Sunday, June 6, 2021


 You may have noticed that Joe Biden, after signaling left (or at least perceived by his tailgating fans to be signaling left) has suddenly swerved sharply to the right.

And what do you know - he's ended up precisely where's he's been stolidly parked for the entire half-century journey of his long political career: deep in the heart of Neoliberalville. His oft-quoted campaign promise last year to a group of wealthy donors ("Nothing will fundamentally change") has been proven more correct with every passing day. Still, his string of recent concessions to his donors and congressional Republicans stings all the more in the wake of his vague overtures to progressives and the passage this spring of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

His pulsating left-turn blinker light had way too many of these same progressives pretty much blinkered for the first hundred or so days of his administration. The narrative that Biden is the best thing to come along since FDR is getting increasingly frayed, if not yet completely tattered. He rips the rosy media narrative a new one practically every single day, his most recent pronouncement being that he will not fight the expiration of federal unemployment benefits come September, when most kids head back to their physical schools and their parents must therefore head back to their physical jobs, whether or not those physical jobs still exist. (I hear McDonald's franchises are offering signing bonuses, so what could possibly be your excuse for not being an economy-boosting team player?)

Biden's left turn signal was either draining all the energy and confidence from the oligarchic battery of overlords, or he himself was just getting tired of the relentlessly tinny refrain of Happy Days Are Here Again. It was finally time to disabuse his newfound acolytes of the notion and the narrative  that he was a blind St. Paul who'd seen the social democratic light and finally come to progressive Jesus in his enlightened dotage. 

 Biden's "sudden" right turn to Republican appeasement cut his followers right off. They're still so stunned by the ensuing pileup of about-faces and disappointments that they can't even believe that they're trapped in the wreckage. The adrenaline rush of the new UFO craze and the frenzied finger-pointing debates over that alleged Wuhan lab leak are, as the manufacturers of consent seem to hope, at least temporarily masking the pain of no minimum wage increase, no single payer health coverage, no new or recurring stimulus checks, no federal guaranteed jobs program, no student debt forgiveness. And the icing on the cake is Senate Parliamentarian (a/k/a America's unelected and unaccountable Pope-Queen) Elizabeth MacDonough's edict that the Dems will only be allowed one more reconciliation bill this year, dashing their ever so sincere hopes to usher in a new New Deal. And then there are Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to complete the bad cop triad.

Funnily enough, neither Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris - really no establishment Democrat that I know of - is directly challenging this latest directive. Harris, who as president of the Senate, does have the power to overrule or even fire MacDonough, is apparently otherwise occupied in Central America, trying to convince subsistence coffee growers that a new Internet app showing them worldwide market prices for their product will make them forget all about migrating to the U.S. An internet app is actually supposed to help them more than, say, being allowed to sell their coffee directly to consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Don't they know that the freedom of the Free Market doesn't apply to them?

Meanwhile, according to yet another "soul-searching" effort by Democratic party operatives to discover why they barely hung on by a thread in the 2020 elections, the problem was that they recklessly assumed that black and brown voters are both progressive and anti-police. The study's authors, while decrying the notion of categorizing people into voting blocs, nonetheless assert that since there are more conservative black and brown people than there are progressive black and brown people, they must attempt more outreach to this supposed bloc of law-and-order black and brown people. The Dems have to do much, much more to fight against the GOP misinformation that slanderously insists that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a radical left-winger. Democratic candidates have to do more to convince the electorate of their own conservative and pro-war bona fides if they have a prayer of clinging to their razor-thin majorities in the 2022 congressional elections. They have to double or even triple the dosage of their fact-checking designer drugs to combat the epic epidemic of "disinformation." 

There is nothing in the report about making people's lives better. It's all about what sort of propaganda will work best to convince people that the Democrats are better than those nasty, lying Republicans.

"Our hopes for 2020 were just too high," the report summary concludes, after also blaming the pandemic, bad polling, and too much talk of wearing masks and not enough talk of "reopening the economy" for their party's bare squeaker of a victory over Trumpism. 

It's the whimper being heard round the world of Martha's Vineyard, or wherever the neoliberal elites are out to brunch these days. 

Do I even need to mention that the report was funded by, among other oligarchic influence-peddlers, the late billionaire Pete Peterson's Third Way think tank? At least the Times, in its synopsis of the "most thorough soul-searching by either party so far this year" is finally referring to this outfit as solidly "centrist" as opposed to its previous disinformative placement as "center-left."  I'll be even happier when they start properly referring to Third Way as fascist or reactionary. But with their star reporters balking at paying higher News Guild dues, rather than show solidarity with low-wage journalists at other outlets, I'm not holding my breath.

I don't know about other readers, but every time I hear the term "centrist," this grisly image immediately comes to mind:

Photo credit: Tom Garcia

Roadkill is tossed to the side, the double yellow line of centrism extending beyond the infinite horizon of What Is Pragmatically Possible and Don't Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good.

 The  Republicans, of course, would simply have tossed the corpse into the ditch after running over it a few more times just for sport. The Democrats at least recognize the Roadkill by cynically adorning it with the cheery bright balloon of hope.

A popular modern interpretation of folksinger Loudon Wainwright III's own song about roadkill is that centrists themselves stink like skunks for all their wishy-washiness and devotion to a bipartisan duopoly which enriches the wealthy and powerful via their governing style of gridlock and manufactured paralysis.  Wainwright wrote the ditty in 1972, at the barely noticeable beginnings of the  Neoliberal Era, and also at about the same time that Joe Biden was winning his first election.

Wainwright said he was inspired by merely encountering a literal stinky dead skunk in the middle of the road. Those must have been different times for sure, not least because six major corporations did not yet own and control practically everything we see and hear.

Fifty years later, the ruling elites blame us for lacking enough personal responsibility for our own lives when we fall under the wheels of all their speeding luxury cars. You "shoulda looked left and you shoulda looked right" before ever presuming to cross the road outside of the narrowly defined pedestrian lines. That's because your safety as a cooperative wage slave is their biggest concern.

Can't get a job or earn a living wage or been bankrupted by medical bills even though you're insured? Then you should have been an entrepreneur or at least increased your skills at your own debt-heavy expense while saving enough money for retirement.

The only traffic signal the movers and shakers seem to know is a giant middle finger aimed at their rear view mirrors, against all the unpragmatic people who simply refuse to stay in their own lanes any longer.


Marcus A. A. said...

Karen my wish for you is 300 million readers, you have it down. Mahalo nui loa.

DTTM said...

You wrote:
"The Republicans, of course, would simply have tossed the corpse into the ditch after running over it a few more times just for sport. The Democrats at least cynically recognize the Roadkill by adorning it with the cheery bright balloon of hope."

I respectively disagree about the motives of each party.

I posit that since January 2009 McConnell has ruthlessly used the Senate's self-imposed "rules" to install an increasingly Right Wing federal judiciary and block almost all popular progressive policies the Democrats have proposed. Some very important legislation has been achieved through reconciliation (the ACA is not at all to your liking, but the pre-existing condition exemption alone has positively impacted many many millions of families).

Cynical or not, most Democrats have been trying to move forward, only to have their balloons of hope popped by McConnell (and then being blamed for the popping). His use of the filibuster has made a Democratic president and House legislatively irrelevant. There are no solutions to this problem besides reconciliation or filibuster reform, particularly when Joe Manchin won't allow his own caucus to move to a simple majority-wins-formula in the Senate.

So for now, the white, evangelical right-wing minority in the US remains ascendent, doing terrible damage (voting restrictions, abortion, gun violence) with Trump remaining their leader and Fox, NewsMax, be their megaphone.

mjb said...

I think Biden laid it all out with his "statement to a group of wealthy donors ("Nothing will fundamentally change"). Dems failures go way back to the dawn of Neoliberalism (and beyond). Throw the bums a few crumbs and take care of the donor class at the top.

This nation's government has become a very sad and disgusting sight, sort of like the "Dead Skunk" in the road.

Maybe it's not dead yet but it sure stinks.

Jay–Ottawa said...

The Democratic Party does not want to lead the empire. As a result, the Dems will lose the midterm election. Because they want to lose. Yes, they will intentionally lose the House, likely lose more Senate seats and, in 2024, they will gladly give up the White House. Likewise for seats that might open on the federal bench. The responsibility for all this machinery is just too much for the soulless chiefs of the DNC.

How else explain the loss of hundreds of key political offices at all levels through Obama's reign, or his limp efforts to appoint federal judges when Dems had the power and the time to fight tooth and nail for those seats. As for Obama's accomplishments, high school science students might demonstrate his overall legacy is a near vacuum.

Democrats welcome Republican stalling, obstruction and filibustering. How else explain the Democrats' many legislative feints, standstills and retreats under Obama and, now, Biden to alienate savvy voters while simultaneously fooling naive voters into buying the narrative that nothing for the people gets done because of unbending Republican noncooperation?

In case I haven't made it clear, the Democrats are once again marking time in place. They only want enough standing to be on the take from big money –– not too much, just enough to support their tight little system of fake politics. The DNC is not working for you, the majority, who have been hoping for the Dems to gain power to stop the racket of war, to enact Medicare for All, to pass laws establishing progressive taxation and to support free higher education. Obviously, none of those improvements for the common man and woman is a priority for the DNC.

Any other explanation for the inauthentic opposition's retreat from vision, power and accomplishment on behalf of the common citizen is not persuasive. Alternate rationales for their apparent ineptitude (h/t NYT) merely buy into the narrative that Republicans don't play nice.

Imagine how LBJ would pick up the phone and deal with a Mitch McConnell or a Joe Manchin. Or a Jamie Dimon. To get done what he really wanted done.

richard ohio said...

I don't think Loudon Wainwright III is deceased. Long time fan

Biden saying '' nothing will fundamentally change'' is no surprise that's the way the Obama administration rolled.

VP Harris is in CA touting the republican mantra of ''don't come here. What about a military option to respond to the corrupt governments?

Karen Garcia said...

Richard, you are right about Loudon Wainwright so I have duly resurrected him from the dead. Thanks!

richard ohio said...

Thank you. Loudon and family no doubt appreciate it as well