In her book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson relays part of a conversation she had with famed fellow author Taylor Branch. During it he ponders, “If people were given a choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would chose whiteness?”
It’s extremely early but thus far the Biden administration is dotting all the correct “i’s”. How long they can keep making progress is an open question. The Democrats control the Executive Branch and that is secure. They have the majority in the House but by a narrow margin. Fortunately they have arguably the most politically skilled Speaker of all time in Nancy Pelosi leading the “team”. The Senate is 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie breaking vote. We saw how tenuous that majority was last week when Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy went to the hospital – Vermont has a Republican Governor. Presently the filibuster is still in effect for almost all legislation and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer doesn’t have the fifty votes (plus Harris) to change the rule. At least three Democratic Senators are not prepared to change the rule at this point in time.
Despite right wing mythology to the contrary Joe Biden won the election. However if you look at the margin of victory in several swing states it was not by the wide margin the popular vote would indicate. A few bad breaks and we could have had a second Trump term with who knows what devastation that would have brought.
Going back to the Senate for a moment, the only reason the Democrats have the thinnest of majorities is because they pulled out an improbable twin win in the Georgia runoffs, That is like having your weakest hitter slugging a two run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when you were down by one.
If you get into the real reason (although they will never admit it) that many Americans voted the way they did it comes down to race. The result is that our democracy is hanging by a thread and barely survived to this point.
January 6th proved that there are domestic enemies of American democracy that will stop at nothing to destroy it. The current House is in the worst shape in recent memory. Members are in legitimate fear of other members.
I vividly remember then Speaker John Boehner singing Zippity Doo Dah on the day he announced his retirement. Why not? The House Republican caucus had become something unmanageable and much of it un-American. In the interim it has only gotten worse and its current leader, Kevin McCarthy, has proven to be an inept coward. Last week McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago to visit former President Donald Trump. Trump’s second impeachment trial is currently pending in the Senate and McCarthy travels to see him to “kiss his ring”.
As the Republican Leader McCarthy has the ability to assign members to committees. He assigned freshman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to the House Education Committee. Greene is on record calling both the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings hoaxes. In her “mind” they never happened. Tell that to the parents of the dead. However this assignment may be more telling – Republicans do not care about public education. For decades they have viewed education as an enemy. If you have a wealth of information to draw on and the ability to do critical thinking you are less likely to vote for Republicans. More than trying to inflame progressives I think McCarthy is simply not willing to assign Greene to a committee he actually cares about.
The challenges are many and most will not be “solvable” by executive order. In the best of scenarios an executive order is only a short term solution. A future president can negate them with the stroke of a pen. Legislation is much closer to permanent. Biden will need public support to get any significant legislation through the Senate. That means people will have to make their feelings known to their House member and their two Senators.
Extending that just a bit, the 2022 elections will be here sooner than you think. Redistricting and voter suppression (in red states) will take place in the interim. At the moment the Democrats actually appear to have the opportunity to gain seat(s) in the Senate. That would make Schumer’s job much easier! In the House much will depend on redistricting but nothing legal is more powerful than voter turnout. The Democrats don’t have a great track record of turning out in mid-terms. Democracy cannot afford for 2022 to be a typical Democratic turnout year.
Things are not a good as they appear to be despite the work of the Biden administration to this early date. So much still depends on the citizens and sadly too many are racist, at least in their voting, whether they admit it or not.
Late in the Constitutional Convention a lady stopped Benjamin Franklin on the street and asked him what type of government the document would propose to give the people. Franklin replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”
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