This week the US Senate slammed the lid permanently closed on the Voting Rights Acts, voting 48-52. After giving the ‘deep six’ to Biden’s Build Back Better bill last month, Democrat Senators Manchin & Sinema followed up with a coup d’ grace for Voting Rights too. Both desperately needed bills are now DOA!
In his Wednesday night press conference President Biden took a swipe at Bernie Sanders instead of Manchin-Sinema, revealing the Democrat party’s spin to cover up the two historic defeats has already begun; That spin and new messaging is to blame Sanders, progressives, and the so-called Democrat party ‘left’ for Biden’s debacle instead of laying blame where it accurately belongs: with those corporate interests and lobbyists who, behind the scenes for months, have been backing Manchin and Sinema.
Biden’s remarks about Sanders (“I am not Bernie Sanders, I’m not a Socialist’) will now open the door to a crescendo of ‘me too’ commentary from Democrat politicians, operatives, talking head pundits in the media, and other opportunists who’ll echo the claim the party moved ‘too far left’ in proposing Build Back Better and Voting Rights. That will be the mantra of the corporate wing in the party who’ll now take further control of legislative proposals and other initiatives. The Democrats will now move even further to the right. Their single proposal will be ‘vote for more of us in November and then we’ll get the job done’.
This historic failure of the Democrats to confront the economic and political crisis facing the country was predictable way back in the primaries in 2020. Recall the claim of Biden at that time that only he could ‘get the job done’ by forging alliances with Republicans to pass legislation. History now shows what a farce that was. It was the old Obama bipartisanship strategy that failed totally under Obama, resurrected during Biden’s election, and failed once again during Biden’s first year in office.
Biden has shown he can’t even slap together 50 votes of his own party. This fact is already not lost on the American electorate. The farce of the campaign pledge that he can get the job done (whereas Bernie couldn’t) has not been lost on the American people one year later. Biden’s approval rating has plummeted to 33% and will fall further as inflation continues to roll back wages, Covid continues to run its course, and Fed now quickly raises interest rates that will both slow the real economy in 2022 and provoke financial markets instability.
That is not the only consequence of Biden’s total failure to deliver as promised during the primaries.
The risk is high that Biden and Democrats will now push to confront Russia over Ukraine. The real issue is Russia’s obvious resolve not to let NATO gain a foothold in its back yard. Russia wants assurances that won’t happen. The Democrats and US foreign policy elite won’t give it to him. But Russia is not about to let Ukraine go NATO without a shot–after it lost 20 million people defending Ukraine from the Nazis–and after the US encouraged Georgia to invade it back in the Bush years. US political advisers–mostly civilian academics and intellectuals–don’t seem to understand where Ukraine fits in the Russian historical psyche. The odds are better than even that Biden, the Democrats, and US elite will push too far into brinkmanship and provoke an invasion. With Biden and Democrats two great legislative defeats now in the Republican-Corporate bag, and social and political conditions worsening, an historic foreign policy miscalculation is increasingly real.
It’s even possible that US capitalists and elites may want a Russian invasion. It may be the one way to bring the European Union fully back into the US-NATO fold, from which parts of it have been drifting in recent years, not to mention getting Germany to abandon the Russian gas pipeline and instead buy imported US producers natural gas. The Ukraine situation is scary, since both parties may have independent motivations to see an invasion occur.
History may yet show a Biden policy of brinksmanship in foreign affairs may prove the analog to Biden’s failed domestic policy of bipartisanship.
Meanwhile, domestically the crisis of US Democracy is escalating rapidly.
A year ago we saw how Trump and is wing of capitalists were going to eliminate it in all but name–and almost succeeded. The Achilles heel of the electoral college was evident for all to see: Trump’s plan was simply to bypass electors that didn’t vote for him. That was to be accomplished by getting pro-Trump governors to simply appoint and send to Washington pro-Trump alternative electors of their choice; or else not to endorse the results in their states and send any elector delegation. Vice President Pence was then to acknowledge, when the count took place on January 6, 2021, that there were disputes in key states over which elector delegation was official, and therefore neither delegation should be counted. Remaining states’ electors would then be counted and the outcome would calculate in favor of Trump. That was evidently the plan to bypass even that un-democratic institution of the electoral college itself. Pence did not play ball, however. But can anyone doubt that, with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, that Pence would not have balked? And next time, 2024, the Republicans will have a majority in both Houses of Congress.
There’s a further alternative scenario that might play out in 2024. If some elector delegations are in question and red state governors refuse to send them to Washington on January 6, 2025, then the decision on president could be made by the US House itself. Per the Constitution, each state would have one vote. And if a majority are red states, which they almost certainly will be, then a simply majority of red states could vote not to seat the popularly elected president.
Some combination of these scenarios are quite possible come 2024.
Since a year ago, the prosecution of the rioters of the Capitol has proceeded at snails pace. It won’t reach conclusion by the midterm elections this coming November, after which it is 99% certain Republicans will win the US House and shelve it in a bottom drawer somewhere in the basement of the Capitol. They’ll be able to win and do this not just because of Biden and the Democrats have been too timid and have failed to develop a strategy to push legislation; not only because of raging inflation devastating workers’ incomes; but because that second front of the attack on Democracy has been succeeding as well.
That second front is the corresponding assault underway on US democracy at the state level, concentrated in the roughly two dozen Republican dominated and controlled state legislatures.
Together the two assaults represent a political ‘double pincer’ political movement: In the Republican/Trump run ‘red states’ at least 20 anti-voting laws have been passed and hundreds more are pending. That goes forward, while Voting Rights laws are stopped in their tracks at the national level.
Biden attempts to put a spin on the defeat of Voting Rights, saying he’ll continue to fight. But fight ‘how’? He never says what’s his next strategy now to achieve what he couldn’t achieve to date by pleading with the Manchins, Sinemas, and McConnells. It’s because he has no strategy. His failed strategy of bipartisanship has been replaced by no strategy except to talk about how he’s not giving up.
Not only will Democracy fail to go forward, now the Voting Rights Acts are DOA, but Democracy in America will slide still further backward as voting repression at the state level accelerates. The even longer run trend accompanying voter suppression, of course is gerrymandering. The latter endorsed by the Supreme Court in various decisions over the last decade.
Gerrymandering plus Voter Suppression at the state level is the ‘second front’ to the US Senate’s killing of voting rights at the national level. Add procrastination in the investigations of January 6, 2021, and a Supreme Court that will continue to endorse all the above, and you have poisonous political brew that bodes ill for American Democracy in both near term and mid.
Throw in the mix a growing potential for confrontation in Ukraine and the risk grows of the anti-Democracy forces accelerate their efforts while the American public is distracted by yet another foreign policy military adventure.