AOC: Here’s How Uncle Joe Can Build Back Better Without A-Hole Joe

Everyone hates Senator Joe Manchin right now. Progressives, moderates, centrists, truly Democrats of all nations loathe the guy for shanking them right before Christmas. Manchin suggested that their hatred only makes him stronger but claims that, despite everything, he’s still a Democrat, just one who’s “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.” Wasn’t that George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign slogan? It’s a unique form of compassion that assumes your own constituents will use their child tax credit for drugs and their paid sick leave for impromptu hunting trips.

Manchin’s betrayal was inevitable to anyone who was paying attention, which included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’d warned Democrats during negotiations that they couldn’t trust Senator Lucy van Pelt. However, during her appearance Monday on “Morning Joe,” Ocasio-Cortez was focused more on the future than dragging Manchin in the present.

AOC: We’re at a juncture where it’s not really about being angry — of course, we have every right to be furious with Joe Manchin.

That’s true. Ocasio-Cortez staring daggers at Manchin is also a great meme. (Don’t worry, there is non-AOC content also available on this site, if you’d like to check out early. Maybe someone said something racist on Fox News.)

Ocasio-Cortez agrees with other Democrats who still want to hold a vote on Build Back Better and dare Manchin and Republicans to vote against it. I love a good spectacle, but only as long as we’re clear that Manchin will have no problem casting his dramatic “no” vote.

From Salon:

Ocasio-Cortez said that Manchin should "have to stand in front of [his] constituents and say, 'No, I'm going to... take the food out of.. kids' mouths. Make him take that vote."

There’s a persistent delusion in DC that Republicans are capable of shame. Remember what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in 2017 after Republicans successfully passed their tax scam bill through reconciliation: “Historians will mark today as one of the darkest black-letter days in the long history of the Senate.” Republicans laughed in his face.

Instead of inducing shame, Democrats should inflict pain. It’s still within their power to do what hurts Republicans (and Joe Manchin) most — help other human beings.

Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Democratic leadership, particularly the president, have a “large number of tools” at their disposal: “It’s really about time that we take the kid gloves off and we start using them to govern for working families.”

Last week, the Senate’s most useless Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, insisted once again that the government can only do big, important things if Republicans agree. The Senate filibuster’s 60-vote threshold prevents radical change rocking the nation whenever the balance of power changes. This is both defeatist and incredibly naive. We shouldn’t shrink from bold action in fear that Republicans will regain control again, and if they do, they will laugh in Sinema’s face and nuke the filibuster as soon as it’s convenient.

If there’s a chance to deliver for people now, we should do so and make it harder for Republicans to take it away.

The Biden administration made some moves in that direction Tuesday. The Department of Education announced it might postpone the plan to restart monthly student loan payments on February 1. Omicron has changed the economic forecast. Black women disproportionately owe more student loan debt than other demographics (22 percent more than white women). Black women are a key demo for Democrats, and if they’re expected to stand in longer lines to vote next year, not worrying about loans for a while might take the edge off.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday that there was an “enormous amount [Biden] can do on climate, student debt, immigration, cannabis, health care, and more” through executive action. Amanda Marcotte at Salon detailed five executive actions Biden could take to build back better, specifically around the pandemic and abortion rights.

Some Democrats object to this because it cuts out Congress and is potentially just as easily undone under the next president. However, if Barack Obama hadn’t acted on immigration with DACA, nothing would’ve happened. Instead, millions were positively impacted. Neither party will reach a 60-vote threshold in the Senate any time soon. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for the polite time to act.


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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