In his trademark racist way, former President Donald Trump tried to make the Sqaud out to be the true face of the Democratic Party. He zeroed in on these four women of color because they were Black and Brown and progressive. The message: Democrats are not like you, and they’re out of control. But for a party that’s ever anxious to prove it’s not a hive of socialists and flower children, negotiations of Joe Biden’s budget plan have shown the progressive wing to be far more responsible than their buttoned-down centrist counterparts.
President Biden has staked his presidency on a $60 billion-per-year public investment bill, with priorities ranging from clean energy to save the planet, to childcare subsidies so that working parents can get back to earning a paycheck. If the bill fails, his presidency fails with it. Progressive Democrats have lined up in a solid formation behind the bill and the president. To their right, self-styled centrist Dems are whittling down the bill and putting its passage in jeopardy, seemingly with the intention of driving their own images away from the aroma of fiscal ambition that has emerged around the Biden agenda.
In other words, the very Democrats who regard themselves as VSP’s–Very Serious People–are playing with matches on the key promise of Joe Biden’s presidency. Having learned nothing from the Obama Congress’s failure to respond to the Great Recession with initiatives of sufficient scale, they are operating in a paradigm that is at least a decade out of date. The public clearly does not care about deficits, much less the Republicans. The only way to save the Biden administration as well as the public is to invest in American revitalization–to go big. And people like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are blocking the Democratic majority’s route toward completing this vital task.
Progressives have already made concessions on the size of the bill, and seem amenable working with centrists to further refine legislation that Joe Biden wants and needs. On the other side of the party, centrists seem to have contempt for progressives and, in the case of former Green Party member turned Democratic Leadership Council throwback Sinema, to glory in trolling their fellow Democrats. If it takes a couple to make a dance, the centrists are leaving their own party alone on the ballroom floor.
The clock, alas, is ticking. Experience shows that the longer a bill lingers on the congressional docket, the more public disillusionment with the process sets in. That’s why it was such a deft move for Mitch McConnell’s caucus to draw out Obamacare negotiations month after month, to the point where Obama’s healthcare law would remain unpopular for almost a decade before finally taking root in American society. Democrats today cannot afford for the Build Back Better Act to waste away while Republicans hone their arguments against the legislation and the American people grow weary of hearing about it. Progressives understand this–and are standing by their presidents. Centrists need to get as serious as the Squad.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.