One Joe Beat the Other. Now What?
The Democratic Party finally got it together for climate action--almost.
It’s as dark a day as there’s been in the long fight over climate: Joe Manchin brought two years of agonizing tease to an end, announcing he wouldn’t support any measures designed to head off the greatest existential threat the world has ever faced.
To understand the scale of the failure, one needs to understand the scale of the hope. Two years ago this month, AOC and Varshini Prakash, the indefatigable head of the Sunrise Movement, were sitting down with Biden’s campaign team to hash out what a Green New Deal would look like translated into legislation. They were there because of the surge that Bernie Sanders had set off in Democratic politics in 2016, when his run for president showed a huge wedge of progressive voters spread across America, eager among other things for serious action on climate change. Sanders had very nearly won in the 2020 primaries too, before the establishment asserted itself and brought Biden home—but they knew they could not win in November without harnessing the energy that Bernie had produced. Especially for younger voters, that centered on climate change and the Green New Deal, which Prakash and AOC (herself brought to politics by Sanders’ first run) had spearheaded. After much bargaining, Build Back Better was the result. It wasn’t everything the Green New Deal aspired to—but it was the most ambitious soical legislation package since LBJ, and by far the most ambitious climate policy ever bought to Congress.
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And Joe Biden, working in good faith, managed to get almost all the Democrats on board—a task made easier by the fact that polling showed (and shows) huge widespread support among the party and among independents for climate action. We’ve built a movement over the last decade that shifted the zeitgeist, and politics responds to zeitgeist, if fitfully.
But politics also responds—and reliably—to money, and the fossil fuel industry had an ace in the hole. Two, actually. One was the Republican party, which they’d long since purchased, and now does their bidding entirely. The other was Joe Manchin, who they funded more lavishly than anyone else in DC. Again and again and again Joe Manchin teased Joe Biden, keeping negotiations flickering: if you pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill (a fossil-friendly bill that lavishes money on schemes like carbon capture); if you take out the clean energy pricing plan; if you—but none of it was ever serious. It was a game, and beautifully played. It accomplished three things
It killed Build Back Better, which would have speeded up considerably the inevitable transition to renewable energy. Since Big Oil is just playing for time—trying to keep their business model alive a couple more decades—this was a huge win (and, since physics is playing for keeps, an immeasurable loss for the earth)
It froze Biden’s use of his executive authority. For fear of offending Manchin and losing his vote, Biden has pulled his punches on things like leasing federal land; his administration last week gave strong signals that it would permit a huge new oil development in Alaska.
It made the Democrats look weak and ineffectual, reducing the chances that their base will turn out for the midterm elections. This is the sad whimper that Bernie’s big bang eventually produced.
We owe Biden real thanks—he stabilized the nation’s government after a coup attempt, and has managed to deal as an adult with a series of remarkable crises, most notably the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But Build Back Better was the centerpiece of his administration. He ran for office on the promise that he knew how to deal with Congress, which turned out to mean dealing with Joe Manchin, and he couldn’t do it. An LBJ who can’t pull off deals is not a useful president; Biden thought old-school politics would play in new-school polarized DC, and he was wrong. I’m not sure what he could have done differently, because his legislative majority was too thin, and because his opponent was the Manchinian candidate, programmed to do Big Oil’s bidding. But if he had the feeling for this game that his candidacy was premised on, he would at least have figured out earlier that Manchin would never come through, and spared us the later chapters of this tawdry saga.
So now what?
First, don’t desert the Democratic party—taken as a whole they didn’t fail. They’re far more progressive than they’ve been in decades, especially on climate—as much Bernie’s party as Biden’s. In the midterms they’re actually likely to pick up a couple of Senators, rendering Manchin irrelevant. But they’re also likely to lose the House, rendering the Senate irrelevant. If we can (unlikely but possible) stop that from happening, then we have a chance to revive the original version of BBB, with not just the tax-cut carrots but also the regulatory sticks which Manchin eliminated.
Second, time for Biden to recognize he’s a one-term president. He is obviously too tired to really fight for whatever he deeply believes—a series of fine one-off speeches are not all that useful. And whatever his legislative chops, they’re useless in this polarized environment. Freed from the need to run for re-election, perhaps he could govern with actual authority for the next two years; at any rate, it would unclog the necessary transition to a younger generation.
And third, the climate movement has to move much of its attention from Washington to Wall Street, which is a hard target too, but maybe not quite as rigged as DC. We’ve pulled the lever marked “Politics” to the floor, and come up with little to show for it. Time to tug just as hard on the one marked “Money.” Because, ultimately, it was money that handed us this defeat.
We owe a huge debt to the women and men who fought without cease to get us closer than we’ve ever come to climate victory. I note in the Times account today that Leah Stokes, the policy analyst who did so much of the work to get across the line, was “sobbing” as she spoke to the reporter. She cries for many of us.
I’ll catch up on climate and energy news soon; for today, this is enough. Except, of course, for our novel, where good guys are doing better—see below
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Our epic nonviolent yarn surges toward its finale! If you want to read the first 82 chapters of The Other Cheek, you can find them in the archive.
Fu Zhang looked down at his monitor, where an alert had just pinged. It was a grey, cold, Beijing day, with some of the worst air of the year—the weatherman was blaming a “cold-weather inversion,” but whatever the cause he’d barely been able to see across the street when he got off his bus at the Third Ring Road for an early morning shift. He wasn’t sure what was going on—something, though, since the entire staff at the Internet Monitoring Center was working double time this week. And they weren’t just looking for websites—their monitors had been hooked into the facial recognition system usually used by the police. “If anything comes up—anything—just tell me immediately,” the supervisor had said as they began the shift. “It’s an automatic alert, but you have to pass it on.”
Fu studied the image on his computer. It was a small girl walking a dog in a city someplace cold—when he clicked on the data, it said it came from a camera mounted on the side of a liquor store in Colorado Springs USA. The alert identified the girl as a SUBJECT OF INTEREST, but he was in fact more interested in the dog, which he immediately recognized. “That looks a lot like Momo,” he said. In the background, he could make out a figure—fuzzy, and at the edge of the camera’s range, but he knew instantly it was Wei Lian. They’d been told weeks ago to keep an eye out for the girl and the dog, who had apparently disappeared. Now they were . . . outside a liquor store in the United States. The western United States, Fu saw, as he called up a map on Google Earth. He picked up the pager by his terminal and hit the code for his supervisor. “I’m sending you something,” he told her. “But it’s something important.”
Within an hour, Security Minister Hua was walking into General Youxia’s office at the Defense Ministry. Colonel Wang was waiting too, and scowling as usual. “You said an emergency?” she said.
“I did,” said Hua. He fanned out a few pages on the table. “You will, I think, recognize the girl?”
The pair of officers studied the picture. “The girl from Colorado? The one in robes? The next DL?” Wang said.
“Indeed,” said Hua. “Now look who’s standing behind them.” The pair stared at the picture. “Wait,” said General Youxia. “Is that Wei Lian? It is, isn’t it—that’s the damned dog.”
“Where on earth?” said Wang.
“That’s why it’s an emergency,” said Hua. “This picture is from Colorado Springs, about an hour ago. We’ve been watching the feeds from security cameras across the area because it’s where we presumed the young people from California were heading—the ones we tried to pick up yesterday.”
“The ones you failed to pick up yesterday,” said Wang.
“They’re there someplace,” Hua said. “But why is Wei there? I have no idea what it means, but it’s not good, not 48 hours before Baby.”
“Just to be clear,” said Wang. “The boy that got the DL cartoon onto ten million phones helped rescue the boy that knows the plans for our biggest event ever, and drove him to the city where the girl we think may be the next DL lives—and that girl, it turns out, is now associating with the Chinese girl who put the DL cartoon out on national tv.”
“While the actual DL is sitting on the Chinese border,” said General Youxia. “Evacuating people from the path of a possible flood, which by the way the Geological Survey people tell me is not just possible but likely. Do we have any good news?”
“Well,” said Hua, “the team that tried to take down the boy in California is now in the area. They’ve established a perimeter around the school where they traveled in the van. We’ve told them to wait in place, for further orders.”
“I think the further orders are clear,” said Wang. “You’ve got to send them in to get that boy. Both boys. And the girls. And the damned dog. And if they can’t grab them, they need to kill them.”
“That’s a lot of people to kill in another country,” said Hua. “And if we kill them then they can’t tell us what’s going on.”
“I think at this point we don’t care precisely what they have planned,” said General Youxia. “I think we care about stopping it, before President Xi goes on tv. I think Colonel Wang is right. These are obviously extraordinary measures, but this is one of the most extraordinary moments in Chinese history.”
Hua looked at them for a moment. “I will communicate the orders,” he said.
Maria, Cass, and Allie had just returned to the food pantry; they found Gloria and Wei playing with Momo, and Flora sitting next to Matti who was asleep on a pew. Delmy and MK were serving a short line of clients, and in one corner Perry and Professor Lee were huddled over a laptop.
“Maria,” said Professor Lee quietly. “Could you join us for a moment?” She sat down next to them, and Professor Lee said “I think we have trouble. A few minutes ago we heard the lead Chinese agent talking to Beijing. Again, we could only hear his end of the conversation, so we don’t know the exact orders. But they seem to know that Wei is here. And they . . . the agents . . .”
“The agents were checking to make absolutely sure that Beijing wanted them dead,” said Perry. “Us dead, actually—I’m on the list, and Matti too. And Gloria.”
“And Momo,” said Professor Lee.
“Well,” said Maria. “Then we’re going to have to move faster than I anticipated.” She called out to Cass and Allie. “You guys remember how to get to the church, yes? Start shuttling people over. Let’s begin with Wei and Gloria—get them inside, into the heart of the church. Delmy, you go too.”
“We can all get over there,” said Perry. “We’ll just call a couple of Lyfts.” “Okay,” said Maria. “Fast. I’ve got a couple of phone calls I’ve got to make.” The first was to Professor Goccilupe, at SGI. “Tony,” she said. “We need you to give us a couple of hours. Beginning right now.”
When she hung up, she pressed a few buttons on her phone again. “Sandy? It’s Maria Santos. I think I’ve got a story for you.”
Agent Stephen Ting was in a camouflage portaledge 30 feet up in an Aspen tree, conferring with his fellow agents.
“We need to get in the school, and we need to get these guys,” he was saying. “They were not happy that they got away yesterday.”
“Then they should have given us a freaking drone of our own to chase them with,” one of his colleagues said. Four of them sat in that aspen, and they were in radio contact with seven others, scattered in other groves around the edge of the campus.
“It shouldn’t be too hard to get in the school. I’ve got eyes on and it looks seriously undefended,” said another.
“I’d be happier waiting till dark,” said a third.
“That’s five hours from now—that is not going to make them happy,” said Ting.
“Let’s assume they’ve got guards, even though we can’t see them. In fact, this woods is thick enough they could be walking patrol under us right now,” another said.
At that moment he heard a high voice calling up from below. “Hello, hello. Can you hear me?”
“Shh,” said Agent Ting, going rigid.
“Hello,” the voice came again. “We’d just like to invite you up to the school. You up there in the tree.”
After a moment, Ting crawled out the ledge, and using a rope dropped quickly to the ground, where he found a girl of perhaps 17 looking at him. “Hello,” she said. “I’m Kathy, from the Marshall Islands. In the Pacific. Anyway, I’m a student at SGI—I’m sure you’re wondering why we’re still here during Christmas, but it’s because it’s too far for most of us to go home so we just keep having classes. Anyway, we wanted to invite you in to the campus this afternoon. We’re having a special symposium on”—here she looked down at the paper in her hand—“Sino-American Cooperation. Also, there will be cake.”
“How did you know we were here?” Agent Ting said.
Kathy, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, wanted to tell the truth—that the downloaded drone images that Perry and Professor Lee had intercepted from the American drone pinpointed all their locations to within three meters. But instead she used the answer they’d agreed on: “Oh, the trees talk to us. Did you know that aspens are the largest living organisms on earth? All these trees on this whole hillside are linked up by their roots—we think they’re individual trees but really they’re just one . . . thing. So, we know everything that’s going on in the forest, of course.”
“Oh,” said Agent Ting. He looked at the paper the girl was holding, and thought for a moment. This was a way into the campus, which is where they were trying to go. The van was parked outside, so chances are they were walking towards their quarry. And if these people believed in talking trees, the chances of them mounting much of a defense were probably limited. “Sure,” he said. “Thank you for the invitation. My, um, associates will be down in just a moment.” He called up in Chinese, and in a few seconds three burly Chinese men dropped down from the tree on ropes of their own.
“Should we just grab her so we have some leverage?” one asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Ting. “Because she’s just asked us to walk right in.” So the men—carrying trim Special Forces backpacks—trailed the girl up the hill the quarter mile to the SGI entrance, along the way meeting the other two groups of their colleagues, each trailing a student and looking somewhat sheepish. When they reached the front door they were greeted by a somewhat older man, dressed in a gray suit with a red bow tie. “Gentlemen,” he said. “My name is Mark Kinnison, professor of Factual Analysis here at SGI.” He insisted on shaking each hand, and then leading them into the building, pausing just inside the entrance. “Perhaps you gentlemen have heard of our famous tree yoga program here at SGI. That’s how many people know of us, but in fact the core of our mission is non-violence training for young people from around the world.” He waited a moment, while Agent Ting translated for those who didn’t speak English.
“We’re aware that you’re likely to be carrying firearms,” Professor Kinnison continued. “You’re welcome to keep them on your person, but perhaps you would be willing to keep them out of sight?”
Agent Ting nodded dubiously.
“Excellent,” said Professor Kinnison. “The seminar is in Mandela Hall. Please follow me.” They walked down the corridors, the men staring nervously around at the empty classrooms. They could see light in a room at the end of the last hall, and as they entered it there was a round of applause from a crowd of perhaps 75 students.
“Hello,” said the man at the front of the hall, who was holding a microphone. “Our other guests have been able to join us. Welcome—I’m Professor Goccilupe, I teach art here at SGI. I believe this must be Agent Stephen Ting,” he said. “Perhaps you could introduce your colleagues?”
“Um,” he said. “Many of them are . . . new colleagues,” he said.
“Yes, certainly,” said Tony. “Please, sit.”
The men shuffled into seats near the front of the auditorium, sharing a row with a half dozen men and women in suits. “That’s the man you’ve been following all this time?” Special Agent Fox asked Agent Reyes in a loud whisper. When she nodded, he said “Stars and bars, Agent Reyes. Odder and odder.”
She nodded again. “Yes sir.”
Ting squirmed in his seat, craning his neck to see if any of the suspects on his grab list—his elimination list, he reminded himself—were in the room. As far as he could tell they weren’t; the kids filling in the hall all seemed young and attentive. Students.
“Professor Kinnison, I believe you are planning to lead this seminar?” Professor Goccilupe said.
“Indeed, thank you,” said Professor Kinnison. “It’s a real pleasure to have such distinguished guests joining us—perhaps I may call on you from time to time to elucidate particular points of interest or clarify any misunderstandings?” he asked, without pausing for an answer. “And of course students should feel free to in with questions. I know everyone is looking forward to cake, which will be served in the dining room following our seminar.”
“Chinese history, of course, stretches far back into the past,” continued Professor Kinnison, who looked down at his watch and punched a button. “Very far back into the past. What is now China was first inhabited by Homo Erectus more than a million years ago, and the fossil record makes it clear that such inhabitation was continuous—there is evidence of fires set by hominids 1.27 million years ago in Shanxi province. The earliest evidence of cultivated rice—and China, of course, is a rice culture—dates back to 8,000 BCE, along the course of the Yangtze River—in fact, scholars tell us that Chinese civilization developed along the banks of the Yellow and the Yangtze. The earliest written records—in this case the so-called oracle bones inscribed on the shells of turtles and other animals—date from Wu Ding’s reign in 1250 BCE, but those records indicate that Wu Ding was in fact the 25th ruler of the Shang Dynasty. As this ruling class gave way to the long-lived Zhou dynasty, a fuller record begins to emerge. We know that as the thousand-year Zhou period gave way to an era of divided rule and relative chaos, influential individuals like Confucius, and Sun Tzu the military analyst, were penning some of humanity’s earliest classics. The country’s imperial system began in earnest around the second century BCE, when the Han Dynasty rose—it ruled for more than 400 years, or by way of comparison considerably longer than we’ve had a national government in the U.S. So we are, of course, awed by the scale and depth of Chinese culture,” he said, nodding toward Agent Ting, who felt it only proper that he should nod back.
A hand was waving in the back of the hall. “Ms. Sinclair?” he asked. A young woman wearing a sweatshirt that said “Feminist Father of a Future Feminist” jumped to her feet. “Is it true the Chinese invented gunpowder, Professor Kinnison.”
“Ah excellent question, Ms. Sinclair. It appears to be the case—in fact, the Chinese often refer to it as one of the Four Great Inventions—the others, of course, being paper, the compass, and printing. But I digress. The earliest references to what modern scholars believe is gunpowder could be found in the writings of alchemists in the period roughly 140 CE. You are familiar with alchemy, Ms Sinclair?”
Since Ms. Sinclair was not completely familiar with alchemy, Professor Kinnison devoted several minutes to a capsule history of the subject, including medieval experiments on the transmutation of lead into gold, before returning to the question at hand. “As to gunpowder,” he said, “the alchemist Wei Boyang wrote in 142 AD about combining three powders to create a so-called ‘dancing fire.’ The powders, of course, were saltpeter, arsenic disulfide, and sulfur, and together they created what they early experimenters called ‘fire medicine,’ an indication that their interest was driven by a hope for life-extending drugs. Bitter irony, then, that the inventions that eventually resulted have cut short so many lives.” He looked solemnly around at the first few rows, before resuming his lecture. “We now might consider the Three Kingdoms Period, beginning in roughly 200 CE, following the Yellow Turban rebellion and a period of warlordism that featured fighting between various consort clans and eunuchs.”
A waving hand interrupted again. “Mr. Begay?”
“Could you explain eunuchs,” asked a young man.
“I could, but choose not to at this time,” said Professor Kinnison. “However, I believe that an adequate explanation could be found on Wikipedia, and perhaps that is one of the few occasions it would make sense to use your browser instead of the resources of the library. As I was saying, the Three Kingdoms Period begins in 208 CE, after Cao Cao reunified the north, and the Wei dynasty began; however, his rivals Wu and Shu proclaimed their own rival kingdoms.”
This lecture continued for the next hour and forty minutes, winding its way through the Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road, the Great Wall, the Five Dynasties, the Ten Kingdoms, the voyanges of Zhang He, the development of paper money, the Mongol conquest, the arrival of Marco Polo, the Mings, the Qings, the Boxer Rebellion, the Opium Wars, the Long March. Whenever he appeared to be flagging, someone would ask a question—at one point, a boy asked if he knew the Chinese national anthem, and while he did not several Chinese students rose to sing it, at which point Agent Ting and his men all clambered to their feet, before sitting for a continued discourse on the war with Japan and the Manchokuo period. Professor Kinnison was beginning a discussion of Chinese art when he saw Professor Goccilupe grinning and pointing to his phone—with a smile Professor Kinnison stopped mid-sentence and said “actually, I think perhaps we should pause at this point, and partake of the refreshments available in the dining room.”
“Actually,” said Professor Goccilupe, “maybe first we could turn on the tv—I’m told that some of our colleagues are making an appearance this afternoon. Teodor, you’re our media specialist this semester.”
A boy came forward and punched a series of buttons on the computer keyboard embedded in the podium—a screen descended, the lights went down, and the polished face of a smiling host suddenly loomed above them. “Action8 News at 5 brings you coverage live from St. Bridgid’s Church in southern Colorado Springs, where YouCast reporter Sandy Novarro is standing by.”
The screen showed a woman, standing on the sidewalk outside the church clutching a notebook. After the usual slight pause, she said “Thanks, Frank. Yes, I’m here at St. Brigid’s, which is quickly turning into a scene for competing demonstrations about immigration. I’ve got Father Aaron Ademola here—Father, I understand you have some illegal immigrants who have taken sanctuary here at St. Brigid’s?”
“That’s true—we have a family from Guatemala, and also a young woman from China. As I understand it, the American government is trying to deport the family, as indeed they are trying to get rid of millions of people living here. And the Chinese government has demanded the return of the young woman,” he said.
“So why are you protecting them here, knowing it’s likely to get you in trouble with the law?” the reporter asked.
“Well, two reasons really,” he said. “Both fear persecution if they return—the murder rate in Guatemala is among the highest in the world, and young women, like the two daughters who are sheltering here, are often sexually exploited. As for the young woman from China, she told me a little of her story this afternoon, and I have to say—it’s amazing she’s alive.”
“What’s the other reason?”
“Oh, well. Well, the Pope called.”
“The Pope in Rome? Pope Francis?”
“As far as I know he’s the only one,” Father Aaron said. “I was surprised too—I’m not entirely sure how he knew about these people, though of course the Vatican has connections around the world.”
“Let me bring in Maria Santos, who I understand is with these refugees,” the reporter said.
“Sister Maria Santos,” Father Aaron said.
“Oh, I didn’t know,” said the reporter. “Maria, we’ve talked before, in the special feature about tree yoga at your holistic healing center up in the hills. But this is a very different scene.”
“Indeed, Sandy—I’m here because these people are fearing for their lives. Some have been chased by a team of Chinese agents operating on U.S. soil—I know that sounds unlikely, but it’s one of the reasons the Pope intervened in their behalf.”
“Are they safe from—from Chinese and American authorities here?” the reporter asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Maria. “There’s a very old tradition that churches are literal sanctuaries—that in a sense the people inside are protected by God. But we don’t know if the secular authorities will honor that tradition.”
“Meanwhile, there seem to be two distinct crowds gathering here outside the church,” said Sandy, as her cameraman swung the lens to show several hundred people divided by a ragged line of policemen. One one side people were waving a large Confederate flag and chanting “Build the Wall;” across the street, their backs to the wall of the church, a group that seemed mostly to be older women were on their knees and praying—when the camera zoomed in, it was easy to see rosary beads clicking through many fingers. One man held a sign that said ‘I Was A Stranger and You Welcomed Me.’
“We’ve been talking with a number of the protesters, Frank,” the reporter said. “Both sides are encouraging people to join them this evening—apparently there will be an all-night vigil along the street. Reporting live from St. Brigid’s Church near Fort Carson, I’m Sandy Novarro.”
“Thanks, Sandy—and in a minute, your New Years Eve YouCast from your Action 8 News at 5 ActionWeatherTeam.”
Professor Kinnnison hit a button turning off the tv; as the lights came on he said “Let’s have some cake in the dining hall before resuming our seminar—students, perhaps you could show our guests the way?”
A cluster of young people surrounded the Chinese, with Kathy leading the way. “Cake this way, sir,” she said to Agent Ting, who was staring at his phone. He spoke rapidly in Chinese to his team of ten, and then they walked out into the hall.
“He said what exactly?” Professor Kinnison asked one student, a Taiwanese boy named Jinlong, who had stayed behind
“He said, ‘orders have changed. We can no longer eliminate these people—too much scrutiny. We are to monitor the situation.’ I think they are planning to leave for the church once they’ve had cake.”
“I’m surprised they’d wait that long,” Professor Kinnison said.
“Chinese people are very polite,” said Jinlong.
“True,” said Professor Kinnison. “And actually the cake is very good.”
As they were walking down the hall, he pulled out his cellphone and made a call. “Maria, Mark here. I think your plan is starting to work. The Chinese apparently have orders from Beijing to back off—they’re going to ‘monitor’ but ‘elimination’ is off the table for now. So maybe you’ll have the room to get through tomorrow night.”
“Let’s hope,” said Maria. “Be careful up there.”
“We will—but I think all the action is shifting in your direction now.”
“Which is okay—there are way too many demonstrators and cameras here now for anyone to do anything dangerous. I suppose the FBI could still come in and drag away Delmy, but not easily.”
“Well, right now I can report that the FBI is eating cake,” he said.
“Good,” said Maria. “Please give everyone my love, and tell the students how brave they were.”
As Professor Kinnison hung up, he could hear Special Agent Fox talking to Agent Reyes in his booming whisper. “l remember now why I dropped out of college,” he said. “This afternoon was the single most boring six hours of my life,” he said.
“Hour and forty minutes,” she said.
“Seemed like forty days and forty nights,” he said. “Tang, Ming, Sing, Sung. The part about gunpowder was kind of interesting, though I don’t know why they called it gunpowder if they weren’t using it for guns,” he said. “But other than that—that’s what they make kids study nowadays? Not at Holy Name of God, not when I was there.”
“Do we go to the church,” Agent Reyes said.
“If the ChiComms go that way, then we follow,” said Fox.
“They seem to be heading out,” said Reyes, who was watching the door.
“Thank God,” said Fox. “Tell the good professor we’ll be back for more lecturing in—in never.”
Well there is one thing I think we can all whole-heartedly agree on, and that is "politics [..] responds—and reliably—to money". Look to where your politician or political party derives their campaign money, and you can accurately determine to which causes they will be beholden. But Bill your view that Joe beat Joe implies that there was ever even a fight. When I think of a politician fighting for something, I think of FDR. If FDR was fighting for this bill, he would have dragged Manchin all over the news, would have held speeches in West Virginia, that would have been a real fight to watch. But when push came to shove in this match-up, when progressives led by Pramila Jayapal of the Congressional Progressive Caucus dared to refuse to pass the infrastructure bill until BBB was out of the senate, what did Biden do? Did he back progressives in fighting for his own bill? Did he double down on the pressure on Manchin? No, he had a chat with Jayapal, and whatever words and secret deals passed between those two, Jayapal quickly gave up and voted the infrastructure bill through, the last remaining leverage the D's had on Manchin, which ensured the death of BBB. So in the end Biden fought his own bill.
I also take issue with this passage, "For fear of offending Manchin and losing his vote, Biden has pulled his punches on things like leasing federal land; his administration last week gave strong signals that it would permit a huge new oil development in Alaska." Are we really just going to blame all of Biden's failures on Manchin now? Losing Manchin's vote on what exactly? In political fights there is generally a give and take, all I see here is give.
And let us not forget exactly where Biden is at this very moment. He is in Saudi Arabia, a despotic kingdom waging a brutal, terrible, deadly war in Yemen with US weapons. He is sitting down to talk with a man who killed an American journalist in cold blood. And you know what they are discussing? How many more weapons the US needs to give Saudi Arabia so they can pump more oil to lower gas prices for the mid-terms. All this rhetoric about how terrible Putin and how much we love democracy sounds pretty hollow now doesn't it? All this rhetoric about caring about climate change seems pretty hollow as well. We can see here what really matters to Biden. It's not human rights, its not climate change, its using the power of the US weapons industry and our foreign policy to improve chances for D's in the mid-terms.
I also take issue with this passage, "[Biden] has managed to deal as an adult with a series of remarkable crises, most notably the Russian invasion of Ukraine." When I think of dealing as an adult would with Russia, I think of JFK and how he held direct talks with Gorbachev, how he de-escalated a tense situation and used diplomacy and not the tools of war to end conflict. Has Biden tried to hold talks with Putin? Has he attempted diplomacy? Tried to broker peace between Ukraine and Russia? No, he only seems interested in sending more and more weapons to Ukraine, issuing bellicose rhetoric aimed at Putin and prolonging the conflict and bloodshed. This is the behavior of a madman bent on war, not a calm adult.
The only up-and-coming politician running as a D who gives me any hope for the future is Lucas Kunce running for the Senate seat in Missouri. He takes no corporate or super-pac money, grew up poor, and has vowed to fight for working people, so the Democratic Party has backed his opponent in the primary, an heiress to the Anheiser Busch fortune. That right there tells you everything you need to know about the Democratic Party and what they stand for.
But you are right Bill, "Time to tug [...] hard on the one marked “Money.” Because, ultimately, it was money that handed us this defeat."
Well said 👏 Bill.