As the news from the United States is all about the Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, announcing that he would vote against President Biden’s “ambitious” spending bill, there is a sense of Deja Vu and much “we told you so” reactions from Democrats and other progressives, who along were predicting this outcome, and warning against “humoring” Manchin beyond a point. Indeed, if not anything, this “blindsiding” of the Democratic agenda by “one of their own” fits into a broader pattern of American politics, where anything remotely to do with helping the less privileged immediately is shot down as “socialism” and raising the bogey of profligate Democrats, as opposed to fiscally prudent Republicans. Never mind that the same Republicans have consistently voted to pass Tax Cuts and other such laws, with the presumption of the failed Trickle Down Economics and Supply Side Economics.
So, does this mean that the attempt to “reshape” American society by President Biden and his fellow Democrats is doomed, at least for the time being? While there are news reports about meeting a “middle ground” with Manchin, in the hope of “persuading” him to vote for some watered down spending package, as well as breaking up the package into smaller parts, and convincing some Republicans to vote for it, in addition to bundling it together with the Budget/Government Shutdown bill, the New Year celebrations would sure be muted. Indeed, there is every possibility that Manchin would continue his intransigence and would not buckle down even in 2022. Moreover, with the Midterms looming, even some moderate Democrats would be cagey of “big” spending packages to a populace, already weary and wary of high inflation, and increasing gas prices.
The present conditions in the United States resemble the Presidency of Jimmy Carter, wherein his attempts to “wean away” Americans from their oil “addiction” were met with vociferous opposition, making him a One Term President. With the spending package in danger, there is every chance that the Republicans would “gleefully” pounce on this failure, giving them an edge in the coming Midterms, which are anyway expected to “flip” many Democrat seats to them. If the Republicans regain control of Senate or the House (or both), then Biden is as good as Carter, having to contend with the Covid Relief Bill and the Infrastructure Bill, as his “victories”. This is where Manchin and his stubborn stance seems to be designed to help Republicans, and as Carter realized, and Biden would, any Congressperson with ties to the Oil and Gas Industry, is likely to “kill” any attempts at Renewable Energy initiatives and in the present case, spending to address Climate Change and other “Green” priorities.
Of course, the BBB or the Build Back Better package is a comprehensive bill aimed at Social Justice aspects, wherein it would have funneled funding towards the marginalized sections as well as addressed aspects such as Paid Leave, which is a travesty since the US is the only developed nation that does not have paid maternity leave. These and other provisions such as regulating prescription drug prices would have gone a long way in redressing the imbalance that has crept into the US between the Top and the Lower Income classes. Mostly as a result of successive governments (both Republican and Democrat) adopting Neoliberal policies, the US, like many capitalist free market economies, is grossly unequal and unjustly iniquitous, and so the BBB was literally the “last hope” of progressives working towards equitable growth goals.
So, where do the Democrats go from here? More pertinently, what should the American voter do now? The answers to these questions lie in the way the former have to canvass hard and campaign aggressively and the latter has to turn out and vote in the Midterms. Much like the 2008 election where the candidacy of Barack Obama “energized” the grassroots workers and the other Democrat candidates in equal measure, the best chance would be to “return” as many Democrats as possible to the Senate and the House, so that “outliers” like Manchin would not wield “undue” influence on the party’s agenda. To conclude, this setback should be used as a springboard for more action and more efforts to ensure that they not only not lose of Congress, but also win with more seats.
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