The Cruel Reconciliation Sham
Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, and the rest of the Democratic Party’s craven elite leadership always planned to sell out the Progressives and America in the end.
[Update 11/6/2021: As I’ve been predicting would happen for months, the just Progressives got had by the Pelosi-Biden machine. The Midterms are coming, and the failure of a centrist party insider in the Virginia governor’s race is being played by Clintonite centrists — who secretly hate Black Americans — like James Carville as the nail in the coffin of Black Lives Matter.
All so terribly predictable. The powers that be fail, lose, then blame the Progressives. This will never change.]
This underpins why the one thing almost all American can agree on is that the country’s political system is in desperate need of reformation:
The final Reconciliation deal appears to be all but done — and as I’ve been predicting pretty much, now that I look back, all year, it’s a cold depressing mess. The Hill has a good list of what’s now in and out — though it is possible a few tweaks could make it in before all is said and done the administration is playing this up as the deal.
And what a raw and rotten deal it is!
Meaningful action on climate? Gone. Paid family leave? Gone. Free Community College? Gone. Medicare expansion to cover basic stuff like dental and vision? Gone.
A few scraps are thrown to Americans — free preschool is cool, folks need some place to put their kids while they work to pay the bills. Medicare covering hearing is great too. Some minor tweaks to make health insurance slightly more accessible are also neat. A one year extension of the child tax credit? Nice — but, like the rest, just a patch on broken software.
But a game-changing renovation of a creaky social safety net that is undermining the country’s long-term economic strength? A Biden legacy worthy of FDR?
What a joke. As soon as Republicans get back into power, and they will, it’s all gone. Swept away in an instant, and we’re right back where we started.
Even better, how is this utterly inadequate — almost a quarter of what Sanders has openly insisted was required — to be paid for?
Not by making the rich pay anything resembling a fair share of what they’ve gotten their grubby hands on thanks to all the public infrastructure their businesses rely on — no sirree! Can’t go after the fortunes of Musk and Bezos, that’s off-limits in America, land of billionaire-worship where wage slaves are trained to pretend they can one day reach the top of the garbage heap through pluck and determination.
No, instead to fund government programs we’ve got horrible elitist gimmicks like a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, which sounds good to people raised to hear corporation and think evil! but who don’t realize that big behemoths like Amazon actually like minimum corporate taxes.
That form of taxation harms small, mid-sized, and start-up businesses way more than established global megacorporations. What no one in polite circles is willing to admit is that huge companies like government regulation, because they can handle the burdens better than smaller competitors.
Why are bills that do so little thousands of pages long? That’s the space where lobbyists working for whoever can afford them stick in little provisions that exempt their backers from key rules.
Amazon has the money to pay the lawyers who tell them how to use these loopholes to game the system. Local Mom, Pop, and Family Incorporated doesn’t. That is how this thing everyone constantly mis-labels capitalism in America works.
Loopholes for me, taxes for you — that’s how this oligarchy masquerading as a free market capitalist system functions. And yes, my liberal chums, your precious Democrats do it too — they represent big companies that dominate the industries that donate to them. The average person who actually winds up paying the taxes? Irrelevant, as they don’t have meaningful representation.
Citizens United made corporations the same as people and their money the same as political speech, so what do you expect? We all play the game we were born into. In an American nation that exists solely in the fantasy of the true believers, rich people pay less rich people to figure out how to work the system.
Harmful wealth-protecting policy is something the Democrats, run by billionaire interests, love to push then declare a mighty progressive triumph. They are nothing more than the mirror of the Republicans, the two colluding to keep Americans dependent on their wicked scam year in and year out.
If you vote for or donate to either of them, you are feeding the beast. Handing power to partisan trolls. Avoid the rhetoric they use too whenever you can — especially if you care about big issues like race or climate, where politicization is death.
Now comes the great sales game — the inevitable time where the Democrats insist to all who will listen they’ve achieved a historic victory no matter the real-world evidence to the contrary.
Don’t agree? You’ll be called naive, unrealistic, not really a Democrat — the tactics used on Sinema and Manchin will morph to peer-pressure anyone afraid of upsetting other members of their team.
Any Progressive who votes for this reconciliation sham is a bald-faced hypocrite. Now is now the time to take hollow victories and celebrate them. If this is truly a once-in-a-generation effort, then the majority of Americans will be better off in the long run if they reject this nonsense now for the cruel joke it really is.
It’s these kinds of “wins” that wind up destroying a party. I’ve lost my last shred of faith in the Democrats, and polls show most Americans have too. Only the true believers whose lives revolve around their party still believe the system is fixable, and their faith is driving the two-party doom loop to its tragic, likely violent conclusion.
If you read the words of the major players, their true motivations for doing what they do are out in the open. Here’s a good one from a Democrat summarizing the thrust of Biden’s argument for this Reconciliation sham:
“Translation: I’m going to Rome. I want to get off that plane, and disprove Putin and Xi, who say democracies can’t get anything done. I’d like to have something at hand to disprove that.”
Optics and marketing are all the Democrats care about — the very idea that democracies can’t get anything done is idiotic, a misdirection from the real issues. American democracy can’t get anything done because it isn’t a true democracy at all. Not enough true democracy is America’s fundamental problem.
Northern Europe, Canada, Singapore — around half of people in those countries want reform, according to Pew Research. In America it’s 85%, exceeded only in this study by Italy at 89% and Spain at 86%. Notably, both of these countries were at the center of the European Union’s big debt crisis a decade back, and each was subjected to the same brand of neoliberal austerity politics that America’s poorer half enjoys.
The Democrats only care about maintaining and expanding their market share, like any other business. Winning elections is a key part of the game in the long term, but no individual election usually matters all that much because the moment the party is in power its incentives shift away from serving voters and fully towards amassing money ahead of the next electoral cycle.
I find it darkly amusing that this week, for the first time, my email inbox has been inundated by emails wanting to recruit me to either run for office as a Democrat or donate to those who want to. Notice how the Democrats are starting their “we saved America” push with a Reconciliation agreement at the same time?
This whole year the theater in D.C. — all of it, every single bit of it save for a few activist protests — has been part of a cruel game played on the Progressives. Biden was elected after promising to be a bland centrist who would right the ship after Trump crashed into an iceberg.
Then, all of a sudden, he’s acting as if he’ll be the next FDR, even though it was clear to anyone wargaming the dynamics of a closely-divided Congress and dangerously popular insurrectionist ex-President should have seen how empty those promises were. Only someone desperate for hope, too young to remember Obama’s first term, or so caught up in backing their team they were rendered blind didn’t see the writing on the wall.
Democratic strategists certainly did — they’re paid to wargame things out. They aren’t dumb, they simply use outdated theories and methods that miss critical shifting dynamics and have no incentive to tell the public the hard truth:
Any one senator could scuttle any reconciliation deal. There would be no filibuster repeal, size increases to the supreme court, student loan forgiveness, medicare-for-all — anything, because Joe Manchin is from the most Trump-friendly state in America.
He has immense power over the Democrats because of this, and no incentive to do anything other than maximize his press exposure. He has little future as a senator from his state and serious potential as the leader of an Independent bid for the Presidency, if he chooses to go that way.
With Republicans so bound to their culture wars McConnell has minimal flexibility to compromise even if he wants to, so filibuster gridlock was inevitable — and a missed opportunity to exploit if you truly want to get rid of it. But Progressives too suddenly had new power, which threatened that of old hands like Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer.
The Democratic Party relies on the financial support of the wealthy, the naive enthusiasm of the young, and the total lack of viable alternatives for people of color. The latter two get kind words and exhortations to keep the faith.
The first gets the goodies and runs the show. This will never change so long as Progressives keep playing this broken game. Period point blank.
All this great Reconciliation Sham has truly been about is keeping Progressives from abandoning the Democratic Party and starting their own. They have lost a year in which they could have been organizing for an alternative vision, pushing large-scale activist action to apply hard pressure on the administration.
By making promised they never intended to keep, Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer have sought only to secure their own legacies as legendary leaders of their dying party.
If there is any hope left for America to survive intact that doesn’t involve Amending the Constitution to break up the federal government — not the United States, just the way the federal system is structured — it is in the country somehow evolving a multi-party system. The simple truth is that if you look around the world it is multi-party systems with a high degree of decentralization that tend to have the best outcomes.
The two-party system isn’t competitive or democratic, it’s a dance performance. Each side mimics the moves of the other, and as fear becomes ever more motivating for people in both during these difficult times a conflict spiral is spawned that ends badly for everyone.
It is this wicked mutualism that is the absolute root cause of America’s ongoing death. Both parties fear competition that would push them into a situation where they were actually forced to compete. The American news media relies on affiliating with a faction within each party to advance its narrow worldview as universal truth.
Democracy works when it broadly reflects the will of the people. It isn’t some magic, sacred thing — it’s a functional way of keeping people working together without killing each other.
When people live together, they have to develop rules about how to behave. What those rules are, how they are enforced, who enforces them — all of that has to be subject to meaningful democratic processes, defined solely by how well people believe they work. If they seem fair and actually provide services people need, as I and my co-author have shown in peer-reviewed research, a bond of trust is established that is enhanced the longer things work.
When reform is demanded but doesn’t occur, there’s something wrong with the structured game that develops — politics, for short — to answer the essential questions of community that ultimately define and bound them. People lose faith in the system — then they start to build a new one, or more accurately, new ones, that come into conflict.
Each side uses moral claims to back the rightness of their cause, but the end result of moral squabbles is always the same: hard division of the community or the adoption of a strict new rule in some dimension. This is why freedom, equality, and tolerance are so vital and must be guaranteed to everyone to the maximum extent possible — when these are lacking, there are behavioral consequences that drive conflict and the downfall of the community.
America lacks this kind of true democratic accountability. Its federal and most state governments do not serve the people. They lack bonds of trust, so people resist their dictates, thinking them biased in favor of some competing group. All fights become zero-sum, the smallest victory by the other side a cause for alarm.
That is how democracies truly die. The death of democracy is not the demise of some set of artificial institutions political scientists put their faith into, but the bonds of trust secured by effective pluralist government.
The remedy for America, if the patient is not already too far gone, requires offering Americans a new dimension to consider in lieu of liberal versus conservative: centralized versus regional governance.
Americans know that the country has grown apart, and papering over very real differences in how we want to be governed with unity rhetoric doesn’t help — it only pulls everyone further into the trap. Any alternative party that wants to distinguish itself and actually win has to root itself in this simple truth.
The two party system in America usually evolves when one splits, triggering a reshuffle of coalitions. The Democrats themselves only stopped being the party of Southern white supremacy in the late 1960s when they chose to appeal to Black voters and embrace the Civil Rights movement.
Which is what has killed it, by the way. Even the causes of social equality and anti-racism have been polluted by the two-party system. Conservatives see any talk of Black Lives Matter as an attempt to subjugate them and push back, even when the aims of BLM and many libertarian-leaning people on the right are actually identical.
A new party that wants to succeed and not just appeal to some niche group has to offer a comprehensive alternative. It must adopt a functional, pragmatic approach to governing built on a universal foundation: guaranteeing the basic human rights of Home, Health, Livelihood, Association, and Safety to everyone.
How that is accomplished in a given place can vary if local-level, democratically-accountable councils are set up to receive federal investment funds distributed on a per-person basis. Instead of having representatives in Congress write and pass pork-filled bills, simply pass a certain level of investment funding allocated equally across the land.
Infrastructure investment is then tailored precisly to the democratic will of the community. The direct connection between taxation and visible investments people choose for themselves reinforces trust by empowering communities which are, thanks to America’s political geographic, now largely cohesive.
In complicated times, people need things to be simple. This presents a paradox that can only be resolved by appealing to true univerals. Everyone needs a place to live, access to health care, a stable source of income, the ability to interact with those they choose, and above all else, being able to live without fear.
It is the job of democratic government to guarantee these basic rights to everyone on an equal basis — and empower them to work out the details locally.
The ever-crucial question of How to guarantee these rights needs to be handled as locally as possible. Democracy has to be enhanced and localized everywhere so we can all get on with our lives.
Not everything can be fully localized, obviously — America’s nuclear arsenal should always remain under the control of a military controlled by a Constitutionally limited federal government, you have to allow people to move to where they fit in, and a common currency is generally a good thing. But pretty much everything else can be done better and cheaper more locally.
We live awash in information, and with that comes the ability to see ourselves and others with greater clarity. Local places have always struggled to get the recognition they deserve in national circles, and distant capitols always tend to pull ever more power towards themselves over time.
A third party must unite Progressives, disaffected Republicans, and fed-up Independents under a banner of meaningful reform and a return to the roots of good government. It must promise Americans a set of basic freedoms and a new system for guaranteeing them that takes into account the deep regionalization presently underway.
It must establish new narrative standards, build out its own independent social media platform, and give people sick of the way things are a true voice in developing something that actually works. It has to create its own media channels dedicated to non-partisan analysis, honest discussions of all issues, and above all else, solutions that don’t even involve D.C. unless absolutely necessary.
This committment to alterity will give a third party the critical advantage it needs to take on the Democrat-Republican duopoly: the ability to become the opposition party in every state currently dominated by one or the other.
Democrat and Republican are now effectively derogatory terms depending on present company. It is impossible for either to grow past a certain point, because the two-party nightmare has gone on so long people rarely switch parties — they go Independent, or drop out entirely and stop voting.
People who aren’t strongly affiliated with either party are in fact a minority of Americans. This represents an incredible opportunity to a coalition of interests willing to build out the infrastructure needed to unite them and pursue a working alternative.
In the vast majority of states the majority of people want an alternative — but the other party is the only viable game in town, even though it can’t possibly win because the two-party system subordinates the local to the national. Local parties can’t adapt, and leaders instead reflect national concerns, using donations from disenfranchised voters in one state to impact politics in another.
Things never get better for most Americans because neither party truly works for the bulk of its supporters. It doesn’t have to: it lacks real competition, and culture wars are a cheap way of giving voters the impression you are fighting for them without actually accomplishing anything of value.
This has implications far beyond the political system because the economy and society are bound to the sick, twisted game. I am confident only constitutional separation of the federal government or a multi-party democratic system, starting with the emergence a viable third party, can avert an American nightmare from unfolding the rest of this decade, and maybe beyond.
Give people a non-stigmatized alternative with a real chance of winning and watch how fast they’ll get on board. People everywhere want Democracy, but they’ve been sold a vicious myth about what Democracy really means.
Reform had better happen quickly, though. The United States of America only survives if the two-party system dies — before 2024.
That means there is about a year left until the Midterms. A year to secure seats in Congress enough to maybe make a difference before the crucial sprint begins.
Because if the two party doom loop is not broken before 2024…
Watch out, world.