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December 23, 2021
Joe Manchin Stabs Biden & Progressives in the Back: Where Do We Go from Here in 2022
By Robert Kraig, Executive Director
All of us were shocked when corporate Democrat Joe Manchin suddenly appeared on Fox News Sunday morning to announce he was ending negotiations over the centerpiece of President Biden’s agenda, the Build Back Better Act.
But like what football announcers call a “sudden change,” a bad interception or fumble late in a game, a good team develops the resilience to get up off the ground and fight like hell to make up for the setback and win the game. It has been half a century since progressives had real power in Congress, and as a movement we need to develop the capacity to fight through setbacks.
The way the Democrats have responded to Manchin’s shocking Christmas week betrayal is tremendously encouraging. At least since the 1990s, Democrats in Congress have tended to wave the white flag when the going gets tough. Joe Leiberman says no to the public option, and the Democrats cave. That has been the depressin
But this time, as all of the pundits and media squawkers declared the end of Biden’s presidency, the White House, House and Senate leadership, progressive lawmakers, and most moderates responded to Manchin with firmness and determination. The White House immediately issued the strongest press release I have ever seen in response to a Senator of the same party, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised continued negotiations and an up or down vote on a revised version of Build Back Better. Bernie Sanders and other progressives immediately took to the Sunday shows to respond with equal vigor.
With our progressive champions in the Senate and House, and our Democratic allies still fighting hard, this is not the time for progressive activists and grassroots progressive groups like Citizen Action to undercut them by retreating. We need to find the resilience to redouble our efforts in the New Year.
Since Sunday, there are already some encouraging signs. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Manchin just last week made a $1.8 trillion counter-proposal to the White House that included universal pre kindergarten for 10 years, expansion of the Affordable Care Act to make it more affordable, and crucially half a billion dollars in investments to respond to the climate crisis. This week, Manchin met with Senate Democrats and discussed policies he could support from the current bill.
While it would be awful to be forced by Manchin and his legions of corporate backers to give away vital advances like the Child Tax Credit, which has cut child poverty nearly in half, if we have to do that in the short term to get the critical advances still on the table we have an ethical obligation to make that deal. And with further negotiation we can likely get more, even perhaps a short extension of the child tax credit is possible.
We need to especially focus on the necessity of getting the climate change investments that Manchin is reportedly willing to concede. We now have an 8 year deadline to cut greenhouse emissions nearly in half or unleash a catastrophic global warming (3 degrees or more) that could threaten human civilization itself and lead to billions of deaths. These deaths will occur globally, but disproportionately in the southern hemisphere, where most non-white people live in countries that did not cause the problem. It could be too late to act effectively if we let this opportunity slip away, and there will be no do-overs.
What I said in a long column in UpNorthNews in October is still true. Although some of the exciting provisions I discuss there may be off the table until we win larger majorities, which we must fight like hell to do in 2022, we still have an opportunity right now for generational reform. We must succeed not only because of the need for as many of these reforms as we can possibly enact, but because it is essential to show the American people that democracy can still work.
As I wrote in the UpNorth News column: “Democracy is under siege, and the partisan assault on free and fair elections is only part of the threat. The inability of our government to act on our greatest challenges is corroding the public faith needed to sustain democracy…..In the early 1930s many leading commentators predicted that the failure of the government to meaningfully address the economic misery of the Great Depression would lead to an authoritarian government capable of acting boldly. FDR’s success in enacting bold New Deal legislation likely saved American democracy. We now face a 21st Century crisis in confidence where democracy must prove itself capable of rising to new challenges.”
So to every Citizen Action member and supporter, thank you for all you did in 2021, and have a restful and safe holiday break. Our New Year’s wish is that you come back in early January recharged and ready to fight even harder. We have a special obligation here in Wisconsin, as we are one of the handful of states which will determine the future of American democracy. We can make 2022 a major positive turning point in history if we fight to win.
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action’s Executive Director Robert Kraig sat down for a 25 minute interview on the central role of Wisconsin in the plot against democracy. You can watch the entire interview here, which took place in Citizen Action’s new Vliet Street office on the West Side of Milwaukee.
Citizen Action’s Driftless Area Organizer Ben Wilson published a column in the Wisconsin Examiner on how Build Back Better would reduce out-of-control prescription drug costs. Of course. This is yet another great example of why we must pass the bill early next year. Read the column here.
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Jeff Santos Show for the full hour to discuss the fallout of Senator Manchin’s sabotage of the Biden agenda on Fox News, and where we go from here. Listen here.
Listen to “Manchin abandons American people” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast
We debrief and look forward following Sunday’s bombshell announcement by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin that he would not support the president’s signature Build Back Better. Where do we go from here? With a new even more transmissible COVID variant spreading fast, the panel reviews the state of the seemingly endless global pandemic. Wisconsin Assembly Democrats are under new leadership following the election of Greta Neubauer as Minority Leader this week, but Rep. Jimmy Anderson reminds us of how far we have to go when it comes to providing people with disabilities equal opportunities, even in the Democratic Caucus. Wisconsin is in the news, yet again, leading the GOP effort to extinguish democracy. Robert reminds us of the great lengths Republicans in Wisconsin went in November 2020 to try to steal the election for Donald Trump, and what’s ahead in 2022.
Listen to new show.
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