A Spring of Hope?

Wildflowers in a granite crack, Beartooth Range, Montana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Springtime in the Rockies is a magical time when the short, dark days of winter lengthen and the sun’s warmth returns to the land once again, turning snowbanks into running water that feeds our rivers and nurtures the new life sprouting from thawed soil.
Likewise, wisdom and compassion have returned to Washington, D.C., with new leadership and new priorities bringing renewed hope for hundreds of millions of Americans after a long year of discontent.
It was a full year ago that America shut down in the grip of a deadly pandemic that, despite foolish promises that it would “disappear like a miracle,” has now taken the lives of 520,000 of our fellow citizens. We cannot turn back the clock and re-do the horrific judgments that turned our nation’s pandemic response into one of the worst globally. We cannot bring back those the pandemic took from us. We cannot magically restore lost businesses, nor can we wave a wand to erase the impacts on our children’s education.
But what we can do, and what President Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress are doing, is try to heal what can be healed, to render help where help is needed, and to bring hope to a weary populace seeking not wealth and power, but merely a return to a semblance of pre-pandemic social, economic and educational normality.
Thanks to a realistic approach to the pandemic, Biden has vastly accelerated a nationally-led vaccination schedule instead of trying to sweep it under the rug and pass off what should have been the federal government’s responsibility for distributing vaccines — or even worse, waste time trying to find someone to blame. Already those in the most-vulnerable “over 70” population have been largely inoculated and two million more a day in all age classes are receiving their shots.
Moreover, as tens of millions face the grim prospects of unemployment payments ending by mid-March, Biden and Congressional Democrats are moving a massive $1.9 trillion relief bill through the process. The eviction moratorium will be extended, as will unemployment benefits and additional money to feed the hungry, provide more loans for businesses, help minor children and provide health coverage to the nation’s most needy. These are vitally necessary humanitarian and economic actions to end the widespread suffering and get the nation back on its feet.

Most puzzling is the dark cloud of Republican opposition to helping out their fellow Americans. Why would anyone demand that the 628-page relief bill be read in its entirety on the floor of the Senate just to hold up the funding that polls show more than two-thirds of the public support? Yet, that’s just what happened late last week when Ron Johnson, a Republican senator from Wisconsin decided to play cute and jam the process of actually considering the legislation on its merits.

Perhaps these same Republicans, who had no problem whatsoever in delivering a trillion dollar tax break to the already wealthy, actually believe they are serving the nation by suddenly exhuming the corpse of “fiscal responsibility” that only seems to arise when a Democratic measure to help the populace is being considered.

But like Springtime in the Rockies, although more snow and sleet that undoubtedly fall, Biden and his Congressional Democrats are irrepressibly bringing forth both light and warmth, pressing onward doing what needs to be done, and not playing a reality-TV version of political leadership. “The greatest good for the greatest number” remains, as it should, the goal of good governance — and brings a new Spring of Hope to weary Americans.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.