Build Back Better Died. So, What's Next?
Just because one big legislative package got torpedoed doesn't mean everyone collapses and whines on about it in 2022. It just means Democrats, and everyone else, will need to adjust and counter fast
Joint Composition | Charles Ellison & Dr. G.S. Potter
So, Build Back Better apparently died on Sunday in a ball of FOX cable flames. Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia coal country Democrat who's grifty hands are in all sorts of special interest pockets - from pharmaceuticals to, possibly even, Republican purses - made an announcement on FOX that he's not going to vote for Build Back Better pretty much in any form. It was well-constructed and timed as one of the most dramatic, perhaps Emmy-winning political middle-fingers of all time - and it seemed very personal. It was as if President Biden did something to or crossed Manchin so badly at one point in their political careers that Manchin held that grudge until the last moment. Or, it was, as CNN reports ...
The statement also stood in contrast to the one issued by Biden just Thursday, when House progressives had urged him not to indicate publicly that there wasn't an immediate path forward for Build Back Better. After several hours of back and forth, Biden conceded the bill was stalled for the moment, named Manchin three times and hinted at the rocky path ahead.
Manchin, who had been in contact with Biden's top aides in the days prior, was furious with the statement, a person close to the White House said. Manchin appeared to allude to just that when reporters on Capitol Hill asked if he agreed with the statement.
"That was his statement," was all Manchin would say in response.
Or, perhaps, Manchin is really just that much of an asshole. We really don't know.
And we really do not care, we should not care at this juncture. Ultimately, why Manchin is being Manchin or what drives him makes no difference. In the grander scheme of things, it does not matter. Yet, corporate media and legions of stunned souls on social media will attempt to force us to talk all week about one lone Senator who represents a generally impoverished state with a population size smaller than the city of Philadelphia. What really matters at this time is how fast and effectively can those who supported the Build Back Better agenda and who dread the acceleration of an open white nationalist coup of government can counter what just happened. It's a fairly simple choice: either the White House, along with Democrats and Progressives, can commiserate Manchin's death blow to Build Back Better (which is what he and Republicans will expect them to do) or they can make a decision this week to recalibrate.
Recalibration should be the answer, although this will be hard for many to commit to. Moaning ceaselessly about Manchin did this, Manchin did that and "oh, Sinema, too!" is a very easy task to commit to. Planning an epic, full mobilization counter requires much more energy, focus, time and resources. Yet, the dividends would be enormous if pulled off. Hence, it's absolutely crucial for Democrats to focus on what's the strategy for maintaining and, potentially, expanding their hold on both the House and Senate in 2022 so they can ultimately increase their chances of passing legislative packages like Build Back Better.
However, before we get to all that, it's absolutely crucial for everyone to understand what the immediate goals are: bringing the pandemic to a close and making sure Confederate white nationalists posing (currently posing as "Republicans") do not take over all levels of government. Winning the 2022 election will be the last shot as ensuring this doesn't happen; yet, too many Democrats, from Biden to progressives, aren't truly feeling the urgency of the moment and are really under the impression that, as bad as it is, if they lose 2022, they will have another chance at retaking lost ground in 2024 and beyond. The problem is they don't: clearly, Confederates are rapidly dismantling democratic traditions, norms, processes, laws and functions. They are completely upending and overhauling the entire electoral system to cement a completely apartheid state in response to dwindling White population numbers.
Initially, Senate Democrats should act fast. The Senate reconvenes for a short period on Monday before the holiday break. Perhaps, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has suggested, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) should compel a vote on Build Back Better anyway to show who’s against it while highlighting what those detractors just took away from the American public. That would be bold and unexpected. What could also be useful is the Majority Leader simply forcing a vote on the voting rights bill this week and demanding that no one goes on break until it passes.
Politically, Democrats need to then ask and act immediately on the following:
How many of the 20 Republican Senate seats up for re-election due to cycle timing, toss-up status or retirements can we realistically win? Bonus: if we win a few more seats, we make Manchin and Sen. Krysten Simema and their whims virtually (D-AZ) irrelevant.
How do we defend 3 Democratic Senate seats viewed as toss-ups?
How do we either defend or take the 18 House seats currently competitive due to open, retirements, toss-up or lean status?
And how do we compete stronger on the state level for Governor seats, state legislatures and Secretaries of State?
How do we link all of these into one big blue counter electoral movement as opposed to months of crying over spilled milk?
Biden will need to, himself, wake-up to the urgency and display that he is actually in charge versus the mediocrity he's been showing to date thus far. The White House will need to explore the next immediate options to turn the tide of this quickly:
What Executive Order actions are at his disposal? Student debt cancelation, help for HBCUs, bolstering child care and support for community solar grids are several that come to mind.
So, now that Build Back Better as a package is dead, what provisions and elements within it - that are popular according to polls - can be passed separately in a relentless series of big policy moves throughout 2022?
Can we get voting rights passed immediately?
How does the president manage the pandemic more effectively? That will require bolder action on a three-prong punch of vaccine, mask and testing regimes.
Just because Build Back Better died on Sunday doesn't mean, at all, that Democrats and our collective chance at beating back the Confederates dies on Monday.
Manchin is and always has been a puppet of the GOP. So is Sinema. Manchin killing the Build Back Better act should come as no surprise to anyone. Let alone BIPOC leaders and community members. The thing that should surprise everyone is that, knowing exactly what is at stake, people of color decided that the best strategy was to wait for their “I told you so” moment and take to Twitter to tear the party apart and clear the way from MAGA to take Congress, and everything else, in 2022.
Black and Brown strategists are a flailing embarrassment of incompetence right now.
Republicans aren’t winning. Democrats aren’t losing. This isn’t a political battle. This is a race war.
White people are winning. BIPOC folks are losing. White supremacists have figured out that launching a takeover as a third party entity was not going to work. So they took the Republican party hostage and have been using it as their vehicle of insurgency ever since. Black, Brown and Indigenous folks, the current core and numerical future of the Democratic party, still haven’t figured out that if they took control of the party apparatus themselves, they could rid themselves of the white apologists currently driving this nation into the ground and the white supremacists trying to Make Slavery Great Again. Instead, they have opted to do nothing and then snark about it when nothing happens.
Ok sure, you’re all prophets and jedis and magicians and your powers of prediction stun and amaze. Wow, you’re snarky quip was so funny. You’re the funniest. Oh, wow you should be on CNN or MSNBC every night. That joke should go viral. Look how many likes you got. Oh wow, everybody loves you. You’re the king, queen, and non-binary representative of political awesomeness. There. Is that what you want to hear, BIPOC strategists and influencers? You get your fix now? Great.
Once you come down off yourselves, maybe you should realize that your job right now is to admit that the White Democrats being shit strategists isn’t the signal for you to point and laugh the neo-Confederacy into power, it’s the green light to take over the party and wield it for yourselves. Your job right now isn’t to give in to the impulse to tear the party to shreds because you didn’t get what you wanted. It’s your job to actually flip states like Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. It’s not your job to pretend these wars are won and lost on MSNBC and Twitter. It’s your job to ensure that low income Black, Brown, and Indigenous precincts and wards with the lowest voter turnout are targeted and over-resourced for success. It’s your job to plan and execute long term protest movements around a broad spectrum of local and state level issues. And for issues like voting rights, some very well planned civil disobedience strategies can and should be explored.
During the last election cycle in Philadelphia, for example, there were multiple wards with less than a 10 percent voter turnout rate. These were Black and Brown wards. You wanna clown someone over that BIPOC organizers and pundits? Clown yourselves. Waiting for White people to do your work is a losing strategy. And BIPOC communities deserve better.
We deserve better than to lose in general, but to lose to Chachi, Kid Rock, and Joe Manchin is inexcusable. If White people on both sides are so stupid and predictable, then we should be able to stop them and advance our own agendas on our own terms. Still, we’re not. Not because the strategies to do so are unavailable, but because we are refusing to deploy them. We refuse to do the work we need to do because of some sick sense of entitlement wrapped in bullshit about what the White Democrats owe us.
You wanna do nothing? You’re gonna get nothing. So instead of wasting time talking about what White people did and didn’t do, we need to get it together and start moving on a plan to take the party over and make sure we keep the Democratic Party and Congress out of as many White hands as possible so we can pass what we need to pass and stop the White Supremacists we need to stop.