As much as I wish I could transition this blog away from politics completely, they simply cannot help themselves from being there. Bernie Sanders used to say, and probably still would if he was on the campaign trail, that “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Knowing that he didn’t end up winning the Democratic nomination in either 2016 or 2020 is what it is, but I can’t deny that at certain stages over the last five years I have felt pangs of guilt for not doing enough. Whether that’s with respect to his campaign specifically, or expanding my contributions to society in general, I’m not sure. I just know I could have done more.
Fortunately for me I am not burdened by having Bernie in office, with he and his cabinet finding ways to let me and the rest of his supporters down. It was always a cool thought that he would win, that he would defeat Donald Trump and transform the country enough to give the younger generations some (or more) hope for the future. I think in retrospect it’s the type of feeling only a young person could latch onto, because now that we’re here it seems fairly obvious that it never could have been. One way or another, the winner of the 2020 general election was going to be a candidate that was backed by the country’s wealthiest and most elite. Bernie Sanders wasn’t, and couldn’t be, that candidate.
That’s worth noting, not only due to the fact that it’s been the thesis to every political article I have written over the last half-decade, but because the recent stimulus bill that was passed — a $1.9 trillion package ironically named The American Rescue Plan — didn’t address virtually anything the Democratic Party promised to fight for.
Never forget, it was not that long ago that the Democratic Party pumped something in the neighborhood of $245 million into two Georgia Senate races. At that time President-elect Joe Biden promised voters that if the Dems secured both seats — giving them a majority in the Senate — that $2,000 stimulus checks would go out “immediately.” Low and behold Democrat voters showed up, won both fucking seats, and gave the Democratic Party a majority in both the House and Senate for the first time since 2008 when Barack Obama took office.
This was something of a moment of optimism, not only for Democrats but for a country that was reeling after four years of the rollercoaster seesaw ride that was the Trump presidency. Finally things were going back to “normal,” where the President of the United States could bomb countries in the Middle East without any blowback from the mainstream media. And finally we could get back to the business of crushing workers and unions, continuing Obama and Trump’s policies of deporting immigrants, and allowing police officers to murder unarmed minorities without the perpetual spotlight and stress of dealing with thousands of protesters in the streets of your favorite American cities.
The Democrats won the White House, control the House of Representatives, and for good measure took both Senate races in Georgia to give them a trifecta in the executive branch. And in the first massive piece of legislation, setting the tone for the next four years, what did the Democrats do? Predictably, they didn’t send out the $2,000 checks. Instead they did some backtracking and hoodwinked everyone by saying the check amounts were only to be $1,400 all along, that they never promised $2,000, and rather than sending them out “immediately” they are only now in the process — now that the stimulus bill finally passed.
Further, despite having majorities in House and Senate, they refused to go forward with the $10,000 in student loan forgiveness that they feigned support for. They even failed to pass a new $15 federal minimum wage, another item they were proud of saying they supported once they assumed power. The Democrats even reduced the amount of unemployment benefits during the pandemic from $400 per week down to $300. People in the media and liberals a nation over for a brief moment tried to claim that Joe Biden was on the verge of being “the next FDR,” but in the end we are getting exactly what we signed up for: the same old goddamn thing.
The funny part is I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the benefits that were being promised even if they did pass. I was unemployed for two months at the start of the pandemic (back when the weekly benefit was $600), but I’ve been working since last May; as for student loan forgiveness, I paid off my college debt roughly a year ago; lastly, I make too much money to have received the full $2,000 stimulus check that was promised. I think of the $600 one Trump sent out a few months back, I received like two hundred bucks.
But I also realize these things were not for me to begin with. I only care about them because I care about the health of the economy as a whole, from bottom to top, and I know if the minimum wage goes up to $15 an hour, or if millennials aren’t strapped with as much student loan debt, or if everyone is getting $2,000 from the government, it can’t be a bad thing. Not for me or anyone else.
The reason for this is basic: when workers have more money in their pockets, they spend it. And if tens of millions of people are spending more money, it’s going to find a way to get back to me. I work in the service industry as a table games dealer, and from experience I know there is a direct correlation between the volume of people gambling and the amount of money I make. I wouldn’t necessarily condone going to the casino ahead of, you know, paying for bills and food and other important stuff that should take priority. But I understand that individuals are sometimes compelled to make choices that are good for the soul. And in the middle of an incredibly shitty pandemic year, that means regular people are going to want to enjoy some of their extra money.
Instead of doing the right thing and taking care of those who kept the economy afloat, what happened was the Democratic Party — supposedly “liberal” and “left-wing — catered the bill to get bipartisan support from Republicans, and intra-party support from conservative Blue Dogs. Despite all the popular support for sending $2,000 checks instead of $1,400, raising the minimum wage, offering $10,000 in student loan forgiveness, or providing more government assistance to the 8.5 million people who are still unemployed, what we got was a watered-down bill that gave either nothing or less than what was expected. That’s not good enough.
My predictions have been shoddy at best as they relate to politics, but I can’t see this as helping the Joe Biden and Democratic cause. If this was the great unveiling of a new era of politics, then we should expect the same thing we’ve gotten for most of our lives. The government throws working people a bone here and there, but in the meantimes the winners of American society will continue to be the winners.
It also opens the door for a repeat of the 2008-’10 Barack Obama years: that was the last time Dems had control of all three chambers, and since he didn’t get anything done it allowed Republicans to move in and take the House in 2010 and Senate in 2012, making Obama a lame duck President for his second term and paving the way for Donald Trump in 2016. Us progressives have said all along that the only hope for a Democratic future is to take care of voters when they are in power. Anything less invites the GOP with arms wide open to takeover the House and/or Senate in 2022, block any legislation Joe Biden would pass (assuming he would do anything that’s worth a damn), and ultimately supplant him in 2024.
As a leftist I know I’m supposed to be glad, or whatever, that Joe Biden is President instead of Donald Trump. I know my contrarian takes — shitting on Trump while also shitting on the Democrats — are tired and boring. I guess I just hold the Democratic Party to a higher standard, since they actually dedicate time on the campaign trail to convincing ordinary people that they plan to improve their lives. Donald Trump sucks. The Republican Party sucks. But at least they don’t lie and say they want to raise the minimum wage, or pretend to care about forgiving student debt. They make their case fairly simple: all they want is to lower taxes for their billionaire donors.
In the end, I shouldn’t have expected anything different from the Democrats this time around. More than anything I’m mad at myself that for a hot second I was truly convinced they planned on raising the minimum wage and offering a handout to the nation’s young people who are strapped with loan debt — after all, free college was why I backed Bernie Sanders in the first place and at the time I wasn’t even going to college!
I just know for betterment of the future of the country, young people are where it’s at. Workers are where it’s at. If I write nothing else about politics for the next year or five or 10, just know where my loyalties stand. They ain’t with those at the top who are bleeding you dry. They are with the 99.9%.