The Fight For Fifteen, and Party Realignment

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Yes, I am disappointed that the Parliamentarian ruled the increase in the minimum wage could not be included in the Senate version. I am also aware that both Democrats Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema were not going to vote for the whole package because for them, this is a poison pill. All politics are local and both West Virginia and Arizona are barely blue. Neither Senator believes this should be done, and in many resorts, neither do their citizens. You could even make the argument that Vice-President Kamala Harris is not behind this policy either, never mind that the State of California enacted the wage increase a couple of years ago.

Yes, they could fire the Parliamentarian, and just do it. Republicans have done this in the past. But Democrats barely have the votes to pass the 1.9 trillion relief package without the minimum wage. When Republicans fired the Parliamentarian and did pass their tax cut, they had the votes. It was passed with only Republicans and their comfort level was a slight majority. They could afford to lose a member of their conference or two. Democrats cannot afford to lose one.

Then there is another reality. Mitch McConnell is far better at whipping votes than Chuck Schumer. This is part of the problem. Democrats are gun shy about forcing their own people to whip one way, even when they do not want to. The party used to, but since the 1990s and the Gingrich revolution, the party has been increasingly shy about doing things. The current leadership came to Congress at a time when Republicans started to treat them not as colleagues, but as the enemy within. Democrats keep acting like abused victims because they were. This cycle in the Hill needs to break one way or another. In my opinion, it will start to break when we get a new generation of leaders.

They are not alone, however.

The reaction from the progressive base of the party is also predictable. For them, it is the McGovern effect, and the base has been good at demobilizing itself when we come to an obstacle. After George McGovern lost, the whole party became gun shy of adopting certain left-wing policies. This included the base which was warned that a leftist could not be elected in the United States. Never mind that Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted pretty left-wing policies, but he did not run like one. He was a pragmatist. This is why we had the same exact conversation around Bernie Sanders.

At this point, the base is arguing that the leadership is betraying them by not voting on a minimum wage increase. We need it. I would even argue that this needs to be higher than fifteen at this point, but that is for later. For the moment, you can feel the disappointment, and see the demobilization. This base does not call for better candidates in primaries. It does not call for even taking to virtual streets. It is more of well, maybe they deserve to lose the House and Senate. This is a very dangerous dynamic since it is surrender and allows a radical right party to take power when they are extremely damaging.

Moreover, Republicans never demobilize. At this point, it is a minority party, where a minority within a minority has taken over. It is a radical right, white supremacist party that never takes a day off. Hell, they bought into a few big lies at this point. And they continue to run on them, which is dangerous.

I am aware that people are working two and three jobs, and that the conservative argument that this will kill jobs is wrong. We know because we have cities, and now states, where we are at fifteen already. It’s proven to create demand, and raise people from abject poverty. We need to raise the federal wage, and also get rid of the pathetic wages paid to servers in many states. The argument is that servers make it up in tips. They don’t. Every worker should at least be paid fifteen an hour, and it should go up with inflation every year.

Activists believe that if they work to get politicians elected, they need to get a response to their most immediate demands, in the first few days. It’s never worked that way, especially in a big tent party that has many different forces pulling and tugging. And at this point though, the progressives are starting to realign the party. This is hardly the moment to give up.

Increasing numbers of progressives are getting elected, at all levels of the party. They are starting to put pressure on policy change. In technical terms, the party is slowly starting to realign left, as it once did right. The process is not fast, and that is by design. Those in charge, currently, are not going to give up power without a fight. It took them decades to gain control of policy and the party. This is one reason we are facing issues getting things we need to be passed. The present coalition in the Senate is weak, and the majority is by the slimmest of margins.

Then there is the Newt Gingrich effect. Democrats are by nature timid at this point. They are like abuse victims who can’t see themselves being very assertive. And the base is already giving up just like it does every time.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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