This is why politics matters
Nights like these are worth fighting for
As I write this, it’s 6:00 am Eastern time, and 3:00 am on the west coast, where I am. The U.S. Senate is approaching the seventh hour of the “vote-a-rama” process, as they continue to debate the Inflation Reduction Act. The world is asleep, except for the Senators, their staff, a few determined reporters, and a couple politics junkies like me.
As Senators vote at a glacial pace on doomed amendments to the bill, I thought I’d take a moment to offer a few thoughts.
First, what a long, winding path it’s been for this legislation. In the aftermath of the incredible victories in the Georgia runoffs eighteen months ago, it seemed like Democrats might be able to offer transformative change to the American economy, and radically expand the social safety net. Sadly, that hasn’t come to pass. The 6 trillion dollar proposal of Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders was brought down to 3.5 trillion, which was then slashed in half again, with a slimmed down Build Back Better Act passing the House last fall.
But then came the seemingly endless Joe Manchin show. The Senator from West Virginia – a complicated presence at the best of times – was a frustrating negotiating partner, though much of the blame for that seems to lie at the feet of Chuck Schumer. Twice, it seemed that not a single scrap of Build Back Better could be revived – first in December, when Manchin exploded with rage at the White House, and then again in July, when talks crumbled once more.
But to their credit, Schumer and Manchin kept talking, and they worked out their differences. The result isn’t a perfect bill, by any means. It’s not the bill I would’ve written, it doesn’t fully meet the moment, and it doesn’t expand the safety net in all the ways we need.
But it’s a good bill. It’ll lower prescription drug costs for millions of Americans on Medicare. It’ll raise taxes on the biggest corporations, ensuring more of them pay their fair share. It’ll protect millions of Americans from devastating increases to their insurance costs. It’ll reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, helping to lower inflation, and put our country on stronger financial footing. And most importantly, through all the wrangling, all the negotiating, and all the whittling down, the climate provisions mostly survived intact. The bill will make historic investments – to the tune of literally hundreds of billions of dollars – in an all of the above renewable energy approach. Is it everything we need to meet our emissions targets? Probably not. Is it a start? Absolutely.
But it’s not just the substance of the bill that I’m thinking about right now. It’s what the bill – and other, recent legislative accomplishments – mean for politics more broadly.
A few months ago, it looked like Biden was facing a legislatively failed presidency, with little in the way of a lasting legacy on domestic policy. Today, it seems likely that we’re going to get:
An economic rescue plan that has helped lead to the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years
A major investment in American infrastructure, that doubled as an impressive display of bipartisanship
The first significant gun safety legislation in more than a decade
Electoral Count Act reform, on a bipartisan basis
A $280 billion dollar investment in semiconductor manufacturing, as well as American science
The confirmation of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court
The Inflation Reduction Act
For a 50-50 Senate, that’s pretty damn impressive.
Democrats are good:
My friend Jonathan Robinson, the Director of Research at the data firm Catalist, has a recurring bit on Twitter. Every so often, he’ll quote tweet an achievement of the Biden administration, or the Democratic Senate caucus, and add the simple tagline: “Democrats are good.”
And here’s the thing: the bit works, because it’s true. Democrats are good. The party is endlessly frustrating, yes. Sometimes it makes me want to tear my hair out, and sometimes it makes me question why I ever decided to start working in politics in the first place. But at the end of the day, it’s true. Democrats are good. Electing Democrats? Also good.
In a few hours, the Inflation Reduction Act is going to pass the Senate on party lines. Every single Republican Senator is going to vote against it. Every single Republican Senator is going to vote against raising taxes on the most profitable corporations on earth. Every single Republican Senator is going to vote to keep prescription drug prices higher. Every single Republican Senator is going to vote against investing in renewable energy.
But the bill is going to pass the Senate anyway, because the Democratic party has a majority, and the Democratic party is good.
Right now, Democrats control the presidency, as well as both houses of Congress. It’s worth remembering how tenuous that control is, and how many close calls it’s based on.
Senator Maggie Hassan won her 2016 election by 500 votes
Joe Manchin won – in a state Biden received 29% of the vote in – by 19,000 votes in 2018
In 2020, Republican David Perdue received 49.7% of the vote in the first round against Jon Ossoff – .3% away from avoiding a runoff
Joe Biden won the tipping point state in the presidential election – Wisconsin – by .6% of the vote
These were close elections, all of which could’ve gone the other way. It’s only through the hard work of thousands of people – organizers, operatives, and staffers around the country – that things turned out the way they did.
So tonight, I’m grateful – not just for the fifty Senators who will vote for final passage, but for everyone who contributed to making this possible. And I’m especially grateful to everyone I work with at Blue Rose Research, where we try every day to make the task of electing Democrats a little bit easier. I’m so glad to be able to be a part of such a smart, driven team of people, who are working towards such an important goal.
It’s easy for politics to make a person cynical. But nights like these are a reminder of why, in the end, it all really does matter.
Because – say it with me, one more time – Democrats are good.