I wonder if President Joe Manchin and Vice President Kyrsten Lea Sinema are happy today in light of a Republican gubernatorial win in Virginia and a potential upset victory in New Jersey? Oh, did you think they were just U.S. senators from, respectively West Virginia and Arizona? Not by a long shot.
For, after all, it has been their repeated intransigence that has left the Democratic Party in disarray, unable to cobble together progressive pocketbook and environmental legislation that Democrats could run on instead of having to defend Republican attacks on culture issues.
They, not Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and surely not Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, are driving the agenda of the current administration. Yes, Mitch Mcconnell and Kevin McCarthy are Republican stumbling blocks in the Senate and House, respectively, but the true cogs in the Democratic works are Manchin and Sinema. Manchin’s reluctance to accept Biden’s initiatives after repeated entreaties and adjustments validates what I wrote back on February 26, “Which Joe Is President? Biden or Manchin? (https://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2021/02/which-joe-is-president-biden-or-manchin.html).
For sure, there were statewide issues that sunk Terry McAuliffe’s bid to return to the governor’s mansion of Virginia and Philip Murphy’s nailbiting cling to the keys to New Jersey’s residence of power. The failure of Democrats on a national level to coalesce around meat and potato issues that could improve voters’ lives has left them vulnerable to unending local criticisms, and, just as pointedly, to the belief they do not know how to govern, that they just want to appease strident radical interest groups.
One, if not two, more states could turn the clock back on progress toward equality, environmentalism and health care. Republican Glenn Youngkin’s boast that he would immediately suspend any teaching of critical race theory in Virginia public schools is particularly disheartening because it was in Virginia in 1619 that the first shipload of African slaves arrived on American soil. And nearly 200 years later the slaveholders of Virginia were in the forefront of breaking up African families by selling off individual slaves to cotton plantations in Deep South states.
How reactionary will Youngkin be? He is on video privately assuring a supporter he will address restricting abortion rights if he won. Will the Robert E. Lee statue recently removed from downtown Richmond be reinstalled on prominent state property?
It’s a painful exercise contemplating a return to repressive days of yore. On Facebook a posting fondly recalled 1962, with its lower cost of living.
While everything is ridiculously less expensive (average rent $110/mo., Harvard tuition $1,520/yr., movie ticket $1, gasoline 27 cents/gal.), what is not included in the nostalgic look-back is quality of life:
Blacks lived under public Jim Crow laws in the South and covert discrimination in the North; women would have to wait another dozen years to obtain the right to get their own credit cards separate from their husbands’; until 1975 in many states women could be barred from serving on a jury; working women had no pregnancy or maternity leave protection; many states outlawed any form of birth control, even for married couples; interracial marriages were illegal in many states until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia the restrictions were unconstitutional (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/71353/8-things-women-used-be-banned-doing).
Life may have seen simpler back in 1962, in a “Handmaid’s Tale” dystopian way. There’s no doubt the country is trending toward a more traditional nostalgia. Even in supposedly progressive New York State voters Tuesday harkened to Republican voices and rejected ballot initiatives liberalizing same-day voter registration and allowing anyone to cast an absentee ballot.
An effective, even transformational Biden presidency, rests with Manchin and Sinema finalizing their support of the president’s Build Back Better program. Concurrently, progressive and moderate Democrats in the House must stop their wrangling.
As the battle over the Affordable Care Act in 2010 showed, compromise legislation is better than no legislation. While they still have majorities in the House and Senate, tenuous as they may be, Democrats must act NOW.