Democrats finally have a reason to celebrate. And they should
That twinge you’re feeling isn't the edible kicking in.
Joe Biden signed into law Tuesday the most sweeping climate legislation in the history of the planet. Though the Inflation Reduction Action is an undeniably good thing, please don’t blame the Democrats for having forgotten how to experience victory.
Memories have dimmed a bit, but the last time the Democrats celebrated might have been when Mitt “Mr. 47 Percent” Romney canceled his fireworks show and when Barack Obama became the first president to be elected with 51 percent, twice, since 1954.
Or perhaps it was the nirvana of that evening in 2012 when Karl Rove came close to sobbing live on Fox. Anyway, whenever it was, life has since become a dulling series of horrors and unenforced errors.
The slog of reality
Democrats lost the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections – and with that defeat went the last best chance of putting a liberal majority on the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia graciously died in 2016.
Donald Trump came down the stairs to the cheers of paid extras and took over the GOP by being more explicit about the strategic racism that has supercharged the party since Nixon’s “Silent Majority.”
As he installed the supermajority that eventually overturned Roe, Trump first lost the House, then the presidency, then the Senate.
But any chance to savor those victories was overwhelmed by the multitude of planetary plagues facing us and by the megawatts of gaslighting by an ex-president who refused to accept defeat before sending squads of paramilitaries after his vice president’s neck.
Joe Biden’s presidency began with the urgency of a new New Deal. The American Rescue Act – among many other tremendous things for American workers – cut child poverty in half in one swoop.
Then the slog of reality set in.
By “reality,” I mean Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
Any hope of Biden’s presidency sparking the transformative progressive progress we saw in the run-up to World War II got the big thumbs down from two of K Street’s favorite senators.
Until the end of June, the extraordinarily popular cornerstones of the president’s agenda – major action on climate change, reversing the Trump tax cuts for the rich and allowing Medicare to negotiate some drug prices – could only be spoken of in dry, mournful tones.
And then … Manchin found a way to say yes! So did Sinema!
And here we are – about to celebrate a massive win.
A humongous win.
A win the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
OK, some of you cringe at my uncool glee. But this is a rare moment in the 21st century when cringing is otherwise inappropriate.
I know this isn’t the bill many wanted.
It’s missing so many of the things Americans need, including the expanded child tax credits, paid family leave and universal pre-k promised in the original proposal of the Build Back Better bill.
Essentially, it’s sausage superglued together with compromise, corporate giveaways and half-steps. And many climate activists are dismayed by some of what’s not in the bill as well as what’s in it.
They should be.
Their relentless dissatisfaction is how we got here.
But verily I say unto you, this law may be the most purely good thing any of us will ever do for our children’s children’s children.
But don’t believe me.
Believe the man who co-chaired the first congressional hearing on global warming (and who actually did help invent the Internet).
“In crossing this threshold we have changed history and will never go backwards,” former Vice President Al Gore said last week.
“I’m extremely optimistic that this will be a critical turning point in our struggle to confront the climate crisis.”
Veteran environmentalist Bill McKibben said the legislation “transforms not just the energy landscape but the political landscape.” Experts ranging from Dr. Leah Stokes to climate curmudgeon David Roberts have shared litanies of praise.
From nearly doubling the share of green power on the grid in less than eight years to spending billions helping poor minority communities suffering from our collective indifference to pollution, this legislation includes a cornucopia of tactics to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent by the turn of the decade.
Because it focuses on incentives for buying cars, solar panels and appliances instead of regulation, it’s likely to survive our “originalist” Supreme Court, which oddly doesn’t seem interested in returning to the “original” carbon emission levels our founders enjoyed in 1788.
So damn good
The Inflation Reduction Act is not nearly perfect at all but it’s so damn good – especially compared to the alternative we were seriously considering less than two months ago.
Which was absof*ckinglutely nothing.
Failing to mark and briefly celebrate this monumental achievement – along with numerous other leaps like hearing aids being made available over-the-counter – would be a moral failure.
It would also be a strategic failure considering the stakes of the midterm elections we face three months from now.
Asked what’s on the ballot in 2022, Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol – who did breakthrough research on the Tea Party movement, which she now connects in both spirit and goals to the “Stop the Steal” rot that has taken over the GOP – had a simple answer. “The locking-in of minority authoritarian rule,” she said.
That’s why it’s fantastic that the Biden administration is going beyond a bill-signing to hosting a “grand” celebration in early September.
Everyone on the broad left who cares about democracy needs to celebrate this achievement because fear isn’t enough of a motivator to drive the kind of miracle victories we need in November. We have to focus on the very good things that are possible when we win.
So before we return to being the good faith critics this administration needs – the kind that tries to compel the president to do smart things that will make him more popular, like firing Louis DeJoy – let’s celebrate this one for all humankind.
And as we do, let’s think about what’s possible, especially what’s possible if we get two more Democratic senators and no longer have to suffer the whims of Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
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