Monday, July 26, 2021

Leverage


Alexander Sammons in The American Prospect explains that progressive groups have been startlingly willing not to pressure President Joe Biden on their priorities, and have been rewarded with very few wins. However

In rare moments and on fairly niche issues, progressive groups have called out Biden publicly, and it’s worked. When news leaked that the president had chosen to go back on a campaign promise and would not raise the refugee limit from its Trump-era lows of 15,000 people per year, there was broad outcry from progressive and humanitarian groups. Biden quickly reversed course.

When "progressive groups have called out Biden publicly.... it has worked."  One of those issues- the most important one- on which the left has failed to twist the President's arm is voting rights, which Biden was asked about in his recent town hall meeting with CNN's Don Lemon. New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted the President stated

“What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up, right now, in the argument of whether or not this is all about the filibuster or — look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting. You tried last time. More people voted last time than at any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history. More people did.”

This is patently false. You absolutely can stop people from voting. We have seen this over and over again throughout American history. And, these laws won’t harm all Americans. They’ll harm minorities in America. They are aimed at liberal cities where the populations are often heavily Black and Latino.

Biden is basically saying here what Black America has heard forever: No matter how high they make the hill, your only choice is to climb it. I applaud your ascension. My God, aren’t your legs strong.

As Blow noted also, President Biden has been emphasizing other elements of his agenda far more than voting rights, notwithstanding that "Black people gave all to save Joe Biden’s candidacy, but Joe Biden refused to give all to protect their right to vote. Reciprocity is not compulsory."

After three states- Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada- held their primary or caucus, Biden was gasping for air, nearly dead in the water. But as was oft-repeated, we had not heard from African-Americans. Then Jim Clyburn unqualifiedly endorsed the former vice president and with more blacks than whites voting in the South Carolina primary, Biden creamed Bernie Sanders and was off to the races.

"Black people gave all to save Joe Biden's candidacy" is a short and sweet recap of Democratic primary season and the winner cannot be so dense as not to realize it.  Yet, there are ways to respond to the President going all out to get a bipartisan infrastructure bill and giving little more than lip service to voter rights.

Most effective probably would be the Congressional Black Caucus explaining that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and HR 1 are their highest- not high, but highest- legislative priorities. The CBC could imply a little political blackmail, noting that the GOP is favored to win back the House (also, the Senate) and that if it does, it will move to impeach the President. And oh, by the way- if that happens, the first black vice president will be waiting in the wings and black members of the House may be conflicted. A little intimidation from immigration rights activists persuaded Joe Biden earlier this year. Clarence Thomas knows how that works.


Implying they would not have the President's back if Articles of Impeachment were introduced in the next Congress might seem like an idle threat. Alternatively, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus merely can remind Biden "we made you, we can break you."   Of the larger black community: they did, and they can.

 


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