Progressive Anger Is Warranted But Misdirected

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat for New York’s 14th Congressional District

Since taking office earlier this year, President Joe Biden has been working towards fulfilling the promises he made on the campaign trail to the wide coalition of supporters who voted for him all the way from the moderate Republicans who wanted to see Trump ousted all the way to the Bernie Bros on the far left. With some of his promises kept including increasing COVID-19 testing, resuming ties with the Palestinian Authority, and rejoining the Paris climate agreement, other priorities have been sidelined or ignored completely. But there are good reasons for this.

In recent weeks, President Biden and members of Congress have been working tirelessly to hammer out a deal on a highly anticipated and greatly needed overhaul of our infrastructure system. Republicans and Democrats have been stuck mainly on the argument of what is and is not considered infrastructure spending with many Progressive priorities seemingly on the verge of being left out including expanding Medicaid, universal pre-k, an increase on the taxes of the wealthy, and measures to help curb climate change. Is President Biden to blame or should the anger from Progressive voices in Congress be directed towards other sources?

For me, it comes down to the Republicans in Congress, especially those in the Senate. With a 50–50 split in which Vice President Kamala Harris would break the tie, most Democratic priorities would need to overcome the 60 vote filibuster threshold if the reconciliation process were to not be used. With Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) stating they are not ready to abolish or limit the filibuster, it is almost certain we will see a greatly reduced deal than the whopping $6 trillion spending plan that was proposed across both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.

To further complicate things, Democrats have the Senate majority by a heartbeat with 13 Democratic Senators over the age of 70 including several coming from states with Republican governors who would be in charge of appointing a replacement if a Senator needed to step down or died. The House Democrats have a little wiggle room with a 4 vote margin but if the Progressive caucus is not onboard, any bill is doomed to fail. As someone who advocates for Progressive policy, it is frustrating to see the pandering to the middle that has time and time again proven to be ineffective especially when negotiating with a party that cares for nothing more than reducing taxes for the wealthy and confirming judges and justices to the various federal court benches.

My message to Progressive Democrats is this: be angry. Anger is a great motivator, but put that anger towards the right causes. Keeping our majorities in the House and Senate in 2022 is going to be an upward battle. With redistricting alone it is estimated that Republicans can gerrymander themselves a 7 seat majority in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, we have the most favorable map we could have with competitive races in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania as well as needing to play defense in states like Georgia and Arizona.

As a Progressive caucus, we need to keep getting our message out to voters and building our numbers on the ground to expand our power in the halls of Congress. If we can do that, we will have more leverage to get President Biden to do the things we want, and that he promised to do, including eliminating some (if not all) student loan debt, universal pre-k, subsidized childcare, expanded broadband services, increased access to affordable housing, passing voting rights reform, and so many other progressive priorities.

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