Saturday, June 12, 2021

Now what?

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Isidore F. Stone
Spy Washington Bureau

To the surprise of virtually no one, the Republicans are executing the same playbook they used successfully for the two previous Democratic Presidents:

1.  Oppose everything

2.  Drag everything out by engaging in sham negotiations that either break down or result in legislation so bad (tax increases at the gas pump) that voters will be repelled.

3.  Claim somehow that the Democratic President lacks legitimacy because Jewish space lasers changed votes, or something.

4.  When nothing happens, allow media to push the fraudulent both-sides gridlock-in-Washington narrative

5.  Go to the midterms knowing that Democratic turnout will be suppressed because nothing much happened in Washington.

6.  Stir up white racist resentment by claiming that some boogeyman (this year, it's . . . the academic works of Kimberlé Crenshaw?) is coming to take away your pickup truck and replace it with a solar-powered scooter.

7.  While no one's looking use their gerrymandered state legislative majorities to suppress Democratic votes.

The Democratic response runs the gamut from pretending that nothing's wrong (the White House view) to sending really tough Tweets to whining about Sen. Joe Manchin (D – Koch Industries).

We're going to go two millimeters out on the limb and say none of this bodes well for the midterm election.

What can be done given the reality of razor-thin Democratic majorities in both Houses?  

Well, now that you've asked . . .

Let's start with the leading example of the Republican bad-faith playbook: infrastructure spending.  Here's something that's popular with all voters and produces short-term results, at least in terms of pictures of white men leaning on shiny shovels.

President Biden, following the Democratic playbook of proposing sound, sensible legislation, proposed $2.2 trillion in new infrastructure spending, fully paid for by rolling back the ridiculous tax cuts for the rich and corporations rammed through on a zero-bipartisan basis by the Trumpublicans in 2017.

Billy Jo wants this bridge fixed

From the wailing that arose from Republicans, you would have though that Biden was proposing shaking down every storefront on Main Street for whatever was in the till.  So began the search for the Golden Bipartisan Compromise.

Fake Republican offer #1: $257 billion in new spending, paid for by raiding previously approved (and now allocated) COVID relief.  In other words, jack s***.

As usual, bad-faith negotiations followed, with Biden shaving $500 billion from his ask and Republicans in response offering a bucket of warm p***.

After that farce ended, a second round of bad-faith nonsense ensued, resulting in a supposed “bipartisan” deal of about $580 billion in new spending over eight years, paid for not by returning tax rates to their Obama Administration levels (which corresponded with six years of economic recovery from the Bush Recession), but with a mysterious pay-for that can only be an increase in the gas tax.

Sure, that'll work.  You don't have to be as talented a Republican hatchet man as those now doing business as the ever-so-pious Licoln Project to write the attack ad: “Biden and Democrats promised they wouldn't increase your taxes.  Now they're sending your gas tax through the roof.  They lied; you pay.”

If you're running in say Northwest Georgia or the Florida Panhandle, that's got to work better than “My sex partners were all over 18.”

What to do?

It's time to put the question.  It's clear that Republicans will always oppose new infrastrucutre spending until they are forced to pay a political price for it.  Put the $1.7 trillion in spending on the floor, strip out the tax increases, and make every Republican go on the record: Do you want to fix the Tallahatchee Bridge?  If not, run ads appealing to Billy Jo McAllister.

The point is to win the midterms. If the midterms are about gridlock in Washington and why Kamala Harris won't go for a boat ride on the Rio Grande, Democrats will lose.  If they're about who wants to fix the bridges and give you broadband, and who stood in the way, that's gotta work better.

The same path should be followed on voting rights.  There's endless wasted effort on the two vital voting bills, HR 1, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, simply reauthorizing the 1965 bill and immunizing it from fact-free attacks by John “I don't see any racism at the Metropolitan Club” Roberts '76, and HR 4, the For the People Act that would do a whole bunch of good things.

As 50 Republican Senators are content to hide behind the shell of Moscow Mitch McConnell, Democrats have focused on trying to persuade Manchin to approve the bill by suspending the filibuster.

There's only one flaw in this strategy: as long as there are no consequences to doing nothing, Republicans will do nothing.

Instead, let's have a summer of fun!  Every day this summer Schumer should put on the floor (1) the John Lewis bill, and (2) a separate provision of the For the People Act.  Each day each Republican can go on the record as blocking action on voting rights.  Talk about stimulating midterm turnout!

Why won't Harris investigate the Mexican border?
The For the People Act can be easily disassembled into its many provisions:

If the measure passed, Democrats could effectively overpower the states by putting in place new national mandates that they set up automatic voter registration, hold regular no-excuse early and mail-in voting, and restore the franchise to felons who have served their terms. The legislation would also end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, restructure the Federal Election Commission and require super PACs to disclose their big donors.

In fact the bill contains scores of separate provisions relating to protecting and enhancing the right to vote, each of which can be voted on separately.  Does Sen. Wilfred M. “Profiles in Courage” Romney want to vote against a provision requiring Presidential candidates to release their tax returns?  Why not?  Does Sen. Susan “Disappointed” Collins want to vote against imposing minimal ethics standards on Supreme Court Justices, including the rapey ones?  Let's find out!

Some of the provisions, like public financing, are likely to go down the tubes, but let's see if Republicans are willing to block each and every change.  If so, each no vote is a ready-made attack ad and a reminder to the Democratic base on what could happen if they actually get off their asses and vote, as they did not in 2010 and 2014.

What's the down side?  Right now, all Democratic priorities are on a road to nowhere.  At the very least, let's make it clear who's to blame, and fight the midterms on these terms, not on Cancun Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham doing a summer-stock version of “Deliverance” on the Rio Grande.

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