both houses of the U.S. Congress. Robert Kuttner points out that if Democrats lose even one house of Congress, “escalating Republican anti-democratic behavior suggests the kind of retribution that could occur.” Here are his ominous thoughts.
“Progressive Democrats could be censured or expelled from the House or denied committee seats on one pretext or another. The loss of either house in 2022 could also make it easier for Republicans to steal the presidential election in 2024. A legal memo to Donald Trump by attorney John Eastman…provides a cynical playbook whose strategies will again be available in 2024. Several Republican-controlled states could certify electors who would reverse the actual results of the election. If that occurs, either the election will be stolen outright, or the final result will be thrown to the House or decided by a partisan Supreme Court. If a Republican Congress is fraudulently elected in 2022, leading to a Republican president installed in 2024, voter suppression will deepen and America effectively ceases to be a democracy.”
Trump, Republicans and violent extremists
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, describes Trump as a “sociopathic narcissist who wants nothing more than to divide then nation” (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/09/16/trump-latest-threat-doozy-and-required-four-responses).
He points out that on September 15, 2022, “Donald Trump threatened that if he is indicted on a charge of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House, there would be ‘problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before,’ adding ‘I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.’” And, in August, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that if Trump is prosecuted for his illegal handling of government documents, “there would be ‘riots in the street.’ Trump appeared to endorse Graham’s threat, sharing a video link on his Truth Social platform.”
Reich takes the position that there should be four responses to these threats.
1. Trump is daring the Justice Department to prosecute him, in effect asserting he is above the law. He is not above the law. The Justice Department is methodically and carefully sifting through evidence and presenting it to a grand jury.
Neither the Department nor the grand jury should be intimidated by Trump’s latest threat.
2. Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous. We have already seen the consequences of what happens when Trump invites a mob to the streets. Five people died on January 6, 2021. Many more—including members of Congress and the former Vice President—could have been killed on that day. Since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s incendiary words have fueled death threats to numerous federal officials, judges, and lawmakers.
All Americans should condemn Trump’s latest threat and incitement to violence.
3. We are dealing with a sociopathic narcissist who wants nothing more than to divide the nation over himself. This is not a matter of left versus right, liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican. It is a question of the Constitution and the rule of law versus authoritarianism and tyranny. If Trump prevails—if he intimidates law-enforcement officials from doing their jobs over his attempted coup or his theft from the White House of secret documents—we lose our democracy.
The media must stop covering this as if there are two sides to this story. There are not.
4. The time has come for Republican lawmakers, candidates, and rightwing media owners and personalities to show some backbone and vigorously repudiate Trump. Their failure to do so before now has created a monster that threatens to consume this country. It is up to them to tell their constituents, followers, readers and viewers that there is no place in America for Trump’s threats to law enforcement and his incitements to violence.
Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch, and others must say it loudly and clearly: We repudiate Trump and his threats. No person is above the law
Qanon on board
Chris Walker considers how Trump has explicitly endorsed the bizarre and violent-prone group Qanon (https://truthout.org/articles/trump-shares-image-observers-say-is-explicit-endorsement-of-qanon). Walker reports in this article published on September 13 as follows.
“Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social website this week that appeared to be an explicit endorsement of the QAnon movement.
“Trump has referenced QAnon in the past but has typically feigned ignorance about the false and dangerous conspiracy theories peddled by the far-right movement. During a town hall in October 2020, for instance, he claimed he knew ‘nothing about’ the extremist movement while also seeming to endorse it.
“‘What I do hear about it is they are very much against pedophilia, and I agree with that,’ Trump said.
QAnon followers believe that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running many national governments around the globe, including in the U.S. They believe that Trump is waging a secret, underground war against this cabal — which is made up of Democrats or anti-Trump Republicans, according to the conspiracies — and that he will be restored to the presidency in due time.
“On Monday evening, Trump shared a picture of himself (posted by another account on Truth Social) wearing two lapel pins on his jacket — one with the U.S. flag, the other bearing the letter “Q.”
“Included in the image were the words ‘The Storm is Coming,’ a common saying among QAnon followers that reminds them to have faith that Trump will reveal members of the so-called ‘Satanic ring’ and return to the presidency.”
“Many followers of the QAnon movement have acted out in violent ways, including attacking those who they believe are part of the conspiracy (whether they be loved ones or political figures). Many of Trump’s loyalists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, cited QAnon conspiracies to explain why they took part in the attack, for example.
“Last year, the FBI warned that QAnon followers may engage in further violence in the coming years. According to the agency, QAnon adherents could shift “towards engaging in real-world violence — including harming perceived members of the ‘cabal’ such as Democrats and other political opposition — instead of continuing to await Q’s promised actions which have not occurred.”
“While the movement has been rejected by most Americans, it is becoming more mainstream in Republican politics, as Trump’s hold on the party remains strong. Several GOP candidates running for Congress have espoused viewpoints that can be traced back to the QAnon movement.”
What policies do the Republican Party and their allies promote?
Consider some examples.
#1 – They push neoliberal economic policies that favor low taxes, deregulation, privatization, and have no quarrel with concentrated corporate power in most industries.
#2 – They oppose government “deficits,” but Republicans are responsible for more of the national debt than the Democrats. Author and journalist Michael Tomasky provides a useful summary to document this contention in his recent book, The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity.
“The topic of deficits is especially galling. When Democratic presidents are running up deficits, Republicans carry on like Victorians who just heard someone say the word ‘intercourse.’ But the truth over these last forty years is that it’s Republicans who’ve saddled the nation with deficits. Under Reagan the deficit went from Carter’s $74 billion to $155 billion. Under George H. W. Bush , it shot up to $290 billion. Then Bill Clinton went from that figure to leaving office with a surplus of $236 billion. George W. Bush converted the surplus into a deficit of $459 billion by 2008. Barack Obama went from that figure up to $585 billion, though it’s entirely fair to insert an asterisk in Obama’s defense, in that he also inherited a global meltdown that pushed the deficit to above $1 trillion for his entire first term; he cut it by more than half from is 2011 peak. Donald Trump inherited Obama’s $585 bill and ran it back up to $960 billion in 2019, and that was pre-pandemic. He left office with the deficit at $3.2 trillion. That was pandemic related, but even if we exclude that, we are left with the fact that from 2000 to 2020 the United States dug a more than$3 trillion deficit hole, with the Democratic presidents responsible for only $126 billion of that” (p. 77).
#3 – Republicans support fossil-fuel usage and dismiss, avoid or delay attempts to curtail their use. Michael Mann has documented this in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.
Jessica Corbett refers to a memo by Fossil Free Media and the Stop the Oil Profiteering (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/14/report-exposes-decades-big-oil-lies-industry-faces-congressional-scrutiny). This is in the context of
“decades of climate denial by the fossil fuel industry, which long knew of the world-wrecking impacts of its products, and months of the sector’s price gouging and war profiteering since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.”
“Authored by Fossil Free Media and the Stop the Oil Profiteering, the memo was released as the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s civil rights and liberties panel held a hearing on the fossil fuel industry ‘weaponizing the law’ to stifle protests, and the House Natural Resource Committee’s oversight subcommittee held a hearing on public relations firms’ contributions to crafting and spreading climate misinformation.”
“The memo features sections on the oversight hearings; how companies are ‘adding the pockets’ of executives and shareholders; greenwashing efforts; loopholes in fossil fuel giants’ climate plans; profiles of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell; the sector’s lobbying against climate solutions; and what comes next.
“Highlighting that Big Oil has hiked prices to rake in record profits, which have funded stock buybacks that serve shareholders—including executives with stock holdings—the report warns that ‘continued reliance on fossil fuels will keep pouring money into the pockets of those who are most protected from the damage of the climate crisis and rising costs, while the vast majority of Americans and people around the world suffer.’”
“Fossil fuel firms may publicly claim they want to help tackle the climate emergency, but their ‘net-zero pledges are the latest round of greenwashing in Big Oil’s decades long campaign of denial and disinformation,’ the memo argues. These ‘false climate commitments are all designed for one purpose: delay. Delay regulations, delay public pressure, delay accountability, delay the inevitable transition to clean, renewable energy.’”
In 2021, fossil fuel companies poured over $115 million into political lobbying, “accommodating a payroll of 746 lobbyists, one of whom was infamously caught on camera bragging about weekly meetings with Joe Manchin,” the document notes, referring to the Democratic senator from West Virginia who has impeded his own party’s climate goals while pushing legislation to benefit the fossil fuel industry.”
There is some good news. As the memo points out, “The House Oversight Committee hearings into climate disinformation are part of a growing wave of regulatory efforts, lawsuits, and public campaigns designed to finally hold Big Oil accountable for their climate crimes.”
“Cassidy DiPaola, a spokesperson for the Stop the Oil Profiteering campaign, compared the congressional scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry to that which was ultimately brought to bear on the nation’s powerful tobacco companies.
“‘For years, the oil and gas industry has been able to erect a mountain of denial and disinformation to stand in the way of climate progress,’ said DiPaola. “But like Big Tobacco, Big Oil may soon have to pay for its abuses.”
“Jennifer K. Falcon of Ikiya Collective and Fossil Free Media stressed that ‘Big Oil’s reckoning couldn’t come a moment too soon.’
“As this summer’s catastrophic heatwaves and record flooding make it clear, the impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt around the world, especially in Indigenous, Black, communities of the global majority and low-income communities,” Falcon said. “Our window to avoid utter chaos is closing rapidly.”
“That warning of the need to act now was also the key takeaway from a United Nations report published Tuesday—which coincided with the release of a peer-reviewed study showing that fully transitioning to clean energy by 2050 could not only save lives and the planet but also save the world $12 trillion.
“Accelerating the transition to renewable energy is now the best bet not just for the planet,” said the lead author of that study, “but for energy costs too.”
#4 -They are anti-union, support “right-to-work” laws, put profits over workers, and typically oppose or want to marginalize government efforts to protect workers (e.g., Occupational and Safety, the National Labor Relations Act). The corporate attitude toward workers is exemplified in the railroad industry. Kenny Stancil reports that the big railroad corporations engaged in stock buybacks while fighting against workers’ demands for humane working conditions (https://commondreams.org/news/2022/09/19/while-fighting-workers-railroads-made-over-10-billion-stock-buybacks).
“Our research shows just how far railroad executives will go to funnel record profits to their shareholders—even if that means stagnant wages, inhumane attendance policies, and throwing our supply chain into further turmoil….”
“At the same time they have fought to deny sick days and other vital benefits to workers in the freight industry, rail carrier executives have been rewarding shareholders with billions of dollars in stock buybacks and dividend bumps.”
“According to Railroad Operators: Bad for Workers, Good for Investors, a collection of data compiled by the Groundwork Collaborative and shared with Common Dreams on Monday, a handful of major rail companies reported more than $10 billion in buybacks and dividends over the first six months of 2022.
“Meanwhile, workers who try to visit a doctor amid a global pandemic continue to be disciplined, leading to higher staff turnover and soaring injury rates.
“Railroads have been enjoying record profits after decades of deregulation, consolidation, and “just-in-time” practices known as “precision railroad scheduling” transformed the industry into what Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, describes as “another monopolized cash cow for Wall Street.”
As Groundwork’s new analysis points out, Union Pacific chief executive officer Lance Fritz told investors on a July call that the company had cut staff by a third since 2018 and said, “We’ve got to do some other unique and creative things with our labor unions in order to make our crews more available and more productive.”
Fritz admitted “that Union Pacific’s workforce “hasn’t seen a raise in 2.5 or three years.”
“He also said that Union Pacific is prepared to make further staffing cuts during an economic downturn, asserting that conductor-less trains would be ‘better for the conductors’ quality of life.’”
“Norfolk Southern’s chief operating officer Cindy Sanborn said that the company is looking into ‘sign-on and attendance bonuses, retirement deferral, and referral incentive[s]’ to boost hiring and retention, but she didn’t say anything about workers’ fundamental demands for sick days, paid leave, and other basic benefits revolving around better “quality of life.”
“Last week, labor lawyer Jenny Hunter and Terri Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, argued in Slate that railroad companies nearly inflicted an economic catastrophe on the U.S. because they chose profit-maximization over humane workplace policies.
“It should not be controversial to say it, but: People should have sick leave so they do not have to come to work when they get sick. They should be able to take leave to attend doctors’ appointments or deal with family emergencies without risking their jobs. Workers should also have regular time off, not be on call almost every day of their lives. This strike or lockout was threatened because of the railroad companies’ refusal, right up until the last minute, to accept these basic human needs, and their willingness to bring an already weary country to the brink of yet another economic disaster, all in the name of ever more profits.”
#5 – They hate any policy that is aimed at the “public good,” and would, if given the opportunity, dismantle or eliminate government subsidized social-welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any but the most limited benefits – and then they want work requirements.
#6 – They want to create electoral processes at all levels of governments that limit the opponents’ opportunities to vote. On this point, Dana Milbank (referred to earlier) writes:
“… by early 2022, nineteen states had enacted thirty-four laws restricting voting and compromising election integrity; the Brennan Center for Justice, a voting rights group, found an ‘unprecedented’ effort at disenfranchisement” (p. 305).
#7 -They support policies that placate Trump’s base.
#7a – For example, they want unhindered gun ownership, the severe curtailment or elimination of women’s reproductive rights, the endorsement of Christian Nationalism and the end of the Constitutionally mandated separation of state and religion. On the latter example, the Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute notes,
“The separation of Church and State is a phrase that refers to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The phrase dates back to the early days of U.S. history, and Thomas Jefferson referred to the First Amendment as creating a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state as the third president of the U.S. The term is also often employed in court cases. For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black famously stated in Everson v. Board of Education that ‘[t]he First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state,’ and ‘[t]hat wall must be kept high and impregnable.’”
#7b -They encourage local school boards to ban books that parents or right-wing groups may deem offensive. Elizabeth A. Harris reports on a report from the free speech organization PEN America which “looked at the role of politics and advocacy groups in the growing number of book bans in schools across the country” (https://nytimes.com/2022/09/19/books/advocacy-groups-book-ban.html). She writes:
“At least 50 advocacy groups pushed to ban books during the last school year, according to a report that the free speech group PEN America released on Monday, highlighting how challenges to reading material have become a political issue across the country.”
“‘This is a concerted, organized, well-resourced push at censorship,’ said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America. The effort, she said, ‘is ideologically motivated and politically expedient, and it needs to be understood as such in order to be confronted and addressed properly.’”
“Traditionally, when individual parents had concerns about books their children were reading, they would approach a teacher or librarian directly to discuss it. But today, long lists of titles deemed objectionable circulate online, bouncing from one district to the next. Elected officials, including local office holders and governors, have staked out vocal positions on the issue, demanding that ‘obscene’ materials and even specific titles be rooted out from school libraries. Restrictions have also come in the form of district-level policy changes and statewide legislation, the report said.”
“Of the groups that have pushed to have certain books removed from schools, PEN said, Moms for Liberty has grown the fastest. Formed in 2021, it now lists more than 200 local chapters on its website, according to the report.”
“PEN found that more than 1,600 book titles were banned from schools the United States from July of 2021 to June of 2022 — it defined a ‘ban’ as the removal of a book or a restriction of access to it. The state with the most bans was Texas, the organization said, followed by Florida and then Pennsylvania.
“Across the country, PEN said, restrictions occurred in 138 school districts, which included 5,000 individual schools and enrolled nearly 4 million students.”
What can Democrats do?
Tell the true story based on verifiable facts, contest the lies and anti-democratic efforts of the Republican Party, Trump, and their allies, encourage the political education and engagement of citizens, and make voters aware of the accomplishments of the Democratic Party. Here are two examples.
Encourage civic engagement
In the Introduction to his book, Engines of Liberty: How Citizen Movements Succeed, professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University David Cole makes his basic point: “the defense of liberty depends as much or more on citizens engaging collectively to fight for the values they believe in than it does on the courts and the lawyers who appear before them. The preservation of liberty through a written constitution was a major innovation in modern democracy. But it has survived more than two centuries not because the job was assigned to the courts, but because ‘we the people’ have consistently taken up the charge to define, defend, and develop liberty in our own image, so that it reflects our deepest
Commitments, not just those of a privileged elite who do not represent us” (pp. 13-14).
Be clear on what works best in economic policy
Michael Tomasky, whose book was referenced earlier, identifies four “pillars of the Democratic argument” (The Middle Out, pp. 226-245).
#1 – “Attack the idea that Republican administrations are better for the economy.” He writes: “On key economic indicators like GDP growth, increase in the median household income, deficit management, and even performance of the stock market, Democratic administrations have a far better track record than Republican administrations.” Here’s some of his documentation.
“…under sixteen years of Republican administration (Bush, Bush, Trump, and sixteen years of Democratic administrations (Clinton and Obama),” Democrats did far better than Republicans. For example, “Jobs created during the sixteen years of Democratic presidencies: 33.8 million versus 1.9 million…. Average GDP growth: Democrats 3.1 percent; Republicans 1.62 percent. Dow Jones Industrial Average increase: Democrats 185.5 percent; Republicans 26 percent.”
#2 – “Destroy the myth of Homo economicus and replace it with a human being.” That is, the notion “that we are all self-interested and that acting selfishly promotes the common good is inherently right-wing.” His general argument:
“Most of us spend part of our lives being dependent on others: when we are children, when we are sick, when we are old. Most of us also understand and accept that we are members of a society and that membership carries certain obligations. We accept the idea that there is such a thing as the common good.”
#3 – “Tie economics to democracy.” “…if Democrats explicitly connect paid family leave and free community college and the rest to the preservation and strengthening of democracy, and the great democratic purpose of advancing happiness, and link all that back to the nation’s founding, will put Republicans on the defensive.”
#4 – “Tie economics to freedom.” “Democrats today must say this: It is our economic vision that will give people freedom, and the Republican vision of freedom has left millions struggling…. Freedom is not freedom if you work full time and live in poverty. Freedom is not freedom if a single medical crisis can drive you into bankruptcy. It is not freedom if child care is too expensive for you to hold a job, or if you are born poor and at every turn are blocked in your rise: by underfunded schools, overpriced colleges, and usurious college loans.”
Franklin Roosevelt addressed such issues in his famous Four Freedoms speech to Congress from January 1941 and the ideas are embedded in the 1948 United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.