04 February 2021

Ten criteria for success

I've opined that Biden and the thin Democratic majorities in Congress have two years to achieve real results -- if we haven't seen some "big stuff" accomplished by November 2022, our voting base won't be motivated to turn out and we'll likely lose the House majority and perhaps the Senate too, despite a favorable map.

Here are the items I would say qualify as "big stuff".  The Democrats won't get all of them done, but they need to get some of them done in the next two years.

1.  Victory over covid-19.  This means that at least in the blue cities, the virus should have been suppressed to the extent that masks and social distancing are no longer necessary, and social interaction and the operation of businesses like restaurants have fully returned to 2019 norms, while hospitals are under no more unusual stress than in 2019.  It may be impossible to achieve this in two years in the red rural areas, where resistance to vaccines and precautions will slow down recovery, but the cities should be back to normal by sometime in 2022 at the latest.

2.  A jobs recovery.  Real unemployment should be back down to 2019 levels.

3.  The $15 federal minimum wage.  This might need to be adjusted for the lower-cost-of-living parts of the country to get Manchin on board, but the $15 minimum should be in effect in the cities, bringing the US into line with what some other developed countries have.

4.  A public option in healthcare. The simplest way to achieve this would be "Medicare for all who want it" (not abolition of private insurance, which would be political suicide), or at least lowering the age of eligibility to make it available to far more people.  This would begin the process of decoupling health insurance from employment and giving the US what all other developed countries, and some middle-income countries, already have.

5.  A new federal voting-rights guarantee.  This would be a law to eliminate state-level gerrymandering and vote-suppression schemes aimed at disenfranchising Democrats in general and black voters in particular.  Federal voter-registration standards and promotion of voting by mail could also be part of this.

6.  Statehood for DC or Puerto Rico or both.  This would dilute the minority-rule problem posed by the Electoral College and the Senate.

7.  Neutralization of the Republican packing of the Supreme Court.  This could mean enlarging the Court, or in some way reducing its jurisdiction.  There are many options.

8.  Reversal of the Republican tax cut for the rich.  Deficits do matter.  Restoration of some semblance of an equitable tax burden won't cover all the costs of what the government has done and still needs to do to fight the pandemic, but it will help.

9.  Serious action to contain China.  This could take the form of a NATO-like alliance of democracies linking the US with India and Japan and possibly South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia; or some sort of multilateral initiative to get the upper hand over China economically (Trump's trade war "strategy" was doomed by pitting the US against everybody else instead of getting other democracies on board against China specifically).  Right now we're on a 1930s-like trajectory, with a brutal fascist regime putting minorities in concentration camps (Xinjiang) and openly aspiring to seize new territories (Taiwan, the South China Sea) while building up its military to press those claims.  We also have the same kind of head-in-the-sand appeasers and people insisting that the rise of this intolerable regime to a dominant position in world affairs is inevitable or, bizarrely, even desirable.  We need to get off that trajectory and deal with the problem before it gets to the September 1939 stage, where the only option is a shooting war.

10.  Successful handling of a new crisis.  Just as covid-19 came out of nowhere, the odds are better than even that between now and November 2022 some new major issue will arise which we can't now anticipate.  If it's major enough, how well the administration handles it could well prove as critical as any of the items above.

(I didn't mention a federal guarantee of abortion rights because it's unclear whether that will be necessary.  If Roe falls, it definitely goes on the list.)

I'd say the minimum standard of success is four out of ten.  The first two are essential; unless they are both achieved by November 2022, we'll probably lose the House and Senate.  If those plus any two of the others are achieved, the administration will be a clear success and will deserve to win, and will win, increased majorities.

Then they'll have another two years (at least) to do the rest of it.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I agree with you. The handling of the pandemic could be possible. With a few rogue states coming in late because they are led by Repugs, it may be possible. Cheeto did not even have a plan, just ship vaccines based on the 'favors' the states would provide. I don't see us maskless, though. Social distancing may decrease.
I think the minimum wage and Medicare are possible. Voting rights? The Repugs are gonna fight. I hope Puerto Rico and DC do become states and SCOTUS is expanded.
As for a new crisis, that is also possible. White supremacy IS a problem, after all...


04 February, 2021 05:10  
Blogger One Fly said...

I damn near get high just thinking about that.

04 February, 2021 05:57  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I think that covers it pretty well (what you wrote). There is so much to deal with, so that is why I don't expect miracles. I don't even think many folks, especially todays so called "conservatives" realize just how lousy of a situation were dealing with today, and how much has changed ... it's actually remarkable how many people support far right ideas too ... and the performance of Republicans on getting much of anything done. There are all kinds of daily surveys on how Biden adminstration has done so far ... It's too early ... but much of the moves I seen are good ... in fact VERY GOOD, considering the last administration. On the stimulus isssue, I see they will have to "make good", especially on the checks ... lots of people think we got shorted (you know, on Biden and others in Georgia during election talking about "immediate $2000 checks"), but they're WORKING on it ... and as I expected ... Manchin is the Lone Ranger, even GOP Gov Jim Justice of West Virginia is telling Manchin that they need it. The stimulus package is a good deal, not just the checks, but all else ... it's needed. I liked the other day when Schumer said "we're not gonna make the same mistake we made in 2009", as far as going around the GOP if needed. I agree with Schumer 110%!! ... for years, Democrats have appeased and gave so much to Republicans requests, Dems have displayed bipartisanship and been more than reasonable ... the GOP gives nothing back, they just take, take, take ... GOP has NOT been bipartisan, and have just bullied everyone up there ... it's always their way or the highway type of attitude. But this adminisration has been going head on with the issues we face, especially this COVID, and as you said ... that's a BIGGIE! But you covered so much that is needed in your post ... and it's reasonable and more fair. There are still plenty of tax incentives for large investors, even if they had to pay a little more tax ... and even they know it ... some act as if we dare try to ask for a bit more in taxes ... the U.S. would go into eternal poverty ... this is silly!

Funnies (but true): Yesterday I was in a small neighbourhood grocer (Aldi). A woman customer was sorting through produce ... she did not have a mask on. This gal was a big gal, broad shoulders, off-blonde hair and looked like a weightlifter that could use to lose a few pounds too, she had a face and looked as mean as an angry pitbull ... I don't know if anyone later approached her about the mask, I was on the way out. But I started laughing when I seen her (no one could see because I was wearing a mask) ... I almost felt like asking her for an autograph, she was just like the types that you see on the tele or YouTube, that they call "Karen" ... I'm thinking, this is a "genuine Karen", I never seen one in person before {:-) ... I bet if I would have told her about her mask, she'd probably whip my ass, and pray for me at the same time {:-)

04 February, 2021 06:35  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

I know you'll keep a sharp lookout to see how he does!

04 February, 2021 06:59  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Excellent list/ priorities! I would like to see the new Voting Rights effort get a high priority lest Republican state efforts to gerrymander and restrict voting in Federal elections further disenfranchise (Democratic) voters and give the QAnon party a chance to (pardon the expression) steal the 2022 and 2024 elections. Of course, ultimately the Supreme Court could pull another Shelby County v Holder out of its ass and strike down any reforms. But at least, let's fight the fight.

04 February, 2021 08:15  
Blogger Mike said...

"Reversal of the Republican tax cut for the rich."
This would help things tremendously. The money could get infrastructure repair going which would create jobs.

04 February, 2021 10:32  
Blogger Dave Miller said...

Infidel... you've got essentially the progressive dream list. But it's a list that can't be passed without a super majority in the Senate given that there is not support, at this time, for a roll back of the filibuster. So, perhaps the definition of success should be modified?

Look, I love most of what you have here, but how you propose to get any of this passed? We will probably see an economic recovery, but getting to the Trump levels of employment in pre Covid times is going to be tough. I think reining in China is 100 doable because it is mostly foreign policy where a president has a pretty free hand.

But the rest of the list seems to be a list of mostly good stuff, with no clear path to approval.

If America is mostly past the worst of Covid, we have vaccinations and our kids are again working, simple sanity from the White House and a forward looking more progressive agenda should be a recipe for a good showing in 2022.

05 February, 2021 08:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: I don't see us maskless, though. Social distancing may decrease.

But no longer needing masks or social distancing would be an indication that the pandemic was truly over -- which is the definition of success I'm using on that issue. If people still need masks, that means the virus is still a threat and the government hasn't succeeded in defeating it.

Fly: Maybe I'll get high when it's done.

Ranch: People need to remember that Biden has been in office barely over two weeks. He's done a lot with executive orders, but people can't expect everything to be fixed already.

I've been saying for a long time that despite all his kumbaya talk, Biden knows very well how obstructionist the Republicans are, because he saw it for those eight years working with Obama. He made a good-faith effort to get them on board for the covid-19 bill, and now it's moving ahead without them. I do hope Manchin listens to his governor.

05 February, 2021 12:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: Oh, I will, at least on and off.

Hackwhacker: Protecting voting rights is a matter of simple justice, too. The black struggle for those rights was one of the great achievements of US history, won at terrible cost. It's outrageous that the Republicans are trying to roll it back.

Mike: We're going to need more money, that's for sure.

Dave: I'm not ready to give up on eliminating the filibuster or at least further restricting its use. Manchin and Sinema may yet be persuadable, especially if their continued objections will mark them as the individuals who stopped the Democrats from saving the country. There's also reconciliation, for some things. And there are various ways that skilled politicians can get things done.

As I said, I don't expect everything on the list to get done, certainly not by 2022. But they need to get some of it done, one way or another. The voters don't much care how stuff gets done, or why it didn't get done, if it didn't. They only care whether the problems are being solved or not.

05 February, 2021 12:41  
Anonymous Annie said...

It’s a great list, and I love the fact that everyone from Biden and Schumer and Pelosi to Yellen and Powell and various columnists are saying now’s the time to “go big.”

The minimum wage will be tough, though apparently Bernie has Manchin’s agreement to go along with it if it’s staged in over a period of years.

Infrastructure could be the key to getting Manchin on board with other important issues. I saw Buttigieg interviewed yesterday and he was just brimming with ideas. That seems to be an area where some bipartisan action can occur.

The inclusion of child credits in the Biden bill and the planning around them has been called potentially transformational by advocates—a real chance to make a huge dent in child poverty for the first time in decades.That praise made me especially proud of how smartly and seriously Biden et al are approaching their proposed legislation.

I’m concerned that immigrants rights groups, who are rightfully pushing hard, aren’t accepting that the administration has to move carefully because of both the courts and the need to clean up the rogue ICE officials who are defying Biden. That is quite a mess, and it’s not something they want to emphasize, but they can’t bring in large numbers of refugees until they can protect them from this trumpian vestige.

Anyway, four out of 10 sounds doable—and the communications staff must continually remind everyone—especially the stingy Republicans—that this agenda is what the majority of Americans want. I just saw a poll that Biden is more popular in Texas than the governor. That good will should be translatable to action.

06 February, 2021 09:57  
Blogger Tundra Bunny said...

Your analysis was very interesting and cogent. I don't understand how the American system can work at all when it's possible for the GOP to derail Congress and/or POTUS if it holds the Senate majority. Why does the U.S. only have 2 political parties? An either/or choice in every election must turn off a lot of voters. The parliamentary system in Canada has it's drawbacks too, but a minority government here at least forces different political parties to work co-operatively and find common ground, which produces some very good "government". Gerrymandering has reared its ugly head here in federal ridings too, particularly in the conservative prairie provinces. It seems like right-wing conservatives the world over believe they cannot win elections without stacking the deck!

I just hope that expectations aren't so high that the Biden administration disappoints voters when progress isn't fast enough for their liking! No one could turn the U.S.S. America on a dime.

06 February, 2021 12:34  
Anonymous Johnny Profane said...

How about ending military actions... And not starting new wars...?

How about giving a shit about other humans?

07 February, 2021 09:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Annie: Thanks. We'll need to see whether the minimum wage increase survives as part of the covid-19 package. That one could get done quite soon.

Buttigieg is a brilliant guy and has a knack for appealing to conservatives. I hope Biden makes full use of his abilities.

On immigration, they need to tread carefully. A lot of people who aren't particularly right-wing are uncomfortable with the idea of uncontrolled immigration. Biden needs to make amends for Trump's ghastly mistreatment of refugees, but making it too easy for too many people to enter the country will lose more votes than it gains.

As I expected, Biden, despite all his kumbaya talk, knows well what the Republicans are up to and is refusing to waste any time on their nonsense. He's made it clear that he'd like them to get on board, but the train is not gonna wait.

Bunny: Thanks. The advantage of the two-party system is that it avoids situations like we see in Israel, where some fringe party can hold the government hostage because there's almost never a majority for just one party. In the US system, third parties are a route to oblivion, and the two big parties are each coalitions of interest groups -- the only way for a group to get anything done is to join one coalition or the other. This means that people who refuse to compromise get frozen out of power, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, with the current Senate rules, even the loser of the two major parties is capable of paralyzing the government. The Constitution places constraints on the power of those who rule, but they need to be able to get things done.

I think most people have reasonable expectations, but the government also needs to use what levers of power it has to deliver. "We got X, Y, and Z done" will turn out a lot more voters in 2022 than "we couldn't do anything because the Republicans wouldn't let us" will.

07 February, 2021 10:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Johnny: Pretty much all of these are about "giving a shit about other humans". I'm listing specific policies that could be implemented rather than general attitudes, because I wanted criteria for which it's possible to determine clearly whether they've been implemented or not.

Trump didn't start any wars, and Biden shows no sign of wanting to -- that issue isn't our primary problem at the moment. My point #9 is about preventing a potential war.

07 February, 2021 10:43  
Anonymous Annie said...

Alas, I think the minimum wage is already out of this bill; Manchin wouldn’t allow it, and even Bernie said he never expected it to pass until the pandemic was over.

07 February, 2021 15:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

We'll see. Last I heard, Bernie is still trying to get i included.

09 February, 2021 01:24  

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