voice for democracy

Opinion: Democracy hinges on passage of a strong Build Back Better Act – mainebeacon.com

Do you hear it? The sound of the corporate, monied, elite politicians and businesses sucking the life out of the necessary programs, investments and moral policies that were demanded by us, the people, in the last election?
You remember, the promises to provide paid family leave, increase the minimum wage, expand health care, lower prescription drug prices that politicians ran on. The programs we, the people, elected you to deliver?
In the last few weeks, we have moved from President Joe Biden proposing a $3.5 trillion “New Deal” level of investment into the needs of working families that moves us toward an economy that serves us all, to the Democrats negotiating against themselves to less than half of that ($1.6 trillion as of this writing) that removes the very things that they said they would deliver.
The “compromise bill” has taken out four of the most urgent (and popular) demands of the American people:
How is this possible? It has something to do with ongoing assault on democracy itself.
It’s too easy to say this is the fault of two corporate-sponsored Democratic Senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema– and every single Republican. They are to blame, for sure. But the core issue is the fault of the entire system. Billionaires and corporations have paid good money for those senators. And the people in charge can’t push too hard, because if the President and the party leaders let the corporations down, the reasoning goes, then they won’t continue to finance the outlandish costs of the next elections. Then those leaders won’t be in the majority, and they won’t have the power to do the things that the people need.
Oh, wait a minute. We did elect them. We elected them to do the very things that they said they would. We gave them the power to do it. And now they are giving it away. Big talk, big promises for the people, but in the end, big protection for the campaign contributors.
And this is how it is related to the assault on democracy, which is hanging on by a thread.
When we do our democratic duty and we vote, we vote believing that the politicians are going to fight like hell for and deliver on the things they promised. And we believe majority rules. The vast majority of voters in both parties support the things now being eliminated. But the President and Congress can’t deliver. Because the corporate elite have figured out that they don’t need to own every politician – just a few. So, they go find people they bought and demand that they hold out (Manchin and Sinema). And if that doesn’t work, they go to their golden boy – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — and have him just whisper “filibuster” and everything comes to a halt.
Nothing happens. We struggle to make ends meet, raise our kids, pay our taxes, get health care. Life, for most, is full of challenge and struggle. The relief promised doesn’t come.
So, the next time an election comes around, and a politician promises us help — well, we don’t believe them. So, we don’t bother to vote. Or if we do, we don’t bother to bring five of our friends and neighbors with us. And we certainly don’t volunteer to work on a campaign. And then, while no one is watching (because we are tired and cynical) laws get passed all over the country to make it harder to vote and we don’t really care because voting hasn’t really helped us. Democracy isn’t serving the will of the people. And then “non-politicians” come along as candidates and promise to shake it up and change the whole thing while declaring that nothing is getting done (which is mostly true). Which sounds better than business as usual. Anything starts to sound better than business as usual. And then, well, we know what happens next.
And that is what we are on the brink of today. The passage of a meaningful human infrastructure bill in the next few days is more than a critical investment in the lives of hardworking Americans. It is a bellwether of the future of democracy.
Photo: U.S. Capitol building | Stephen Melkisethian
Betsy Sweet is a progressive activist who has spent 40 years working to bring about a more just, equitable Maine. She has run for Governor, US Senate and now continues to advocate at the state house, hosts a weekly TV show "Maine Challenge", is a political commentator on WCSH. She is a mom of 3 grown daughters and one very adorable dog.
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