Moderate Democrats Pretty Sure Progressives To Blame For Everything That Went Wrong In 2021

Congress
Moderate Democrats Pretty Sure Progressives To Blame For Everything That Went Wrong In 2021

You can tell Democrats aren’t bullish about their chances in the November midterm elections: They’ve already moved on to the unofficial sixth stage of grief — blame. This will require little soul-searching for some, as many Democrats already have a handy and common scapegoat.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Democratic members of Congress (at least through the end of the year) claim Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain “too frequently sought to appease progressives and their allied groups while antagonizing the moderates needed to pass the legislation known as Build Back Better.”


This is a skewed account of 2021 events. Progressive House members were reliable supporters of President Joe Biden’s ambitious social spending program, which wasn’t something Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren crafted alone and pressured him to advance. This is an agenda Biden himself promoted before he was even inaugurated.

REMEMBER?: Joe Manchin Whines Build Back Better's EV Tax Credit Is Too Nice To Unions

Senator Joe Manchin personally killed Build Back Better and bragged about it on Fox News. It wasn’t Sanders who blew up the deal because it didn’t contain Medicare For All. Warren didn’t throw a tantrum because there was no wealth tax. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex didn’t refuse to vote for it because it wasn’t the Green New Deal. At every step along the way, it’s been Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema who have thrown up roadblocks to the legislation’s passage. Manchin thought the bill was too nice to unions or workers who get sick like deadbeats. Sinema wasn’t sure we should fund the bill with taxes increased on her donors corporations.

The LA Times reports:

After that bill died in December, leaving Democrats reeling, Schumer and Klain doubled-down on the same strategy, pivoting to a quixotic showdown over voting rights that further alienated the moderate lawmakers they still need to revive at least part of the spending plan.

The two leaders played “more to public interest groups than the needs of the U.S. Senate,” a Democratic senator said.

Preserving American democracy is not a “quixotic” goal, Senator "Moe Janchin." I’m sorry that Biden fighting for Black people’s continued right to vote “alienates” moderates who’d prefer to ignore whenever their Republican “friends across the aisle” are kicking us in the teeth. On a practical level, it makes sense to prioritize the ability for longtime Democrats to continue voting. This is not a huge favor Black people are asking Democratic politicians. We don’t want to crash on their couches until we smooth things over with our spouses. We want to continue freely voting for Democrats. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

And I want the anonymous coward to go on record with their assertion that voting rights is somehow counter to “the needs of the US Senate.” I want them to say it to our faces. I double dare them. The US Senate doesn’t have "needs" because it’s an institution, not a person. We don’t elect people to make sure the Senate feels good about itself.

REMEMBER?: GOP Blocked Voting Rights Again, And Joe Manchin And Kyrsten Sinema Helped!

There’s a theory of sorts that Schumer and Klain should’ve realized that Manchin and Sinema were unmovable on the filibuster, and no amount of speeches about democracy and Jim Crow would change their minds. A showdown would only result in a big public failure while pissing off Manchin and Sinema, making them less likely to negotiate over the smoking remains of BBB. The problem is that elections — especially midterms — are about getting out your base. Republicans had openly catered to their base with voter suppression bills and draconian abortion bans. Failing to counter the GOP’s vicious broadsides against Democratic voters is neither great politics nor morally impressive.

“They just won’t take the hits,” said a Democratic lawmaker. “They tell everyone what they want to hear and they’re afraid to take the hits from activist groups, whether it’s on voting rights or other policy areas. And if no one is willing to take the hits, it’s anarchy.”

It’s not just "activist groups" promoting voting rights. Rep. James Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, had advocated for killing the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. Texas Democrats fled the state to stall passage of a voter suppression bill and begged DC Democrats to act.

Yes, Schumer kept private the details of a devil’s bargain he made with Manchin, but that has nothing to do with voting rights. Manchin arguably dragged out BBB talks deliberately so progressives would help him pass BIF. While Schumer certainly walked into a lot of rakes last year, there’s no evidence he’s motivated by fear of a progressive primary challenge. Schumer is aware New York elects Democrats like Andrew Cuomo statewide. Hell, New York City elects Democrats like Eric Adams.

Moderates still seem to hold a grudge over progressives delaying BIF’s passage because they were concerned Manchin would pull a Manchin, which he did. It’s absurd to imagine Virginia was lost because BIF didn’t pass in time. GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin ran on critical race theory panic, not on reasonable infrastructure policy.

But assigning blame doesn’t require logic, just what makes people feel better. It's not productive.

[LA Times]

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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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