Progressives play tough – with Biden backing – and confuse media

Late Thursday, the Progressive House caucus did what long-received wisdom in Washington thought they would never do: they stood firm in the face of centrist sabotage.

Months ago, Conservative Democrats demanded that President Joe Biden’s ambitious infrastructure and jobs program be split into two separate bills. They promised this was just a way to get bipartisan support for some of them. But progressives feared that this was in fact a way to destroy parts of Biden’s platform that are popular with voters but not so popular with right-wing lobbyists.

Well, progressives had their fears confirmed this week.

A small, centrist minority of Democrats, led by the senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, made it clear that they still intend to come back on their side of passing the two negotiating bills as the second Congress passed the the only bill law they care about, which is a little bipartisan infrastructure bill. But rather than be intimidated into accepting the betrayal, the Progressive House caucus refused to vote for the smaller bill when the time came, forcing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., To delay the bill. vote which was scheduled for Thursday. . Now much of the mainstream press, in an epic error episode, describes the delayed vote as a blow to Biden.

“House Delays Vote on Infrastructure, in Big Setback for Biden Agenda,” read the front page of the New York Times.

The Washington Post described the delayed vote as “a major setback for President Biden’s economic agenda.”

“Left defies Pelosi as Biden’s high hopes are in limbo,” CNN’s headline says.

But this framework is deeply misleading. Progressives who force a postponement of the vote are not threatening Biden’s agenda. They are the ones who are trying to save him.


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The real threat to Biden’s program is the small group of centrist Democrats. No matter how much they swear from top to bottom that they’re not trying to undermine Biden’s agenda, their actions speak otherwise. There is absolutely no other reason for them to demand that a small, bipartisan bill be passed on its own. It is clear that the second they get what they want, they will renege on their agreement to support the larger bill supported not only by the progressives, but by the White House and the majority of the Democratic caucus.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York explained the strategy of saving Biden’s program from centrist sabotage on MSNBC.

Unfortunately, the media described this fight as a battle between “progressives” and “moderates”. But this is an outright false understanding. The vast majority of Democrats – including most of the more moderate ones – want both bills passed and oppose Manchin and Sinema’s antics. Progressives are precisely those who defend the majority of Democrats, as well as the majority of voters. Activist Bree Newsome pointed it out on Twitter, noting that the press “does not know how public sentiment actually aligns with the Progressive Caucus because the US government is to the right of most Americans.”

Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Progressive House caucus, also opposed the mainstream media framing:

Both women are right. Biden’s larger agenda is not the domain of a progressive minority but is widely popular with the public. An August poll from Data for Progress shows a strong majority of Americans not only support the small bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the larger $ 3.5 trillion proposal that would expand child care, improve health care and fight climate change. Indeed, even though Republican voters instinctively oppose it, they aren’t that upset about it. Less than a third say they are “strongly opposed” to the bill. As Dan Pfeiffer points out in his Message Box newsletter, “Republican voters cannot be on fire to oppose one of the biggest social safety net expansions in decades,” pushing this bill through. the smartest policy decision possible for Democrats right now.


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But, as I note in the Standing Room Only newsletter, Sinema and Manchin have been impervious to both reason and shame. The only language they clearly respond to is power. By flexing their muscles, progressives have finally shaken their confidence in their ability to defend the Democratic agenda while getting whatever they personally want. As Heather “Digby” Parton writes at the Salon, Manchin and Sinema began to show cracks in their awe-inspiring stubbornness on Thursday, meaning “both bills – and therefore Biden’s agenda – still have a chance to be adopted “.

Indeed, the surest sign that progressives are trying to save, not tank, Biden’s plan is that the White House appears to be quietly supporting the progressives’ hardball game. As Politico reported on Thursday, sources close to the White House said “they are not unhappy with all the talk about voting against the infrastructure package” and hope that “the prospect of a gradual revolt will not work. that add to the pressure they are trying to exert on “Manchin and Sinema.”

If, as the headlines claim, this postponement of the vote is a “setback” for Biden, it’s a strange thing that Biden is quietly supporting him. But of course, that’s not a setback, as much as the only possible hope of saving the Biden agenda. Progressives display a willingness to use power that Democrats too often hesitate. This is one of the reasons Democrats have struggled for so long to get their policies through, which in turn contributes to the general malaise that leads to declining voter turnout and poor election results for Democrats.

Half a loaf is not enough to motivate voters for what is going to be a tough midterm election, due to all the Republican voter suppression and gerrymandering. Progressives take a big risk, but there is no possibility of a reward without it.

About Abraham Vernon

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