It sounds incredible, but “Vote Blue No Matter Who” Democrats truly believe that if it weren’t for Senators Joe Manchin and Krystin Sinema or the Senate Parliamentarian or whoever the rotating villain is this week—the US would be enjoying HealthCare for All, a $15 minimum wage, voting rights, paid family leave, tuition free public college, real immigration reform, an extended child tax credit, universal Pre-K, child care subsidies, police reform, a majority on the newly expanded US Supreme Court, and US citizenship for Washington, DC residents.
There’s just one problem with this line of thinking. It’s dead wrong.
Just look at what the Democrats—who control both the executive and legislative branch of the federal government—have actually accomplished: They overwhelmingly voted for a bloated, wasteful $770 billion defense bill at a time when the USA is ostensibly in a rare moment of peace time.
A few days before that vote, Democrats voted to uncouple Build Back Better Bill from the Infrastructure Bill, which had the result everyone predicted: passage of the Infrastructure Bill—a boon for giant multinational corporations like Amazon, FedEx and UPS, Tesla, AT&T and Charter Communications—and the apparent death blow to Build Back Back.
Compare what Democrats have accomplished to that long list of items they have failed to deliver, or more accurately, haven’t even tried to deliver—policies and legislation that would help not giant corporations, but the working class. Ask yourself why it is that it is so easy to give millions of dollars to Amazon and Boeing and so hard to give a few bucks to improve the lives of the working poor?
Despite their talk to the contrary, it should be evident by now that Democratic lawmakers have no interest in pursuing Medicare for All, common sense gun control, tuition free public college, police reform, or weaning the US off fossil fuels.
Consider President Joe Biden’s unwillingness to use his executive powers to improve the lives of working Americans or reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change. As documented in The American Prospect’s indispensable Executive Action Tracker, Biden could lower prescription drug costs by seizing patents and offering them to other manufacturers who promise to offer them more cheaply. He could cancel student debt. He could deschedule marijuana and officially end the War on Drugs. He can designate new national monuments which would also help threatened species. He could ban fossil fuel drilling and mining on federal lands. Instead approvals are up. He could close Guantanamo and bring home the more than a million troops stationed abroad.
While these are not the radical measures we need right now, they would at least show the American people that Democrats are serious about getting things done—other than pass a giant military budget and cash giveaway to Amazon.
Sure, some of those executive orders will be overturned by the next Republican president (likely not the prescription drug order), but that is the way the game is played in 21st Century American politics. The military-industrial complex gets billions and the working class gets a few crumbs temporarily.
“But the Senate Parliamentarian…”
Those on the Left should stop kidding themselves that there is any real difference between the two major parties. Students of history have known this for more than a century. In a 1904 speech, Eugene V. Debs pointed out that “[the Democratic Party] is near enough like its Republican ally to pass for a twin brother. The former party of the “common people” is no longer under the boycott of the plutocracy since it has adopted the Wall Street label…The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”
Debs would not be surprised to hear that nearly 120 years later, the Republican-Democratic Party is alive and well. Or that the common people have never been worse off.