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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,309

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The path for Democrats holding onto Congress has now narrowed to a single option.

Six months ago there were other options. At one point it appeared that a simple return to seeming normality after all the drama of the Trump years could carry Democrats to victory in the midterms. But the electorate is restless now, if nothing else a continuing Covid-19 pandemic has stripped any veneer of normality from our daily lives, replacing any hope for stability with non focused but seething dissatisfaction. The other major card that Biden and the Democrats started out his Administration with was competency, with expertise, and solid judgement paving the way to inevitable progress. By and large the Biden Administration remains rooted in competency, but that glow no longer permeates it in the public mind. Too much seems to be uncertain if not downright out of control for competency to be associated with Democrats at this point in time. Finally, the ace in the hold that Democrats were counting on was "deliverables." Biden's core legislative agenda was crafted to make a real and measurable difference in the lives of average Americans. People who would have benefited greatly from the original Build Back Better agenda, or even the scaled back compromise version that Joe Manchin just blew up, would have had compelling life altering reasons to support Democrats in 2022. Improved roads and bridges, much of that work not slated to begin until after next November's election, do not carry a similar punch.

Through all of the factors noted above, Democrats started out this year with the capacity to seize the center of American politics, unifying our traditional base with sensible moderates and Independents and even some Republicans for a solid and winning coalition., but it hasn't played out that way. The total unraveling of Build Back Better, on top of the continuing pandemic and highly charged ideological flash points, has redrawn every political equation for 2022. Unless something changes dramatically, Democrats will not enter the mid terms with anything resembling an aura of strength, unless we manage to generate that aura ourselves. Fairly or not, we start out this election cycle with the political label "impotent" hanging around our necks.

Build Back Better, the core of President Biden's political agenda, has been brutally shot down. Housing continues to grow more unaffordable weekly, as does the cost of a college education. Women remain locked out of the work place with affordable daycare virtually impossible to find. Drawn out national police reform efforts led to a long and winding dead end street. Attempts to deliver even minimal immigration reform to stabilize the lives of millions of long term American residents living in the shadows, without any clear path forward, to a legal status have gone nowhere. Congress, under Democratic control, has failed to counter on a national level the wholesale assault on voting rights and fair elections being orchestrated by Republicans at the State level in dozens of states unimpeded. Extreme weather events continue to proliferate as the world races towards an environmental tipping point from which there is no return, and the United States has no viable plan left on board to counter that.

What will motivate the core elements of the Democratic base to turn out in record numbers for the 3022 midterms in light of that political track record? It seems each and every essential strand of Democratic core constituencies can find reason to be disappointed, if not utterly disillusioned by the fate of the Democratic agenda to date. That does not bode well for avoiding a potentially fatal "enthusiasm gap" in November. We can not campaign on "Two More Years", let alone "Four More Years" based on our current accomplishments in the current political climate. Instead we must radically alter the current political climate. Democrats have to go on war footing. We have to become passionately aspirational, exhibiting a fierce resolve and fighting spirit to deliver for the American people all of the life affirming policies and priorities that our opposition (from either side of the aisle) have currently prevented us from delivering to date. We need to openly and fervently call for larger Democratic majorities in both houses, so that we can save our climate, and restore the foundations of our American democracy, and provide the economic foundation that so many million Americans require to finally prosper in this life. Those who stand against us must be condemned as the true obstructionists of the American Dream.

The message is we will not be denied again, that we will deliver for the American people with the support of a mobilized electorate. Democrats must be seen as fighting for a cause, and heading up a movement for change that this time will be unstoppable. Doom and gloom has no place in that movement. Instead we must go on the offensive fighting for what we believe in, rather than blurring the lines that separate Democrats from Republicans. Income inequality must be back on the table front and center, no longer shoved off to a small corner in order to appease a Krysten Sinema. We should make no apologies for falling short this legislative session, instead it should be the centerpiece of our argument that the lesson to be drawn from this ti that the legislature itself must be changed through the election of more strong Democrats, who are willing to fight for what the American people need, want, and finally deserve.

Six weeks ago I was adjusting to my new ICU bed after waking up from Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery

Fortunately the surgery went well and my recovery is proceeding nicely. In my case I skipped right past the typical preceding heart attack directly to fix. If you're gonna have quadruple bypass heart surgery, that's the way to do it. It's scary enough to contemplate heart surgery without factoring in heart damage already suffered. Which leads me to this OP..

There is absolutely nothing unusual for a 72 year old man to need heart surgery, but it sure as hell seemed unusual to me! I had not experienced any obvious signs of any impending heart attack. I've pretty much never been laid low by anything before, neither injury nor illness. I don't take sick days, and I get my share of exercise working part time with dogs. I am accustomed to being fully operational and spry for my age. There was little to warn me that I might be living on borrowed time.

I choose those words carefully. I got a couple of warnings, but they sure seemed subtle at the time. An example: a couple of times last winter while walking a dog who was feeling particularly peppy in 15 degree morning air, I had to restrain her after about 150 yards of sucking in cold air at a near trot pace. I felt momentarily breathless, plus some minor tightening in my chest. Not pain mind you, nothing dramatic, and less than a minute later all reverted to normal again for the rest of our walk.

I'm the type of guy who typically looks for a reason to forget something like that, especially if it "goes away". I almost did in fact, but during my annual physical later in the summer (the one that was already a year late because I wasn't visiting any medical facilities if I could help it before I was double vaxed) I mentioned those few incidents to my doctor. He wasn't exactly alarmed either, but he was concerned enough to give me a referral for a heart stress test. Which I promptly failed to book for another two months before my procrastination failed me. That test came back poetically labeled "abnormal, but the picture painted by a subsequent procedure was less ambivalent: 100% blockage in one artery, 80% in another and 50% in a third. That night a kindly ambulance crew transported me to the Westchester Medical Center for surgery the next morning.

I skated right on the jagged edge between taking care of myself and blowing off my own health for months, even years. Ultimately I fell on the side of taking care of myself, but I was lucky as hell that my body granted me the time it took for me to finally come to my senses and get checked out. I was helped by a good friend, a damn good musician by trade, who at the last concert that he performed for our concert series went out of his way to share with the entire audience the full story of his then recent heart attack, which until then I knew nothing of. He was on tour and due to return home in two days. During a shower he felt shooting pains across his chest. It freaked him out but they went away, and he vowed that he would get checked out as soon as he got home. His heat attack hit the next day. He managed to get help in time, and he is doing well today I am happy to say. The message he had for us that night, the same one he shares now every time he performs, is listen to your body, your life might depend on it.

Like I said, I'm dense. I blocked out the signs for a long time. But in the back of my mind I heard what Gurf said, and when my routine physical was ending I finally spoke up and alerted my doctor. I might not be here to type this had I not.

Build Back Better IS the Climate Bill. Without it we are spectators as climate catastrophes multiply

How many more record breaking extreme weather anomalies can we undergo in one year before New Year's Day flips the calendar? The question is meaningless: whatever record 2021 brings us in all likelihood will be shattered in 2022.

Since the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the short term advances in the Biden Administration's climate related policies have consisted of releasing billions of barrels of oil from the national reserve while calling on OPEC to increase oil production. Of course I "get it." Those weren't energy initiatives, they were economic initiatives . And they had a strong political component. Rising inflation is hurting Democrats in polls. Democrats losing in 2022 would hobble U.S. efforts to combat climate change. So push for short term increased fossil fuel production...

Does anyone seriously think Democrats have a ghost of a chance to retain control of Congress in the mid terms without a massive mobilization of younger voters who view climate change as an existential threat to their future? Does anyone seriously think Democrats have a ghost of a chance of benefiting from a massive mobilization of younger voters in 2022 if we do not, at the very least, pass into law all of the climate provisions of Build Back Better without further delay or watering down?

It is a moral imperative first and foremost.But it is just as much a political one.

We can argue over who deserves the label, but does anyone still deny there are Corporate Democrats?

I'll try to be fair about this and concede upfront that the way in which elections are financed in America makes any politician who wants to remain financially competitive during election cycles susceptible to outsized influence from corporate lobbyists. I'll even go a step further and acknowledge that many Democrats, who regularly receive above average levels of support from corporate special interests, do still strive to balance the needs of their constituents with those of their corporate sponsors. In so doing they still usually do a noticeably better job of addressing the needs of those truly in need than do Republicans similarly showered with money from corporate lobbyists.

Taking corporate money does not necessarily make one a corporate Democrat. Taking huge hauls of corporate money, at levels way above whatever is "the norm", from specific special interests that clearly expect some degree of loyalty in return, IMO earns one the label "Corporate Democrat." Personally, I considered Joe Lieberman a Corporate Democrat, and I consider Kyrsten Sinema a Corporate Democrat. In some, perhaps even in many cases, I will still work to help someone who I consider a Corporate Democrat win reelection in a November election. All things considered, in some cases I might even support one in a primary over someone "more progressive". But I have lost patience with those who deride the very existence of Corporate Democrats. Yes they dwell inside the Democratic Party's "Big Tent." That doesn't negate what they are.

Sooner is better than later, but best is better than sooner. I can wait a couple of weeks if need be

That doesn't mean I'm not frustrated and inpatient. I refresh my screen ten times an hour looking for new updates on the status of congressional negotiations. I know that the torturous slow process of getting Build Back Better over the finish line doesn't help Democrats. And it is human nature to look for someone to blame when things don't go the way we want or need them to. I have my preferred targets, yours may or may not differ, but ultimately all of that pales before the enormity of what is being done now in Congress, under President Biden's leadership, to uplift the American people with tangible core support that can and will transform millions of lives for the better.

In my own lifetime historic major positive changes have usually come about only after prolonged flirtations with brinkmanship. Obamacare is a vivid recent case in point. Even more recently, the struggle to save Obamacare from Trump's lethal assaults against it was a similar nail biter. Going back to my childhood, despite large Democratic majorities in Congress, the fate of LBJ's Civil Right's agenda was very much in doubt until the very end, with strong resistance from many southern Democrats making ultimate passage doubtful. Most Americans though soon forget these epic struggles, what they live with and long remember are the results.

And when I say that "best is better than sooner", I am not defining "best" by pie in the sky metrics. For me "best" means the best that can be obtained under current circumstances. Those who know me here know me as a self identified "progressive", but you won't find me "crying about spilled milk" over items left out of President Biden's Build Back Better framework. I fought for decades to further all of the objectives that the original 3.5 Trillion dollar legislation advanced, AND MORE. I trust President Biden however, and he's been up to his armpits in all of the congressional negotiations. Now it is time to lock in a win, on the terms that he has determined are possible. If an agreement can be reached within days to improve that framework further, great. If not, so be it.

But announcing a framework for a deal does not lock in a win on those terms. The announcement of a proposed framework spoke of "expectations" of full Democratic support, not of "commitments" of full Democratic support. For all of the focus some have placed on congressional Democratic "progressives" needing iron clad commitments that congressional Democratic "moderates" will support the final actual wording in a Build Back Better bill, Senator Joe Manchin refuses to commit to it also until he is certain that the final wording meets with his approval. House progressives have gone so far as to formally endorse President Biden's framework. The Senate Democratic holdouts have not. As matters now stand, we do not yet have a deal. But we are well within reach of one because all sides in this prolonged standoff are now strongly motivated to successfully "land this plane." Call me a cynic if you must, but I doubt that would be true were the fate of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill not directly linked to the fate of the Build Back Better Bill.

It is not wild leftist rhetoric to point out that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill has extensive corporate support. Corporate America wants that bill passed, because it is consistent with their own economic self interests. They have lobbied in favor of that legislation. Meanwhile they have lobbied against major provisions of the Build Back Better Bill. Of course this is no coincidence. The only reason why the so called "hard" infrastructure bill passed the Senate with Republican support is because most of the elements that corporate America found objectionable n President Biden's agenda for America were segregated out of that bill and crammed into the Build Back Better Bill which corporate lobbyists were then free to focus their fire on,

Even if Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema are currently inclined toward backing President Biden's proposed framework, how many free spending lobbyists would cram into their offices with last second proposed "revisions" to the Build Back Better Bill, one minute after they secured final passage of the infrastructure bill, if the two pieces of legislation should become "de-linked?" THE DETAILS MATTER. Every ten billion dollars cut from the final Build Back Better Bill will leave tens of thousands of American families in poverty. Every subsidized housing unit cut will leave another family homeless. Every reform to make health insurance more affordable that gets further trimmed will mean more unnecessary deaths.

No matter how you look at it we are in the end game now. Both bills will come up for final passage soon, if not in days than in weeks. Sure sooner is better than later, but not at the expense of lives. I accept President Biden's revised agenda. Now let's make sure that we can deliver all of it.

The Climate is the Clincher for me

At "Code Red" the stakes literally can not be higher, and there is NO time to lose in stabilizing the environment at a level that will not be truly catastrophic. I have no moral right to hold the climate of our planet hostage to further policy demands at this point, no matter how important they may be to myself or any Americans in need. The environment now is larger than any individual's lifetime, and bigger than any one nation in importance.

I am proud of the progressives in Congress for playing hardball right back at the obstructionists in our caucuses. I have no doubt whatsoever that by so doing they salvaged much of great importance in President Biden's agenda that would otherwise have been lost. I'll go further though and say I will support Progressives still withholding their immediate support for the Infrastructure Bill if they have not received sufficient assurances that the Framework President Biden has announced will in fact be enacted. Obviously I am in no way able to pass judgement on the certainty of assurances that I am not privy to.

The media narrative will flip again after Biden signs both bills, which I expect will happen.

In far less than a year Biden has already gone from being a transformational president to a hapless one unable to control his own party, according to pundits. That narrative will quickly be replaced by one depicting Biden as a master negotiator, the only man on the planet with the ability to pass highly consequential legislation through Congress with wafer thin majorities of fractious Democrats. It won't matter what the legislation actually contains, the media focuses on process, not content.

It will be a nice relief, but that won't last more than a month or two before they start tearing into Biden again over God knows what next time. That's how our media rolls.

The Constitution never enshrined Democratic ideals, nor does the GOP. Its a divide as old as America

In the hazy rear view mirror of patriotic nostalgia the two foremost founding documents of the United States can almost seem indistinguishable. but each one marched to the beat of a different drum. At its core the Declaration of Independence addressed the concept of justice, and the complementary repudiation of injustice. In so doing it proclaimed adherence to moral ideals, whereas the U.S. Constitution was a blueprint for power sharing that established a legal framework for America while proclaimed full allegiance to the rule of law.

The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence affirms that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation". The next passage of the Declaration defines the cause of the American Revolution in stating "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Powerful ideals that are easier stated than achieved.

Those ideals have played a key role in propelling the dialectic of American history, but they have also been contested. The sometimes opposing but also heralded definition of America is that ours is a nation governed by laws, not men, and that American exceptionalism is rooted in the concept that no one here is above the law. Perhaps, but laws themselves are amoral. Laws are written my men (here the gender pronoun is still mostly accurate) and often tailored to further the self interests of those very same men or their powerful sponsors. The U.S. Constitution said nothing about "all men being created equal", it defined Negroes as 3/5ths human for census purposes. Slavery has been since been abolished through amendments to the Constitution, and women have been given the right to vote etc. But the electoral college hasn't been abolished. American "Democracy" does not reward the presidency to the person for whom most Americans vote. When "Bush beat Gore" many Americans found it unsettling that the loser of the popular vote could none the less become President. Increasingly most Americans are numbed now to that occurrence, dutifully keeping score of winners and losers using the anti-democratic rules embedded in our Constitution, with the popular vote an afterthought if thought of at all.

Today's GOP adheres to a vision of America that is not rooted in democratic ideals, nor guided by a quest for Justice, and in so doing builds on centuries old American precedent to arrive at their current perspective: Any legislation deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court is appropriate to pursue if deemed in the interests of those who have the power to prevail under rules laid out in the U.S. Constitution. So, for one timely example, if under one interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, a majority of lawmakers in a State Legislature decertifies the slate of Presidential electors (under whatever "legal" pretense) chosen by the voters of that state, and instead certifies an "alternate" slate of electors, that action is fully constitutional if the Supreme Court says it is And that is how power should be wielded in the Republican version of America. All is fair in love and legislation, Make sure you control the courts, abstract concepts of justice be damned. First you legislate the strike zone to the advantage of the pitchers and batters on your team, then you chose the umpires who call the balls and strikes, and then you can "play by the rules."

Mitch McConnell sees nothing anti-American in how he plays the game. It adheres to his vision of America

Remember the 35 day Dec. 2018 - January 2019 government shut down, and who the public blamed?

Trump was insisting on funding for his wall and forced a government shut down over it. There's a good overview on the prolonged impasse here:

The resulting chaos and disruptions in the government ended up hurting Trump and Republicans, who took the brunt of the blame for the shutdown and its consequences. Or did it really? By the middle of January 2019 Trump's approval rating was at its lowest point since February 2018. A Washington Post–ABC News poll published on January 13, 2019, found that a larger number of Americans blamed Trump and congressional Republicans than congressional Democrats for the shutdown. A PBS NewsHour–Marist poll found that on January 15, 2019, a majority of Americans thought that President Trump was to blame for the shutdown.

A few months later the entire crisis was in America's rear view mirror. While Gallop showed Trump with an approval to disapproval score of 37/59 for the week of January 21- 27 2019, by April 17 - 30 his Gallop approval to disapproval rating had rebounded to 46/50. One year after the trashing that public approval polls gave Trump in January 2019 (or to be more precice in polling that took place between 1/16 - 1/29/20) Gallop had Trump with an approval to disapproval rating of 49/50. At no time during his presidency did Trump receive an approval number higher than 49%.

We are over a year out from the 2022 Congressional midterm elections. We are over three years out from the next Presidential election. A snap shot of public opinion taken today while uncertainties over the fate of President Biden's legislative agenda for America dominates the headlines, is essentionally meaningless.

Better negotiating with Joe Manchin to get things passed than have to count on Susan Collins

For better and for worse, that kind of sums it up.
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