If you, like other Americans, recently received your $1,400 stimulus check, you likely appreciate the passage of the $1.9 trillion relief bill and its signing into law by President Joe Biden.
The coronavirus aid package, alongside offering direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, also extended $300 unemployment insurance boosts until September 6, expanded the child tax credit for another year, and allocated funds to COVID-19 vaccinations, rent and utilities assistance, and relief at the local, state, and tribal level.
The path to this legislation clearing both Congress and the White House, however, was a rocky one and not without controversy. For one, no House Republican voted in favor of this bill. Not one. Heck, more Democrats voted against the stimulus/relief package (two—Oregon’s Kurt Schrader and Maine’s Jared Golden) than Republicans voted for it. Owing to a majority in the House, this never really endangered the bill’s passage, but the final tally reinforces the notion that the bill didn’t have broad bipartisan support—at least as far as Congress is concerned.
In addition, other potential relief measures which might’ve been attached to this legislation were defeated, evidencing, in the eyes of many, the genuine disdain certain members of Congress have for their constituents. Kyrsten Sinema, in particular, drew the ire of Internet onlookers everywhere when footage of her exaggerated thumbs-down floor vote on including a $15 minimum wage in the aid package went viral.
I can’t presume to know what exactly was going through Sen. Sinema’s mind when she was making her cutesy gesture. A few critics suggested the moderate Democrat was trying to get the approval of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which is especially egregious in that 1) McConnell didn’t even turn around to watch Sinema’s vote after she initially got his attention, and 2) McConnell is, ahem, a FREAKING REPUBLICAN. Party solidarity isn’t everything, but in this instance, it means a lot.
Generally speaking, then, Sinema’s theatrics were bad optics, a notion unaided by her arriving for the vote well-dressed with a Lululemon bag slung around her shoulder and with a cake for Senate floor staff forced to work through the night on the public reading of the COVID-19 stimulus/relief bill (more on this later). Even if her dessert offering was intended as a show of kindness for beleaguered Senate workers, it was a literal “let them eat cake” moment for her on a national stage.
To make matters worse, Sinema, through spokespeople, tried to deflect criticism of her no-vote on a $15 minimum wage by insisting that it was sexist to point to her thumbs-down in decrying her vote. To be fair, criticism of female politicians is often steeped in sexism. Political figures from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Hillary Clinton have suffered unfairly disproportionate barbs and scrutiny in the media, especially right-wing outlets.
In this instance, though, no one forced Sinema to make a big production out of her vote and it wasn’t as if the other Senate Democrats who helped defeat the resolution on a $15 minimum wage weren’t rightly condemned for voting with Republicans. As far as some might be concerned, she could’ve stood on her head. The direction of the vote was what mattered—and she chose incorrectly. On the heels of stated opposition to doing away with the filibuster—which is seen widely as an impediment to Democrats passing needed legislation by virtue of a simple majority—alongside the likes of fellow Democrat-when-it-suits-them Joe Manchin (who also voted against a $15 minimum wage, by the by), it casts Sinema’s outward profession of caring for working-class Americans in an awfully bad light.
Stunts like Sinema’s only serve to add to the glut of performativity which characterizes the current political landscape. Amid the negotiation of this latest stimulus/relief package through Congress and to President Biden’s desk, GOP senator Ron Johnson took it upon himself to slow down the bill’s passage by forcing Senate clerks to read all 628 pages of the bill, prompting Sen. Sinema to bring her ultimately ill-fated cake to the Senate floor. Rather than permit Americans in need, including his own constituents, to get the relief they deserve, he used his position in the Senate to delay the rolling out of real, tangible benefits.
Is the throwing of red meat to an increasingly calcified right-wing base purely for the sake of political capital not to be condemned in a more full-throated fashion? When does “owning the libs” cross the line? Is there even a line left to cross at this point?
In a similar vein, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently used his stature amid a deadly pandemic to very productively post a five-minute video of himself reading Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. The clip is an apparent attempt to defend Theodor Seuss Geisel’s works against the “cancel culture” of the left amid Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ move to take six books of his books out of publication for “racist” or otherwise outmoded imagery.
Not only was this decision the company’s and not the result of efforts of some conspiratorial leftist pressure campaign (and, by the by, Green Eggs and Ham isn’t even one of the Seuss works being taken out of publication), this doesn’t materially help Americans across the political spectrum. Besides, I could think of a lot of things more fruitful to do with five minutes of my life than watch a professional windbag like McCarthy read a book written for children. It’s boring on top of being insulting.
Don’t get me wrong—trolling has its appeal. In a media landscape already saturated by performativity and at a time when so any Americans are hurting, however, the above-listed nonsense falls flat, particularly when done as artlessly as the above examples. Only a select few people get to call themselves members of Congress. We need to demand more of them.
What is particularly unnerving in these examples of public spectacle is that they reinforce the idea of politics as theater, as something to be watched and not to be engaged with. Kyrsten Sinema, in the face of mounting financial hardship for scores of Americans, was more concerned about giving an attaboy to Mitch McConnell and bringing cake to Senate staff than improving the lives of millions of Americans, including residents of her own state. Ron Johnson, a serial Trump apologist, forced the reading of a bill basically just to be a dick and under the same conditions of health and economic crisis. Kevin McCarthy, who has been trying to claim he never supported Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election even though he TOTALLY F**KING DID, read a children’s book, ginning up some culture war bullshit in a disingenuous way to deflect from the disaster the Republican Party is, an organization threatening to tear asunder by its association with a pathological narcissist.
The proverbial bar seems like it has forever been lowered by four years of President Trump, but the conduct of these members of Congress is not to be encouraged or tolerated, especially for Sinema. Primary wins for progressives have regrettably been fewer and further between than leftists hungry for real change would like, but the incumbent should nonetheless be challenged here. Is her offense the most egregious in recent memory? Not by a long shot. But that one moment revealed enough such that Sinema’s constituents should have no doubt about where her loyalties lie—and they’re not with giving Americans a livable wage.
In the 24-hour news cycle, moments like these don’t get much time in the limelight—and perhaps that is a blessing as much as a curse. Regardless of whether we are to oust hack politicians like the aforementioned bad actors, it is advantageous to look past an obsession with electoral politics and build power at the community level, getting the buy-in of those who normally eschew politics as well as stunts like making videos about Dr. Seuss books and wagging their tongue at the poor. Simply waiting every two, four, or six years for better results just doesn’t cut it.
If you’re like me, you used to believe or still do believe that “politics should be left to the politicians.” This is the absolute worst thing you can do, frankly speaking. When we become spectators, it only encourages the shenanigans referenced earlier. Americans deserve better than the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Kyrsten Sinema, and Ron Johnson. The path forward starts with us, the people who elected them in the first place.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and the Democratic Party would have you believe the intention was always that a third stimulus check—which Americans have yet to receive—would amount to $1,400. The second stimulus check, totaling $600, was essentially a down payment. 600 plus 1,400 equals 2,000. You can do math, right?
The problem with this narrative is that Democrats like Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock ran on a promise that voters would get $2,000 checks—not $1,400 checks, but new $2,000 checks on top of the $600 they already received. They also said nothing about changing the eligibility rules for who would and who wouldn’t receive the checks in this new round of stimulus payments.
First of all, let’s get to those campaign promises. Ossoff and Warnock explicitly referenced $2,000 checks in their stump speeches. The idea even made it into official Warnock campaign literature. Biden, lending support for the Democratic Party candidates in their runoff races, said this:
By electing Jon and the reverend [Warnock] you can make an immediate difference to your own lives—the lives of the people all across this country—because their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check.
There was no consideration of a $1,400 check on top of the earlier $600 check, no delineation on this front. If the bipartite nature of this payment were implied, the message, ahem, has certainly been lost on the progressives using the #BidenLied hashtag which has been circulating since the Biden administration started pushing the line on $1,400.
One such critic, noted Bernie Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon, retweeted a compendium of Biden, Harris, Ossoff, and Warnock vowing that electing the Georgia Democrats to the U.S. Senate would yield voters $2,000 checks. Chuck Schumer is also included in the two-minute compilation expressly referencing $2,000 checks. In doing so, Sarandon highlighted how only 39% of Americans can afford a $1,000 emergency and that over 15 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored healthcare since the start of the pandemic. As far as she and others of a like mindset are concerned, the difference between $1,400 and $2,000 is not just substantial—it may be a “matter of survival.”
Another element critically worth mentioning is the purported timeline for these payments. According to Biden, this money would go “out the door immediately—and that’s not hyperbole—that’s real.” At this writing, Congress has still not signed off on a third round of stimulus checks, $2,000 or otherwise. In fact, following a second impeachment trial for Donald Trump that ended in acquittal (and which now infamously didn’t involve witness testimony), the Senate is due for a week off. Gee, thanks, senators.
We would be naïve, especially in today’s jumbled political climate, to expect politicians to necessarily keep their campaign promises. By now, the trope is all too familiar. Politicians lie. They’re politicians. It’s what they do. We would be remiss, too, if we didn’t give a nod to Republicans for being the poor-hating obstructionists that they are as a function of their being. That we’ve only had two stimulus payments totaling $1,800 since the start of a deadly pandemic is owed in significant part to their willingness to throw essential workers to the wolves while disingenuously hemming and hawing about the national debt.
Depressing political realities aside, the pivot to $1,400 is a bait-and-switch move based on how the checks were initially billed—pure and simple. Democrats, once again, are capitulating to competing interests—real or imagined—without much pushback and in spite of their stated goals. Despite their attempt at revisionist history, progressives and non-progressives alike remember what was truly said, creating a very real concern for a possible backlash to be felt at the polls in 2022 and 2024.
What makes the Dems’ shift yet more galling is how even its more celebrated representatives from the “Sanders” wing of the party are toeing the line on $1,400 checks—even the man himself. Bernie went on CNN with Jake Tapper a week ago, trying to paint the situation as if $600 + $1,400 was always in the cards. Not only does this fly in the face of what Joe Biden et al. pledged on numerous occasions, however, as noted, but it ignores the fact that the earlier $600 check doesn’t even have the current officeholder’s signature on it. These new checks, very much still theoretical, would be coming from a new president more than a month after their predecessor. That’s quite literally not the same thing.
On top of this, Democrats have further bogged down stimulus/relief negotiations with talk of means-testing the now-$1,400 proposed payments. Previously, $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples was the threshold for direct payments, but to the warnings of progressives, some party members have mused about lowering the income eligibility limits to $50,000/$100,000 depending on marital status or basing eligibility based on 2019 income levels, which may underestimate the present need of millions of Americans. A far more efficient path forward would be to get the checks out the door, as Biden put it, and claw back that money this tax year for those who don’t qualify. The emphasis should be on expediency based on urgent need, not on political calculations that ultimately fail to consider the damage broken promises and personal financial ruin will do to voters’ perception of the party.
Americans have started receiving COVID vaccine doses, but in the interim and in the weeks, months, and possibly years to follow, the ripple effects of this pandemic will continue to be felt. No ifs, ands, or buts—everyday Americans need help and they need it now. Not long into a period when Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House, the party seems set upon undermining its goodwill by failing to stand by its promises and prioritizing economic prudency and political expediency (and not even succeeding) over coming to the aid of its constituents, including the ones who put party members in office in the first place. At a critical juncture in the country’s history, the Democratic Party can and must do better.
Online chatter is frequently inhospitable, but ever since the presidential election, it has been especially egregious.
Lately, checking trending political topics on Twitter has been a test of one’s mettle or, perhaps more aptly, a measure of one’s masochism. Democrats sniping at Republicans. Republicans sniping at Democrats. Donald Trump is deranged! The election is rigged! Depending on who you listen to, we either need to save the integrity of America’s elections from collapse—but only in the states where Trump lost—or we need to save the integrity of America’s elections from collapse—not by running better candidates, but pointing reflexively to RUSSIA! RUSSIA! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT RUSSIA?!?
For leftists, this would at least appear to be an advantageous situation. The election is over and Joe Biden won, so they can’t be blamed for the Democrat losing this time, right? And because leftists don’t particularly like Biden, that means they should be cool with the right, or at least not nearly the subject of the ire that Democratic loyalists are, right? Let the “vote blue no matter who” and MAGA crowds fight among themselves and focus on the issues that matter. Easy peasy.
Not exactly. Liberals, freshly emboldened by a Biden win, are feeling free to chide naysaying progressives for anything they may have done—real or imagined—to cost Joe a bigger victory or to hurt congressional candidates vis-à-vis the losses incurred in the House and the failure to secure a firm majority in the Senate. They’re the ones at the top of the heap—and the “far left” would be wise to get in line. Stop killing our post-election buzz, man.
Trump’s faithful, meanwhile, in their feelings about an election that they don’t feel they lost—rather, they believe it was stolen from them—blindly are lashing out at anyone who doesn’t support Trump in his ludicrous bid to overturn the will of the American people. As far as they are probably concerned, those who accept the results as legitimate are no better than the Biden and Harris stans who unapologetically are wagging their tongues at the losing side. And this is before we even get to the matter of the Proud Boys tearing down BLM banners, shouting “F**k Antifa,” and claiming ownership of city streets while toting assault rifles. They certainly are not taking the results of the election lying down.
Simply put, if partisan rancor was bad before, it has only intensified since the election has come and gone. Things haven’t settled down. Moreover, in the face of increasingly dire need from everyday Americans and at a time when progressives, a group most attuned to this need, should be well positioned to cut through the discord, they have their own demons and divisions to sort through.
The kerfuffle of the moment for leftists is whether or not progressives in the House should use whatever leverage they have to force a vote on Medicare for All legislation. With a narrow Democratic majority, members of the Progressive Caucus could refuse to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Such a stance is not without its immediate risk; if Pelosi does not secure the speakership, that puts GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a climate change denier, a staunch Trump defender, someone who has threatened “action” against Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for their criticism of Israel, an opponent of legal status for DREAMers, and an all-around shithead, atop the House pecking order.
What this debate essentially boils down to is a matter of strategy and how forceful progressives should be on compelling the vote on a bill (H.R. 1384, proposed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal) that is presumably dead on arrival in the Senate. On one side of the discussion, there are people like comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore who insist that Democrats need to be held accountable, esp. if they insist people should not have access to health care in a pandemic. The merits here would exist with respect to putting pressure on elected officials to elaborate on why they don’t support a position popular with Americans across the political spectrum, and in doing so, flex their might.
On the other side of the discussion, you have people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who insist the votes are not there for M4A to even make it past the House, let alone the Senate, and to instead put energy behind other progressive priorities, such as pushing for a $15 minimum wage and putting progressives in leadership positions within the Democratic Party. According to this view, all the demands made for a vote on H.R. 1384 which goes nowhere won’t speak to progressive power—and could make progressives look even weaker than some might suggest they already are.
To say that some participants in this debate have taken a contentious tack would be an understatement. Dore made waves when, on his show, he told AOC to—how should I put this in a more family-friendly context?—take a long walk off a short pier. From what some observed, this diatribe was less about politics and more about wanting to destroy Ocasio-Cortez for her perceived treachery. On top of the apparent ill will, there was also the matter of Dore’s factual inaccuracy: Jimmy insisted Ocasio-Cortez had voted in favor of the CARES Act, when it was reported that the representative from the state of New York had not.
The crux of the matter here is not so much what one side believes—you probably have your own opinion on the #ForceTheVote question—or whether the vote would garner the positive attention advocates for forcing the vote are hoping in the first place—some like Ryan Grim of The Intercept are pessimistic on this front, while others, like Briahna Joy Gray, the national press secretary for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, think “the Squad’s” ability to generate interest is understated—but how they express their beliefs.
For some, this is yet additional evidence that AOC is a sellout or traitor or shill for Nancy Pelosi and that anyone who defends her now is a neoliberal bootlicker/hack. For others, Dore and likeminded #ForceTheVoters are crybabies who don’t understand political realities. Over a matter of political tactics on a theoretical vote, contingents within the broadly-stated Left are ready to go scorched earth on present and future alliances. For a mainstream media landscape eager to paint leftists as a fractured bunch, this feeds the narrative all too easily.
Beyond the optics aimed at a general audience, however, the significance of individuals perceived as leading voices of the progressive movement butting heads in an acrimonious way (Gray herself became embroiled in a bit of controversy when fellow progressive podcaster Benjamin Dixon came for her publicly for her stance on forcing an M4A vote) shouldn’t be understated. What amounts to mere performative antics for some can be taken seriously by those devotees within earshot of that soapbox—and the resulting bile spilled jeopardizes the engagement of those for whom politics is an acquired taste or whose natural inclination is to tune out at the earliest sign of contentiousness. In other words, it’s difficult to have a unified front when your forces can’t agree on a target—or lose the will to fight altogether.
In the 24-hour news cycle and amid the real and present concerns of Americans just trying to meet their basic needs—and for some, the global pandemic didn’t create their situation, but has only exacerbated it—this debate over playing hardball with House Democratic leadership and the Speaker’s seat over Medicare for All is a relative blip on the radar. Who cares about an M4A vote when they have no job and they’re facing eviction or they have loved ones sick and dying? What does it matter to me if Jimmy Dore said some bad words to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The Lincoln Project crowd, for one, would be more apt to turn the lens on Donald Trump and all he hasn’t done for the country during a time of hardship for millions. Trump bad. Bad, bad man.
As minor as this episode which is still ongoing may be, that it is illustrative of a larger trend in political discourse gives scrutiny of it value. On an anecdotal note, I’ve observed numerous instances of paid pundits and armchair critics alike ready to cancel AOC for her take on bringing H.R. 1384 to a floor vote. One commenter I saw even opined that they thought Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is the most disappointing politician they’ve witnessed in the last several decades. The woman hasn’t even completed her first full term in the House of Representatives after a surprise primary win against a 10-time incumbent and she’s already a major disappointment? The notion would be infuriating if it weren’t so laughably absurd.
Of course, not every “hot take” we read on social media is going to be well considered. (Frequently, they are very poorly considered.) Still, the people uttering these lines are likely prospective voters in 2022 and beyond. Maybe it’s fatigue after a long and hard year and an even longer presidential campaign. Maybe progressives are starting to become impatient after two failed presidential campaigns for Bernie Sanders and a seemingly endless barrage of attacks from the right and center-right.
Whatever the case, that some leftists would be so apt to throw AOC, one of the most sympathetic figures to their cause in Congress, under the proverbial bus seems wrong-headed. As it stands, the pickings are slim with respect to congressional allies on core progressive issues. Besides, it’s not as if she, while remaining skeptical about forcing a vote on M4A, is devoid of ideas on how else to apply political pressure on the people who need to be pressed on universal health care. We might not agree with her stance completely, but at least there’s the possibility of negotiation. This is not Joe “I Beat the Socialist” Biden we’re talking about here.
I’ve never been super active on social media, but of late, I’ve largely distanced myself from it completely, especially as intersects with the political and social issues spheres. Do I feel less informed? Sometimes, yeah. But do I miss the drama that accompanies a lot of the day’s political discourse? No, not at all. The title of this piece is intended to be ironic, but only to an extent. The insistence of moderates on civility toward people who actively do and wish harm on others is certainly problematic in its presumption that the center is always best, but perhaps a balance should be struck when dealing with individuals who are outspoken defenders of progressive values. It could get lonely on the left otherwise.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there was a presidential election in the fabled “land of the free and home of the brave.”
Though the final result is still being contested by the incumbent, Joe Biden is poised to become the 46th president of these United States. Word of Donald Trump’s defeat at the hands of his Democratic Party challenger began to circulate last weekend, giving rise to spontaneous celebrations in cities across the nation. For the millions of Americans who voted to oust Trump, Biden’s victory is welcome news. In a year that has seen sickness, death, and economic devastation for many, it’s a bright spot, to be sure.
Especially for members of the most vulnerable groups in our society, Biden’s win is an immense relief. CNN commentator Van Jones notably broke down in tears when reacting to his network’s call for Biden, relating how, on that day, it was easier to be a father, it was easier to tell his children that “character matters.” For immigrants to the U.S., too, having Biden in the Oval Office means not being openly vilified as they have been under President Trump.
With Kamala Harris becoming the first female vice president—and a woman of color, at that—there’s also ample room for inspiration. While identity politics is a double-edged sword, representation matters. For other children of immigrants, be they black, brown, or otherwise, Harris’s history-making ascendancy to the role of VP means they can hold their heads up higher and dream that much more sweetly about holding the same role—or better.
So yes, far be it from me to dampen the enthusiasm of scores of Americans about how, come January, the U.S. will have officially turned the page on one of the darkest chapters in a history that has seen its share of darkness. At the same time, it should be underscored that, while Trumpty Dumpty has taken a great fall, he still has his avid supporters. Additionally, looking at the results at large, while disaster was avoided at the presidential level, at other levels, the Democrats fell below expectations.
In the House, Dems will retain a majority, but a slimmer one. Control of the Senate remains a possibility, but is dependent on the outcomes of close races. Dems also lost control of a gubernatorial seat in Montana—to a man in Greg Gianforte who once body-slammed a reporter for asking a question he didn’t like, no less. A blue wave, this was not.
Even with Biden’s win, there are some red flags. Despite what numerous national polls might have suggested leading up to Election Day, the Democratic challenger currently only has about a 3.5% lead with 97% of the vote counted. In terms of total votes, Biden’s margin of victory is 5.5 million. These are comfortable margins, yes, but not quite the repudiation of a failed president many left-leaning optimists envisioned.
In fairness to Joe, national polls do not appreciate that electors are decided on a state-by-state basis, so the final results were always liable to be skewed by virtue of this indirect comparison. Still, Biden arguably underperformed with constituencies that are at least superficially more favorable to the Democratic Party. Trump made significant gains with black and Latinx voters, not to mention he had the backing of many of the rank-and-file union members casting their ballots in 2020.
Ostensibly, these should be solid bases of support for Democrats against a party that has all but conceded its rejection of multiculturalism and which favors the wealthy and big business over the middle and working classes. Gains among women, people of color, and the intersection between by a Republican candidate should be concerning to Democratic Party strategists and liberal commentators alike.
Regrettably, self-reflection doesn’t appear to be a hallmark of the Democratic Party’s approach of late—if it ever was. Despite what the actual data suggests, center-left critics have cited the party’s shift too far leftward as a reason it has ceded territory to Republicans in key areas. All the while, party leaders and sympathetic media outlets have lauded the pair of Biden and Harris, characterizing the former as the man for this moment and the latter as a bridge to a new generation of political aspirants.
The reality of the situation, however, is that, while we should be encouraged by America not shooting itself in the proverbial foot, more than 73 million people opted for the clearly inferior option this election. That’s more than a little disturbing.
As Donald Trump and his campaign have gone indiscriminately throwing around accusations of fraud, filing lawsuits of questionable merit (and I’m being charitable here), enthusiasm for his brand of politics hasn’t died down. In fact, if anything his devotees seem more demonstrative and more vocal in their support than ever.
For one, conservatives have been flocking to apps like Gab, MeWe, and Parler following Election Day, apparently of the belief that major social media platforms are “censoring” right-wing voices and that FOX News (!) is becoming too liberal. While it may not truly have lived up to the name by the numbers, that a Million MAGA March even occurred and that Proud Boys went galumphing about the streets of Washington, D.C. shouting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “F**k Antifa!” is vaguely frightening. If YouTube comments sections are any indication, too, a good percentage of Americans truly believe the election was stolen from the now-lame-duck incumbent. They also see fit to poke fun at my last name. Mangina. Man-jerkoff. Thank you. Very witty.
Not that it’s exclusively the byproduct of anti-maskers’, QAnon’s, and other groups highly correlative with voting for Trump’s actions, but COVID cases are going up in, like, 52 of 50 states. (Yes, I know how numbers work.) It makes the efforts of front-line workers like Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse from South Dakota whose tweets about Trump supporters literally dying of COVID-19 and not believing they have the disease went viral, all the more commendable.
For those of us who dabble in schadenfreude, it’s tempting to respond in less-than-sympathetic terms. It’s their fault for believing the likes of Trump and Alex Jones. They didn’t heed the warnings. Fair enough, but they’re still average people like you and me. They shouldn’t be dying in record-high numbers day after day. Not to totally excuse their actions, but their leadership has failed them. This is the danger of Trumpism. Even after the dust has, for all intents and purposes, settled on the 2020 presidential election, scores of Americans will still reject science and the scientific accumulation of data.
We talk about a divided America politically speaking, but perhaps most dangerously, we’re living in what has been referred to as a “post-truth” era, in which the value of experts is derided and in which false and misleading news travels faster than the genuine article. For the most progressive among us who realize it will take a commitment of Americans from all walks of life and across geographical boundaries to save the country from a widening chasm of income and wealth inequality, it becomes that much more challenging to build a movement when it feels like you live in two separate Americas.
Joe Biden and his campaign won this election. That much shouldn’t be disputed. How they were able to win, meanwhile, should be part of the discussion moving forward. To a certain extent, Biden won in spite of himself. Without turnout from constituencies loyal to the Democratic Party (like African-American women—hello, somebody!) as well as contributions from new voters and grassroots organizing by the left, we very easily could’ve had a repeat of the debacle that was the 2016 election.
So, yes, Biden’s bipartisan approach to politics and his fidelity to certain moneyed interests ultimately didn’t cost him. As some would argue, however, he is poorly suited for a moment in which the Republican Party has seemingly gone off the deep end and in which Americans regardless of class, ethnicity, gender, or other identifier(s) are fed up with the status quo. Donald Trump may have failed in his bid for re-election, but Trumpism isn’t dead and buried. A refusal by Democrats to recognize this state of affairs and continue to offer milquetoast policy goals in the face of widespread, genuine need of voters could result in worse losses in 2022.
I advocate voting strategically for Joe Biden for president, especially for those voters for whom their vote potentially stands to make a difference in a so-called “battleground” or “swing” state. I feel as though anyone who can vote should, barring legitimate concerns about one’s health or risk of infection specifically from voting.
What I won’t do, however, is lie for Biden or try to bully or shame people into voting for him. Furthermore, I won’t try to sugarcoat the position of many who will be casting their ballots for the former vice president: they are voting for Biden specifically to prevent Donald Trump from winning a second term, to avoid disaster and not because they truly engage with Biden’s vision for America—full stop.
For some Democratic Party supporters, however, this stance seems insufficient. It is not enough merely to cast one’s ballot for the Biden-Harris ticket—you get the sense that they want you to “bend the knee,” as Jon Snow would bend the knee to Daenerys Targaryen, too. The time for raising concerns about policy goals has passed, at least until after the election (to be picked up again at an unnamed and mythical future occasion). It’s time to be ridin’ with Biden. Any negativity about the Democratic candidate evidently goes into the political aether, to be immediately absorbed by the opposition and added to his life force or vote tally or something. Don’t ask me—I’m trying to understand the same as you.
Leftist YouTubers inhabiting the space colloquially known as BreadTube have lent their voices and influence to coaxing their American viewers into voting for Joe Biden, and increasingly so now that Election Day is fast approaching (early voting has been underway for weeks, but some remain undecided or haven’t voted). The political satire channel Some More News, hosted by Cody Johnston, produced by Katy Stoll, and written by David Christopher Bell, recently published a video essay titled “Vote! (For Joe Biden (Who Sucks!)).”
As the name implies, the segment is a frank discussion of the importance of voting for Biden in this election, as unpalatable as it might be. It also reinforces the ideas that A) even if Biden wins, he should be held accountable for his campaign’s promises at a minimum and that B) we should not accept a return to “normal,” whatever that looks like this year and at this point in history.
In the aftermath of the video’s release, Johnston related that it wasn’t Trump supporters who reacted the most harshly to the video, but rather those on the left and center-left. On October 16, he tweeted the following:
Made a video that observably persuaded people to vote against Trump by voting for Joe Biden, a guy that I think sucks, and the most aggressive and obnoxious reaction has been from liberals whining that I didn’t persuade people in a way that they liked.
The reactions to Johnston’s reaction to, ahem, his post’s reactions were intriguing in their own right. Many defended him because, at the end of the day, he still comes to the same conclusion as full-throated Biden supporters, but some chided him for making it seem that voting was a “disgusting” act when it should be regarded as the very least an American should aspire to as a means of civic engagement. Others suggested that, well, you said their candidate sucks, so what else did you expect? Or they insisted that viewers were just as likely to not vote having watched the video—if not more so. Or kids in cages, kids in cages, kids in cages. You can probably fill in the blanks with your own examples of liberal refrains which vary to their degree of legitimacy.
This debate over the merits of Some More News’s effort to encourage its viewership to vote for Biden are a microcosm of a tension between wings of the Democratic Party that has existed for some time, but has really gotten a jump start in the post-Obama era. Do robust primaries help or hurt the eventual winner (which isn’t always but frequently is a more moderate incumbent)? After the primary, is it fair to continue to criticize the nominee in good faith, pointing out their shortcomings so as to shore up potential weaknesses in the general election as well as to highlight important issues to address after the votes are counted, or should critics hold their tongues indefinitely for fear of providing the opposition with a line of attack?
I specify good-faith criticisms of Democratic Party candidates by leftists under the assumption these critics don’t actually want the Republican Party candidate to win. Of course, I would be naïve to think there aren’t some lefties who believe that we might as well vote for the worse candidate to add fuel to an activist fire that has been burning for decades but has seen its intensity grow in the wake of the recession of the 2000’s and the progressive movement spurred on by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Or they believe that by voting Republican, they’re somehow sticking it to the Democratic National Committee, an entity which well merits scorn.
In this particular case, though, we’re talking about Donald Trump, someone who not only would seek to stamp out that activist fire, but the activists who started it and anyone who dares to cross him, at that. The accelerationist argument, for any and all positive long-term intentions, loses luster when considering this position’s short-term consequences, of which the brunt is to be borne by the most vulnerable among us.
As for the DNC “learning its lesson,” I would point to Joe Biden in 2020 being the nominee as reason enough to think voting for #45 as a protest vote is an exercise in futility. The Democrats haven’t learned anything from 2016, or if they have, they’re actively ignoring it. If you want to protest what you perceive to be poor stewardship of the Democratic Party, I submit your best option is simply to tighten up those proverbial purse strings. Whatever you do, don’t vote for Trump. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your country.
To reiterate, for the majority of discerning American lefties, a Biden victory is the desired outcome of the 2020 presidential election, a reality seemingly lost on some Democratic Party loyalists who see valid criticism of their nominee as tantamount to helping the enemy or imagine that “Bernie or bust” types represent a larger part of the electorate than they actually do.
On the former count, if progressive criticisms of Biden have been weaponized by the right, um, Trump and his team are doing a poor job of utilizing them. Instead, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, the bad orange man has doubled down on the assertion that Amtrak Joe is a tool of the “radical Left” and has tried to tie Hunter Biden’s business dealings and personal failings to his father’s supposed unsuitability for the presidency, a move which has failed to garner traction if polling numbers are any indication. For that matter, it may be actively hurting Trump and his campaign, making Biden all the more sympathetic for treating his son with dignity and love.
On the latter count, Democratic supporters—and even the nominee himself, who has told people at various points in the campaign raising objections to his plan for America to vote for the other guy if they don’t like it point blank—have treated dissenters to the party platform as all but heretics, castigating them for wanting more than the “most progressive presidential party platform in history,” (which may or may not actually be implemented—fingers crossed!) pointing out much to their chagrin that “their guy lost,” (gee, we had forgotten Bernie lost—thanks for reminding us!), and telling them not to be such stupid, uncompromising babies and suckle at the teat of incrementalism. Amid the beating drum of vote shaming and lame pro-Biden slogans (what the hell is “build back better” anyway?), there is the refrain that not voting for Joe Biden is a vote for Donald Trump.
First of all, from a logical standpoint, this is not true. The only vote for Donald Trump is—not to be a dick about it—a vote for Donald Trump. By this logic, not voting for Trump could be considered a vote for Joe Biden. In turn, belaboring Biden’s susceptibility to losing due to poor turnout is a bit of a tell that true enthusiasm for your chosen candidate is lacking. It’s also an admission that you need the Left’s votes if you want to win—despite, you know, telling them they’re not welcome all the time.
The solution, therefore, is apparently to browbeat progressives into submission rather than genuine voter outreach, even when they’re not suggesting people shouldn’t vote, because it’s easier than coalition building. In fairness, progressives often struggle with this in their own right. There are so many problems to solve, so little time, and so many individual groups formed around specific geographical regions or pet causes. So, so many groups. And re turning out the vote, might progressives be similarly not so charitable to their closer-to-center counterparts were the roles reversed? Perhaps. Without the historical precedent, though, who’s to say?
In his closing, Cody Johnston makes this point about the motivation to vote for Joe Biden:
Every attempt I’ve seen to be, like, “Vote, and vote for the not-fascist!”—it has just seemed obnoxious or condescending or, like, not honest about Biden or about the situation. ‘Cause it sucks. We should be able to say that it sucks, and hold the nominally left party to not the lowest bar ever. Criticism is healthy. F**k Joe Biden, but f**k Donald Trump way more.
Alas, some liberals don’t agree. They want to have our vote and eat it too, as mixed a metaphor as that is. But a vote is not necessarily an endorsement and there’s a reason why people invoke imagery of holding one’s nose and pulling the lever or choosing between the lesser of two evils when describing the voting process. For those who can and do vote, many do it begrudgingly, without a strong attachment to either candidate. Pretending otherwise only makes it harder, and in a year which has seemed to have no limit to the perils it has thrown us, that’s harder than it needs to be.
Ever-present concerns about COVID-19 and hurricanes and poisonous hairy caterpillars (yes, that’s a thing now, apparently) notwithstanding, the subtext of the enthusiasm gap for prospective Joe Biden voters is glaring.
The people most enthusiastic about Biden as their nominee of choice tend to be those for whom the failings of either major-party candidate won’t matter all that materially or those who already have positive associations with the Democratic Party and voting in general. Less psyched about casting their ballots for Biden are the Americans who have struggled regardless of the party affiliation of the president and/or who hold the Obama-Biden administration in lower esteem than those fervent Democratic cheerleaders.
Herein, matters of age, class, and race are all highly relevant. For Gen Z and millennial voters especially, and those of a progressive mindset especially especially, Biden’s legacy as vice president doesn’t hold the same positive connotations as it does with liberals who swoon at Barack Obama’s smooth talk or who regard the Obamas as something closer to royalty than to the family of a former president.
These are voters who are living through a pandemic, a recession, and a period of social and political unrest, and, in some cases, came of political age during another recession. These are also voters who understand that, despite glowing visions of hope and change, Obama’s track record didn’t match his rhetoric. The Obama administration largely eschewed the energy from progressives which helped its namesake reach the White House and populated its ranks with the same kinds of neoliberal hacks that led us to a financial crisis in the first place. It’s no wonder, favorable comparisons to his successor and predecessor aside, a relic of the Obama years like Biden should be regarded with distrust.
This is all before we get to Biden’s history as a legislator prior to receiving the vice presidential nomination, a checkered history to say the least. Particularly on the topic of race, Biden’s legacy as an author and strong advocate for a crime bill that did discernible harm to communities of color as well as a centrist who has extolled his ability to work amiably among Southern segregationists does him no favors as the head of a Democratic Party trying to separate itself at all costs from a Republican Party plunging full tilt into a white supremacist agenda.
To his credit, Biden has at least acknowledged that supporting the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was a “mistake.” For some, however, this apology is weak sauce, as the kids say. Moreover, amid calls to defund and demilitarize police departments across the country, Biden’s team, while embracing some aspects of police reform, have been clear that Joe doesn’t support defunding the police, despite Donald Trump’s protestations that he has called for this measure. If anything, Biden wants more financial assistance for police forces. Progressive on this issue, he is not.
I get it—Joe Biden is a charmer. The warm smile, the working class appeal, the ability to convey a sense of empathy. His profile is tailor-made for a career in politics. For many voters rightfully skeptical of leadership across the political spectrum, meanwhile, appeals to “decency” aren’t enough. We’re in the midst of societal upheaval on top of global climate and health crises, and Biden’s milquetoast centrist policy stances are less than ideal to meet the challenges of this moment in time. Biden, in upending Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primary (with a lot of help from the other candidates and Barack Obama himself), boasted that voters don’t want a “revolution”—they want results. For the primary voters who fueled his comeback in the primary, that may well be the case.
For a growing number of Americans, however, a revolution is not just desired, but needed. It’s something that would benefit all Americans, not just the socioeconomically downtrodden, too. Unfortunately, Biden either doesn’t get it or pretends otherwise, and at the end of the day, that’s not on everyday people should he lose the election (though, to be clear, they should vote if ready, willing, and able)—that’s on him for not making the stronger case to elect him.
So you’ll have to excuse us if we don’t endorse Joe Biden or even like him all that much. It’s strategic voting, after all, and even if he wins, as Cody Johnston emphasized at the end of his aforementioned video, brunch is still cancelled. Sorry, liberals.
By now, you’re aware that Donald Trump, Melania Trump, three Republican senators, and other members of Trump’s circle have tested positive for COVID-19.
The president was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and has since left. At this writing, though, he still seems to be pretty darn sick. It’s hard to know what to think when the White House is less than forthcoming on matters of his health and, you know, has a penchant for lying. Still, while the battle against COVID hasn’t been easy for Trump, it doesn’t appear that he will die from contracting the virus—much to the chagrin of liberals and other conscientious objectors to his presidency.
Noting how Trump and his enablers play fast and loose with the truth, some public figures, Michael Moore among the notables, suggested he could’ve been faking it, that this all could’ve been some sort of elaborate hoax. While I was not inclined to make that leap—mostly because I don’t think Trump et al. are competent enough to orchestrate something like that—I could pardon those dabbling in conspiracy theories, especially after the utter debacle that was the first (and hopefully last) presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
If you watched the debate, I’m sorry for your sake, though I suppose there’s some solidarity to be had in the shared pain we experienced. At only 90 minutes, it still felt too long, and watching with other leftists, we felt a communal longing for some sort of drug to make the proceedings more bearable.
If you skipped the debate to watch something with more redeeming value like, say, playoff baseball or paint drying, what was so bad about it? Well, dear reader, let’s delve into it, though I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.
The dashes on the transcript denote stops and starts
Before we even to get to the topics raised by moderator Chris Wallace of FOX News fame, let’s address the prevailing theme of the night: crosstalk. There was an untold number of interruptions during this debate, mostly on the part of Mr. Trump, and when he did insert himself in the conversation, it was usually for the purpose of digressing or redirecting the discussion in some disingenuous way.
Mr. Biden, though not rattled by Trump’s disregard for debate convention, was clearly irritated by it, referring to his opponent as a “clown” at one point and asking him point blank to “shut up, man.” If any children were watching, they certainly did not receive a lesson on how to interact with others in a respectful way.
Re the Notorious A.C.B. (yes, some people are trying to make that a thing)
With that behind us, let’s get to the, ahem, substance of the debate. Wallace’s first question got right to the topic on the minds of many: the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Trump, speaking first, basically defended her nomination by saying that Republicans won and they had every right to fill that seat. He then stuck his tongue out and made antlers with his hands, waving his fingers in an instigative manner.
Biden, in his rebuttal, replied that the American people should have a say on how that vacant seat is filled by who they elect to be president and vice president. He didn’t really iterate why Coney Barrett’s nomination was wrong insomuch as he speculated what doom her confirmation might mean for the Affordable Care Act and the precedent set by Roe v. Wade (and deservedly so).
Trump and Biden then basically quibbled on how many millions of Americans would be disadvantaged by the other’s health plan until Wallace finally and mercifully moved onto the next topic.
Let’s talk about our crappy healthcare plans that aren’t Medicare for All
With the ACA already on the lips of the combatants, the moderator pivoted to their healthcare plans. Starting again with Trump, Wallace asked the Republican Party nominee, like, do you have a plan? Trump, taking umbrage was all, of course, I have a plan: lower drug prices. Apparently, that’s it. Cheaper drugs.
Biden wasn’t off the hook either. Wallace followed his pointed inquiry of Trump by asking the Democratic nominee why his public option wouldn’t destroy private insurance. Biden responded by saying that the public option would only be for those people who qualify for Medicaid. Trump tried to say that Biden was in cahoots with Bernie Sanders and his socialized (!) medicine, but Biden inferred that because he beat Bernie in the primary, he couldn’t be promoting such a plan. Because that’s how that works.
Trump replied by saying “Obamacare” is a disaster and that premiums are too high. Biden, in a nod to Wallace’s original question, pointed out that Trump still doesn’t have a healthcare plan. Trump countered by babbling on about the individual mandate and not wanting to be blamed for running a bad healthcare plan and wanting “to help people.” Evidently, that is why he killed the individual mandate and wants to tear the ACA down with nothing to replace it. Are you following? Good. Now please explain it to me.
On handling COVID-19, which totally has no relevance to Trump having to go to the hospital whatsoever
“Why should the American people trust you more than your opponent to deal with this public health crisis going forward?”
This was the question Chris Wallace posed to the debaters, and Joe Biden was up first. Biden, to his credit, gave a solid answer, though give Donald Trump an assist for, well, doing a terrible job. A key highlight was Biden’s attention to Trump’s admission that he knew how serious a threat COVID represented back in February, but that he downplayed the danger. Now, more than half a year later, his administration still doesn’t have a plan.
Trump, apparently of the opinion that more than 200,000 dead Americans is a great success, extolled his decision to close off travel from mainland China—a move that critics judged to be late in coming and haphazard at that. He went on to further toot his own horn, carrying on about how Dr. Anthony Fauci and various Democratic governors said he did a “phenomenal job.” I’m not sure who these governors are, but if they did feed Trump’s ego, they probably just said that so they would actually get the relief they requested.
From there, Wallace turned to talk of a COVID-19 vaccine and its potential availability. Faced with the insistence of CDC head Robert Redfield that a vaccine would not be widely available until summer of next year, Trump professed that, per companies like Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, a vaccine will be ready “very soon.” Biden was all, like, yeah, right, you dum-dum. And Trump was all, like, your college grades sucked. Really. He talked about Biden’s academic performance while in college. Because that’s relevant now.
Because this is 2020, the year without joy, even more about coronavirus
To reopen or not reopen? That is the question.
Trump said yes, citing hurting businesses, and expressed the belief that Democratic governors refusing to open their states back up are playing politics, intentionally hurting the economy to make him look bad. Biden, meanwhile, said no, not without a plan and without the money for PPE and sanitization measures.
Trump then said, well, Joe, why don’t you talk to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer? And Biden said, shush (literally, he asked if Trump would “shush for a minute”), if you listened to them, you might actually know what you’re doing. Biden, as we all know, sternly opposed to malarkey over the course of the campaign, was having none of it.
Following the shushing, Wallace steered the conversation to the topic of masks and rallies. Trump was all, like, masks? Masks? I love masks! If I need to wear a mask, I do! Right now, I don’t need one. That guy over there, though? He’s kind of a mask freak, if you ask me. And Biden was all, like, masks and social distancing save lives.
Which is when Wallace interceded on the subject of campaign events, underscoring the different approaches these men have taken. And Trump was all, like, hey, man, my supporters are packed together, but I have my rallies outside. Ol’ Sleepy Joe doesn’t hold big rallies because he can’t get anyone to attend. And Biden was, like, nuh-uh. And Trump was, like, yuh-huh. If it seems like I’m being hyperbolic, I am exaggerating, of course, but only to an extent. Many of these exchanges were childish, especially on Donald “My Rallies Are Bigger Than Yours” Trump’s part.
The point at which Trump was probably very glad the debate shifted to the economy
“You gotta open the states up. It’s not fair. You’re talking about almost like being in prison.”
So said Mr. Trump, who, if he actually had to spend time in prison, might not be so apt to use that metaphor. The debate shifted toward talk of the economy, with Wallace asking each candidate to explain their concept of the recovery, whether as a V-shaped recovery (Trump) or a K-shaped recovery (Biden).
In Trump’s mind, he was instrumental in building the world’s greatest economy—and then came along the “China plague.” No, seriously, he called it that. Now Joe Biden wants to shut down the economy. And what will that do? Depression! Divorce! Alcoholism! Drugs! Look, I care about the people. Let’s open things back up.
Amtrak Joe from Scranton, PA, on the other hand, spoke to the existence of a K-shaped recovery in which millionaires and billionaires have made hundreds of billions since the start of the COVID crisis and small-town, working-class Americans have felt the pinch. Also, that guy only paid $750 in taxes. The nerve!
Trump, taken aback by such an accusation, insisted he paid millions of dollars in taxes in the first two years of his presidency. Biden responded by asking, well, can we see your tax returns? And Trump was all, like, welllllllll, these are very complicated returns. And then Wallace chimed in to the effect of come on, dude, tell us how much you paid in taxes in 2016 and 2017. And Trump was all, like, I just told you: millions. Besides, don’t blame me for the tax code. Blame Senator/VP Biden over there, he’s the worst.
Biden said, no, you’re the worst.
Chris Wallace then smacked his head repeatedly on the table, whereupon he blacked out briefly before regaining consciousness and continuing to moderate the debate.
More on taxes, because nothing gets Americans fired up like talk about the tax code
Wallace moved to asking Biden whether his proposed tax increases for high earners would hurt the economy. And Biden, seemingly waiting for the chance, started unveiling his economic plan. Whereupon Mr. Wallace sprayed Biden in the face with water, shouting, “Taxes, Mr. Vice President! Taxes!” Biden, newly reoriented, vowed to raise the corporate tax rate. Trump countered by professing that when he lowered taxes, the economy boomed. BOOMED!
That was when Wallace smugly drew from a freshly-lit cigarette, paused for a moment, smiled, turned to Trump, and said, “Actually, Mr. President—Obama’s economy was better.” And Trump was all, like, the f**k did you just say to me? And Biden, with a twinkle in his eye, was all, like, you heard the man! And Trump was all, like, let’s talk about Hunter and Burisma. And Biden was all, like, you’re full of beans! And then the moderator blew an air horn, signaling the end of the segment, while Biden got his brass knuckles ready, silently and unobtrusively.
The segment in which a bunch of old white guys talk about race
“Why should voters trust you, rather than your opponent, to deal with the race issues facing this country over the next four years?”
Such was the question posed to Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Biden, answering first, spoke vaguely of equity, equality, and decency. (If you had “decency” on your presidential debate Bingo card, you can mark that space off now.) He, unlike his opponent, did not try to “both sides” the events at Charlottesville. He did not authorize the use of tear gas against peaceful protestors so he could have a photo op.
Trump responded by—look, I could tell you what he said, but it’s a bunch of nonsense. He’s supported by law enforcement (not helping your cause, bub). Biden’s a tool of the “radical left.” (Does anyone have a Bingo yet?) The people want law and order. Sleepy Joe’s afraid. Are you going to cry, Joe? Huh? Are you going to cry? Waaaaah!
Wallace then steered the discussion to the Breonna Taylor case and none of the officers involved being charged with homicide, asking Biden if there is a separate and unequal system of justice for blacks in America. And Biden was all, like, duh! Biden, to be clear, called for accountability for police who have done wrong but prefaced this by saying that there are “some bad apples” among the bunch. He conveniently ignores the idea that, as the saying goes, a few bad apples spoil the bunch, but we wouldn’t want to upset the men and women in blue, would we?
Trump fired back all, like, so you’re cool with looting and rioting and burning things down? And Wallace was all, not so fast, bruh. You directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training. To which Trump replied, “Because bruh, that shit is racist!” And Wallace was all, like, WTF, mate? And Biden, unprompted, tearfully recalled the prejudice he felt as a young Irish Catholic boy in Scranton. Tired. Poor. Yearning to breathe free. Biden then lifted his lamp beside the golden door. America.
And then—sigh—this went on for another eight minutes. I’ll give you some quick notes. Wallace asked about the increase in homicides this summer, which Trump again tried to blame on Democratic leaders, except that it has happened in Republican-led jurisdictions too. Wallace asked about “reimaging policing” and Black Lives Matter, and Biden started talking about community policing, but that got sublimated into arguments about who was or wasn’t calling for defunding the police and who would or wouldn’t hold violent offenders accountable. Oh, and fun times, Trump refused to explicitly condemn the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group. Cool, cool.
Oh, wow—they’re actually talking about climate change
Yes—this happened! Wallace, recounting Trump’s greatest hits, so to speak, on the subject of the environment (arguing against the influence of climate change on the wildfires in the West, pulling out of the Paris Agreement, rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations), asked the president what he believes on this subject matter. Trump answered with his usual word vomit, blaming California for not managing its forests better and not really addressing the issue at hand.
Wallace, it should be noted, pressed Trump on why, if he truly believes in the science on climate change, he would roll back standards published during Barack Obama’s tenure. Trump, saying the thinking part out loud, justified his actions with the lower upfront price tag associated with certain types of energy. Because who needs a planet to enjoy those savings, amirite?
Biden, when confronted with Trump’s insistence that ending the use of fossil fuels and reaching zero net emission of greenhouse gases would tank the economy, rejected his rival’s position, emphasizing how a commitment to renewable energy would create jobs, not cost them. It would also save money currently spent on disaster relief by mitigating the damage done by the effects of climate change. Alas, when Trump tried to pin the spooky, scary socialist Green New Deal on Biden, Biden flatly rejected any allegiance to that framework. But hey, this line of questioning was more than I could’ve hoped for from this debate before it began.
Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “election integrity”
“How will you reassure the American people that the next President will be the legitimate winner of this election?”
Oh, boy—that’s a doozy. Biden was up first and basically rambled his way to an exhortation of the public to vote. As for Trump, well, he—sigh. He said, in his rambling way, that there is going to be “a fraud like you’ve never seen” and that the election is “rigged.” You know, presumably, unless he wins.
After a brief interlude in which Biden waxed philosophical on potential involvement by the courts, expressing his concern that any court would be invoked at all, especially a Supreme Court with the likes of Amy Coney Barrett on it, Wallace dropped the question on the minds of many: “Will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?” Trump did not. Biden did.
I referred to this debate earlier as a debacle. Other critics were even less charitable. Dana Bash of CNN notably referred to it as a “shit show”—on live TV, no less. Her colleague Jake Tapper called it “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” Man, these CNN personalities are so dang colorful with their metaphors!
As one might imagine, some critical responses would seem to carry more weight than others. Professional lunkhead Sean Hannity seemed to relish a format that was more pugilistic than political. Journalist/author Jill Filipovic, meanwhile, grew nostalgic for the days when Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee, wishing she could’ve been the one to tell Donald Trump to shut up. #feminism
Regardless of who won—if you ask me, it was Biden in a landslide, carrying the day by not self-destructing—the whole affair was an ugly one. At one point, Chris Wallace had to reproach the Republican Party nominee for not adhering to the rules established for the debate. At another point, Trump went after Hunter Biden for personal issues he faced while Biden mourned the loss of his other son, Beau. If that’s not ghoulish behavior, I don’t know what is.
In all, the first presidential debate was widely panned, including its moderator’s performance. In deference to Mr. Wallace, however, I don’t know how much he could’ve done anyway. He didn’t have a gavel to bang or the ability to mute Trump’s microphone when he violated the rules. The man’s a reporter, not a miracle worker.
At the end of the day, President Trump’s health is still the biggest story of the past week and change. The disastrous parade of interruptions and digressions that was this debate, however, shouldn’t get buried, for it was an insult to the American people. We, the American people, deserve better, and sick or not, Trump deserves the lion’s share of blame for how it turned out.
I would like members of the “just vote” crowd to ponder if they, given the chance, would say the same to the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor if they met them face to face.
Despite what they may mean as catalysts in the push for change, the murders of Floyd and Taylor are tragedies. The victims are gone (at least in corporeal form) and no amount of “justice,” retributive or otherwise, could hope to bring them back. Accountability for all those involved and meaningful reform are only some measures of consolation.
In Floyd’s case, the four officers at the scene were charged and face an eventual trial, though at this writing, cameras have not been approved for use in the courtroom. Lest we forget, it wasn’t until the Attorney General’s office stepped in that prosecutors levied charges with teeth against these police in the first place. In Taylor’s case, the city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with her family and planned reforms, but no one has been arrested. As many critics have agreed, Breonna’s family deserves that much money and more, but that is not true accountability or justice.
What else do the deaths of Floyd and Taylor have in common? They occurred in jurisdictions led by Democrats. Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota governor Tim Walz are members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, not to mention both state senators. Louisville mayor Greg Fischer and Kentucky governor Andy Beshear are Democrats.
Beshear, Frey, and Walz may get some of benefit of the doubt having only started their tenures last year or in 2018, but Democrats have held the gubernatorial seat since 2011 in Minnesota and have controlled the Minneapolis mayoral seat since 1978. It’s not as if there hasn’t been ample time for action, even if we’re accounting for assumed Republican resistance to reform (and let’s not let them off the hook either).
Eric Garner. Rayshard Brooks. The list goes on. These people were killed at the hands of police despite living in places run by Democrats either at the municipal or state level. This is not to say that elected officials should be held accountable for every act of violence that happens on their watch. That said, their responses in these situations merit scrutiny, and regardless, that police brutality is so pervasive independent of party control flies in the face of the “just vote” mentality.
This is where I reassure the reader that, despite my misgivings, I believe fundamentally that everyone who can should vote. A free and fair vote is the cornerstone of any representative democracy (how free and fair it is merits further discussion, but I am speaking purely in the abstract) and elections matter, often increasingly so the more local they get.
Lord knows I have been told as much repeatedly by Democrats and other staunch defenders of Joe Biden. This presidential election is of utmost importance. I would tell you that “it’s the most important election of our lifetime,” except people always say that and, even if it’s true, I feel like I’m beating the proverbial dead horse by repeating this line. You probably don’t need convincing on this dimension.
Indeed, I don’t take issue with voting or, for that matter, who one votes for. I might tell you your vote is ill-advised, especially if you’re voting Republican, but that’s your choice. It is specifically the “just vote” mentality as a means of dismissing legitimate concerns that I seek to admonish here because it fails to appreciate the magnitude of struggles for marginalized people and because it gets weaponized against progressives as a means of quelling dissent within Democratic Party ranks.
The examples of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are extreme, though salient, topical, and illustrative of how ingrained injustice is from a racial and socioeconomic perspective. Expanding the conversation beyond police violence, the theme yet applies. San Francisco, despite a reputation for liberalism, has been the site of high rates of homelessness mediated by a pronounced housing shortage. Seattle, likewise regarded for being more liberal, has suffered its own homelessness crisis.
Independent of the affiliation of elected leadership, widening income and wealth inequality underscore the hardships faced by so many Americans. The pandemic has only intensified these woes, exposing the fragility of our way of life after suffering a shock to the system like a global health emergency. New York governor Andrew Cuomo, for some reason asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention, referred to COVID-19 as a metaphor in a nod to this theme. Strictly speaking, if this all is a metaphor, someone forgot to tell the virus because it seems pretty real to me. That said, it does put existing societal ills under a microscope such that their existence and pervasiveness are easily visible.
Over 200,000 people have died in the United States as a result of COVID-19 infection, and more states than not are headed in the wrong direction in terms of the rate of increase of positive tests. Meanwhile, congressional leadership is fretting about the price tag of a second round of stimulus checks and politicians are extoling the virtues of “affordable” health care, including a vaccine which is still in its testing or theoretical phase. All the while, the richest among us are making bank off this health crisis. Our suffering is their opportunity. It’s downright deflating, but not surprising under a system in which capital is prized above all else—plant and animal life, people, the planet itself.
This is the world “just vote” has given us: a world in which engagement dies after the votes are counted and people wear their modest civic participation around like it’s a major achievement. Privilege that it is, voting should be an afterthought and not the sum total of one’s efforts. It is not a panacea. The party loyalists who insist otherwise seeking a return to normalcy and the ability to go back to brunch or back to sleep are standing in the way of progress, plain and simple.
Adding a new wrinkle to the sense of urgency surrounding the 2020 presidential election is the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Though anytime someone is regarded with iconic status, our recollection of that person tends to be rosier than their full record perhaps warrants, the “Notorious RBG’s” advocacy for women’s rights and personal crusade against gender-based discrimination can’t be ignored when discussing her legacy. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a veritable trailblazer when it came to her service on the Supreme Court and she earned her place in history.
For the “vote blue no matter who” crowd, Bader Ginsburg’s seat was already a key component of their cajoling of uncommitted left-leaners into electoral acquiescence. Think of RBG! Think of the Supreme Court! In fairness, this is one of the more compelling arguments they could make. A strong imbalance on the court in favor of conservatives could endanger any number of human rights, notably reproductive rights. Coincidentally, Democratic causes and candidates have raised more than $100 million since RBG’s passing, and one might imagine a number of these donations were made with the fate of Roe v. Wade in mind.
That congressional Democrats and Joe Biden appear to be taking a stand against Republican efforts to try to ram a replacement through the confirmation process is encouraging. Though no one in their right mind would have wished for Bader Ginsburg’s death, that her passing could be the spark for a unified front by the broadly-stated “Left” communicates the sense that there is something worth fighting for within the Democratic Party structure. In a year that has been all but a bust for progressives on the national stage, this infuses the march to November with a new energy.
Of course, these gains won’t last forever and even if Democrats regain control of both the White House and the Senate, their feet will need to be held to the fire. We know “just vote.” We’ve seen it, heard it, and lived through it. There’s a better way forward. Our very future depends on it.
Much was made of the decision to only offer a 60-second speaking slot to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
For some—myself included—what was especially galling was that Ocasio-Cortez got less face time than someone like John Kasich, who isn’t even a Democrat. Even among Democrats, her relative sparsity was confounding. Chris Coons? Catherine Cortez Masto? You chose these less-than-household names over someone like AOC, possibly the most exciting politician under the Democratic banner in decades? Really?
The inclusion which really rustles my jimmies, however, is the elevation of someone like Pete Buttigieg over AOC, precisely because he, like, Ocasio-Cortez, is young. On the whole, the Convention, a slow, solemn affair, was populated by politicians upwards of 50, capped off by an acceptance speech by the septuagenarian nominee Joe Biden. By this token, Buttigieg (38) and Ocasio-Cortez (30) were standouts.
That the Dems see someone like Buttigieg as more indicative of their future than AOC, a Spanish-speaking woman of color with a sizable following, is deeply concerning. Especially since “Mayo Pete,” as he’s derisively known in some circles, well, sucks.
Though the piece is almost a year old now, Ryan Cooper, national correspondent at The Week, has some valid insights about his fellow millennial as well as Joe Kennedy III, who he views in a similar light: that of the “entitled millennial” politician. As he makes explicit, Cooper does not have a problem with younger people running for public office—in fact, he thinks more of us should be doing it.
It’s Buttigieg’s choices, rather, that are damning in the author’s eyes. For one, there’s the matter of his employ at McKinsey, a consulting firm with a checkered track record, to say the least. As mayor of South Bend, Indiana, the relationship between his administration, the city’s police force, and the black community drew deserved criticism, a relationship that was further scrutinized after a fatal shooting by South Bend police last year.
In addition, his stint in Afghanistan, a conflict long since exposed as a quagmire of an occupation, seems designed more than anything to bolster his resume. All this on top of running for president of these United States despite a few years of mayoral experience in a small-ish city. As Cooper characterizes this last bit:
Being president of the United States is one of the most difficult, demanding positions in the world. It takes stupendous arrogance to think one can just pick it up on the job after running a city less than half the size of Spokane, Washington for a few years.
As for why Cooper takes issue with Kennedy, it’s not necessarily his politics or his vaulting ambition, but that he tried to take out a progressive in Ed Markey en route to a Senate seat and for no other apparent reason than his last name is Kennedy. Of course, Cooper wrote this well in advance of Markey’s sizable victory, but Massachusetts voters ultimately gave Kennedy their own rebuke that better decision-making on his part could’ve avoided.
In this regard, the author sees a stark contrast between the likes of Buttigieg and Kennedy (“men who think it all should just be handed to them”) and AOC (someone “attempting to actually stand up for her generation”). That contrast unfortunately also extends to how she is treated by some members of the media and members of her own party.
Ocasio-Cortez, for all her popularity, receives more than her share of abuse from establishment Democrats and right-wing provocateurs alike, the latter in particular alternating between jabs at her past work as a bartender (which isn’t anything of which to be ashamed, mind you) and her supposed elitist tendencies (and I guarantee you they wouldn’t be going after her like this if she were a man).
That Democrats see more in Barack Obama knock-off Pete Buttigieg than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or Julian Castro or Stacey Abrams) when younger voters and/or voters of color have told you pretty much all you need to know about him is therefore striking. For a party that at least pretends to give a damn about progressive politics, on the national stage, the Dems really seem like they’re taking a step backwards.
Pete Buttigieg is clearly an intelligent guy. That he achieved even a scintilla of success as an openly gay man campaigning for president is certainly laudable. For the record, too, I don’t wish ill upon him. He’s free to chat with Preet Bharara or anyone else he wants to chew the fat with on his new podcast. I won’t be listening, but you do you, Pete. If you can get people turned on to politics, more power to you.
That said, Mr. Buttigieg, I don’t want you anywhere near a position of influence within the Democratic Party. For all Former Mayor Pete’s trailblazing as a member of the LGTBQ+ community and his intellect, his pitch to voters was nothing but word salad and platitudes.
And the Obama allusions. On the campaign trail, Buttigieg didn’t just seek to emulate Barack Obama, with whom he has drawn comparisons for being similarly young and articulate at the point of his rise to national consciousness—he copied his manner of speaking right down to Obama’s cadence.
Pete the presidential candidate was an, ahem, pale imitation at a time when millennials, renowned for being better bullshit detectors than their progenitors, had already soured on the unfulfilled promises of Obama’s tenure and zoomers, just coming of political age, were less likely to have the same reverence for 44 as older party loyalists. Young people see right through Buttigieg. In case you were wondering why his cohorts would flock to Bernie Sanders instead of him despite his being some four decades Bernie’s junior, there’s a hint.
And yet, the Democrats look at Buttigieg like he has a real future in the party. He’s part of Joe Biden’s White House transition team and is among those being considered for a place in Biden’s Cabinet should he seal the deal in November. At a campaign event in April, Biden said he is a “transition candidate” whose job is “to bring the Mayor Petes of the world into this administration.” It’s clear that Biden views himself as a bridge to more candidates like himself who talk a better game than their record dictates rather than as the kind of leader who will usher in a new progressive direction for the Democratic Party.
I don’t doubt the Democrats want to win in November and would relish the chance to expand their base at a time when the Republican Party, despite its utter defiance of demographic realities, is registering more voters and generating more enthusiasm for its objectively worse candidates. That said, they can do better than President Joe Biden and Secretary or Ambassador Pete Buttigieg and they have to know that much.
Instead, they’re force-feeding us these men as the genuine article and expecting us not to be able to tell the difference or not to care. In the dumpster-fire year that is 2020, that’s an awfully cynical path forward when Americans need all the optimism they can get.
Joe Biden began his acceptance speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention with a quote by Ella Baker, longtime civil rights and human rights activist: “Give people light and they will find a way.” For Biden, it was a call for his leadership as a contrast to the anger, divisiveness, and fear characteristic of the “darkness” of Donald Trump’s presidency.
That Biden even invoked Baker is seen by many as progress, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee has been widely lauded for the tone he struck in his remarks. Still, one wonders what Baker would’ve thought about the elevation of Biden to the top of the party ticket in 2020 amid ever-widening economic and wealth inequality, social unrest, and a health crisis disproportionately affecting blacks. While Biden’s words were a success by virtue of being devoid of sour notes, they, like the convention preceding them, were also largely devoid of substance.
In all, the Democratic National Convention felt like a four-day sales pitch on Biden himself. Old footage and photos of Joe punctuated segments on pressing issues such as gun control, immigration, and women’s rights. There was Joe with Barack Obama, talking about matters of great import. There was ol’ Amtrak Joe taking the train like a regular, well, Joe. Meanwhile, the laundry list of speakers at the event attested to his fundamental decency, save for Bob King, former president of the United Auto Workers union and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who nominated and seconded Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as part of convention procedure, respectively.
Perhaps amid a global pandemic, it would be unrealistic to expect anything other than a somber mood from these proceedings. Still, what usually amounts to a celebration of the Democratic Party and its stated values felt heavy indeed. Furthermore, attempts at levity, when made, largely missed the mark. Not even the likes of Night Four emcee Julia Louis-Dreyfus could make the most of her material, much of it jabs at the Republican Party nominee. For all the inspiring profiles of everyday party supporters and the struggles they have fought to overcome, there were uninspired calls to arms from the various political figures gracing the broadcast and their own failed punchlines. Sen. Klobuchar, I implore you, do not quit your day job.
Biden’s acceptance speech, the keynote address of the whole event, put a cap on the convention’s theme of fighting for the heart and soul of America, replete with generalities and platitudes. Name-checking Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Barack Obama; Jill, his wife; his father and other members of the Biden Family; Kamala Harris; George Floyd; and John Lewis, Biden waxed political on the importance of delivering on America’s promise and framed this election in existential terms.
Discussion of policy specifics, as they have been since the start of his campaign, were sparing. Biden touched on and touted plans for America’s COVID-19 response, rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, upholding the Affordable Care Act, lowering drug prices, reducing student debt, affording access to child and elder care, raising the minimum wage, addressing climate change, empowering labor unions, closing tax loopholes, and preventing cuts to our social safety net, among other things. On paper, it sounds fantastic. Then again, it always does.
Biden closed with these thoughts:
This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme with passion and purpose. Let us begin, you and I together, one nation under god, united in our love for America, united in our love for each other, for love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear, and light is more powerful than dark.
This is our moment. This is our mission. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness begin here tonight as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win, and we’ll do it together. I promise you.
Thank you and may God bless you, and may God protect our troops.
Biden’s closing comments, borrowing from the sentiments of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, are not unlike those professed by Hillary Clinton four years ago in her own acceptance speech. Love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. Yes, this is all well and good.
Again, though, how does it translate to a path forward? “Give people light and they will find a way.” Right, but once the metaphor ends, where does that leave us, the people? We need more than light-and-dark imagery to survive. After all, that’s why we’re presumably lining up to elect you to represent us.
Here’s the thing: I recognize that many Democrats want to take what Joe Biden is saying at face value. And I agree, at least superficially, with the message of positivity that Biden is selling. I want a United States of America that embraces a spirit of love and of hope and of spiritual enlightenment rather than an America which veers off into fascism under Donald Trump.
If we’re going to nitpick somewhat, we might take issue with framing things purely in a light-vs.-darkness paradigm. Much of the U.S.’s past and present has reflected the darkness of injustice for large swaths of its population. Like our shadows, the inequities of the American experiment are inextricably linked with its history. Seeking to move forward without a meaningful recognition of where we’ve been, where we are, and how far we have to go does us all a disservice. How else to explain getting President Trump after the “hope and change” espoused by President Obama?
I asked earlier what Ella Baker would think of Joe Biden’s presidency because Baker was a strong advocate of participatory democracy. As she was once quoted, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” With that, she and others of a like mind emphasized direct action, grassroots organizing, and the minimization of hierarchies (especially those dominated by males) that weight movements too strongly at the lead. It’s the kind of energy that informed Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, specifically the slogan “Not Me. Us.”
Accordingly, while Biden’s use of Baker’s words are seen widely as a win, and while the Democratic National Convention hammered home the idea of Joe Biden the legislator and vice president as a man of the people who always made time for others, Biden’s current profile as a candidate doesn’t match his rhetoric.
2020 Joe Biden, no longer middle-class, doesn’t exactly epitomize the spirit of participatory democracy. Unlike his former rival Bernie, who wore his low individual contribution dollar amount as a badge of honor, Biden’s fundraising model is way too indicative of the Democratic Party’s top-down, big-ticket preferred method.
Even the language of Biden’s acceptance speech is grounded in the me, not the we. My economic plan. I’ll stand up to these dictators. At one point, he says outright, “I’m not going to have to do it alone because I’ll have a great vice president at my side.” Oh, sure, Biden says in closing that “this is a battle we will win, and we’ll do it together.”
Barack Obama said that, too. When the dust settled and the votes were counted, however, energized progressives were instead shunned by the Obama administration and the man embraced the neoliberal trappings of his predecessors. For those of us who believed in the promise of “Yes, We Can!” it’s a lesson we’ve learned the hard way, but learned it we have.
As Joe Biden said in his speech, “This is our moment.” The moment, however, demands more than just the hollow words of yesteryear and the idea that we should take a backseat while a messianic leader solves all the world’s ills. Give us the light and we’ll find the way. The old way of doing things isn’t cutting it anymore.
The 2020 Democratic National Convention: Feel the excitement?
Not quite. The four-day celebration of the best the Democratic Party has to offer and John Kasich has its schedule set—and if you’re like me, you’re less than impressed.
Day 1 features Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama as their top-billed speakers. Other than that, though, the list doesn’t exactly overwhelm. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Catherine Cortez Masto, fresh off not earning vice presidential nominations, are evidently set to inspire conventioneers with their newfound status. Ditto for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Sen. Doug Jones is there because…he has an election to try to win? Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has seen his star rise despite his state’s dilatory early response to news of positive COVID-19 tests and allegations of corruption will…call Donald Trump names?
In all, the speakers here seem to evoke an air of temporary/contextual relevance because they were once considered candidates for president or vice president or for their handling of the coronavirus. Bernie’s and Michelle Obama’s legacies seem pretty secure, but the others? Aside from Reps. Jim Clyburn and Gwen Moore, their records and future party standing are questionable. Clyburn’s and Moore’s inclusion itself speaks to the Democratic Party’s preoccupation with identity politics but only to the extent it reinforces “old guard” politics.
Day 2 features Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and is headlined by Dr. Jill Biden. Lisa Blunt Rochester is…from Delaware (not to downplay her significance as both the first woman and first African-American to represent her state in Congress, but she’s definitely not a household name)? Sally Yates is presumably there because of her defiance to the Bad Orange Man?
After that, it’s a trio of white dudes who definitely represent establishment Democrats. Chuck Schumer and John Kerry, one might imagine, will be on hand to deliver plenty of bland generalities. And then there’s Bill Clinton. If his association with Jeffrey Epstein and the “Lolita Express” aren’t problematic enough, there’s a good chance he’ll say something cringe-worthy just the same.
Day 3 has, um, Billie Eilish for the young folks? Seriously, though, she’s slated to perform. Newly-minted vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and Barack Obama are the top political stars of the evening. As a whole, this day belongs to the ladies—and that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, two of those women are Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, of whom to say they are removed from the concerns of everyday Americans would be an understatement.
Other than that? Meh. Gabby Giffords will be bringing her party loyalty and her obvious standing to talk about gun control to the table. Elizabeth Warren, the picture of party unity that she is, also will be delivering remarks. Michelle Lujan Grisham has…grit? And I don’t know what business Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin has speaking at this convention. This man made a late bid to postpone his state’s primaries, was rebuffed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and didn’t intervene in the same way Republican governor Mike DeWine did in Ohio to push back elections due to concerns about coronavirus infections at polling places. Even if spikes following the Wisconsin primaries can’t be definitively linked to in-person voting, failing to act to reduce or eliminate this risk is to be decried, not celebrated with a speaking slot.
The final day of the convention belongs, of course, to Joseph Robinette Biden. Andrew Yang is speaking—or he isn’t—or maybe he is again? We’ve got not one, but two Tammies—Tammy Baldwin (surprisingly progressive for Biden) and Tammy Duckworth.
Aside from these speakers, I could take or leave the rest of the program. With no disrespect meant to The Chicks (formerly known as the Dixie Chicks), OK, were party supporters clamoring for you to be here? Chris Coons once more fulfills the obligatory Delawarean portion of the program and that’s about it. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are present as not-too-old, not-too-young faces of the Democratic Party. Also, Pete Buttigieg is slated to gnaw on some cheese. Just saying—the guy looks like a rat.
This is what awaits viewers for the virtual Democratic National Convention, for the most part. As noted, John Kasich, who is still a member of the opposition party, should be speaking, though I didn’t see him listed on the official convention website schedule. All in all, with the Democratic Party speakers thus enumerated, there’s not a lot to excite prospective younger voters. A number of these political figures are either older, fairly obscure outside of political circles, or both, when not additionally owning problematic legacies (hello, Amy Klobuchar, Bill Clinton).
More critically, the attention to policy specifics, as it has been with Joe Biden the 2020 presidential candidate, will likely be sparing. In a political environment inextricably linked to the ongoing pandemic and impacted by the moment’s (overdue) push for economic, environmental, racial, and social justice, Americans hungry for substantive change want to know what the Democratic Party will do for them should the Democrats take the White House. The standard platitudes aren’t cutting it.
I refer to the “cold banality” of the Democratic National Convention in the title of this piece because, in addition to this event being a boring four-day celebration of Democrats not being Donald Trump, it largely freezes out progressives.
Bernie Sanders has been afforded a prominent role in the proceedings, though he has largely (and dubiously) tried to paint Joe Biden and his campaign as embracing a progressive platform. Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren will be also be delivering remarks, though on the latter count, it’s tough to know what exactly Warren’s commitment is to the progressive cause in the United States. She notably backed off her prior support for Medicare for All and took super PAC money during her own presidential campaign, trying to justify it by claiming everyone else was doing so and that she needed to follow suit. That doesn’t make you sound very principled, Ms. Warren.
And what about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? This is where it gets juicy, as they say. AOC’s entire involvement with the convention is reportedly limited to a one-minute prerecorded message. That’s it. Sixty seconds for one of the party’s rising stars and biggest fundraisers. If this sounds stupidly self-defeating, one has only to remember this is the Democrats we’re talking about here, masters of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
This goes beyond mere strategic miscues, however. The DNC knows what it’s doing, and Ocasio-Cortez’s effective snub is another potshot at progressives seeking authentic leadership from the Democratic Party. Furthermore, with 2024 chatter already underway, the party establishment is probably desperate to blunt any momentum she might have for a presidential bid. They don’t want her pulling a Barack Obama and using her speech at the convention as a springboard to a viable candidacy. If that were to happen, they might—gasp!—actually have to commit to policies that help everyday Americans.
The old guard of the Democratic Party knows its days are numbered. Progressives haven’t won a ton of primary challenges, but little by little, they’re scoring impressive victories and elevating recognition of outspoken leftists to the national consciousness. Policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal are resonating with the general public. Heck, a significant percentage of Democratic voters say they have a positive view of socialism. Dreaded socialism. When people are finally beginning to sour on almighty capitalism, you know a real sea change is in our midst.
It is because of this percolating progressive energy within Democratic ranks that, while it’s still frustrating that the progressive movement isn’t further along by now, leftists in the U.S. and abroad can take heart knowing that there is strength in grassroots organizing and people-powered solutions to society’s ills. The Democratic National Convention, in all its pomp and circumstance, already felt somewhat irrelevant given the fragmentation of the global media landscape in the social media age. With a global pandemic and economic, political, and social unrest altering the political calculus in 2020 even more, it seems especially so now.