Perhaps the most surprising element of President Joe Biden’s first presidential speech on Thursday night was what it did not include.
A day after the passage of the most far-reaching domestic piece of legislation in decades, Biden spent only the last few minutes in touting his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The lion’s share of his talk was a detailed account of the effort to contain and control the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from a passing reference to the “denial” and “silence” of his unnamed predecessor, politics was not on the agenda.
There may well have been good reason for that decision. His first prime-time speech as president called for a message of unity—the same message he had sounded during his campaign and in his Inaugural. No mention of the unanimous opposition of Republicans to his plan; no attempt to draw partisan lines. The selling of his Rescue Plan is expected to begin any time, but Biden clearly decided it could wait a day or two.
Yet there is no doubt that the political implications of his plan have the potential to be nothing less than radical.
It was 11 years ago, almost to the day, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare, “we have to pass the bill so that you can know what’s in it.” That notion, which seemed borrowed from the Queen of Hearts’ absurdist “Sentence first! Verdict afterwards!” approach in Alice in Wonderland, turns out to have been even more applicable to this week’s American Rescue Act.
It was after the bill’s approval by the Senate that we learned the full dimensions of the most audaciously ambitious social welfare legislation since the New Deal. Most tellingly, the congressional Republicans, who had voted unanimously against it out of force of habit, never bothered to train the full fury of their fire at a series of provisions that took the nation several steps down the road to social democracy.
There’s the tax credit for children that in effect provides thousands of dollars a year for each child—an idea that’s been debated since Daniel Moynihan proposed it as a member of the Nixon administration. There’s the significant expansion of subsidies to buy into health care, along with months’ worth of free access to health insurance for those who’ve lost their jobs and health insurance—not “socialized medicine,” but a significant step toward more public underwriting of health care. And there’s an $86 billion commitment to protect the pensions of a million retirees whose multi-employer plans were in danger of insolvency—without even a pretense that this is linked to the Covid pandemic. It’s the kind of bailout you might expect in a nation where organized labor is a significant share of the workforce. Now, in a United States where unions represent barely 6 percent of the private sector labor force, that protection is law.
From a policy perspective, the key question is whether these and other provisions lead to a robust economy or one eroded by a spike in inflation. From a political perspective, the potential impact of the rescue plan is hard to overstate; what it represents is the possibility that the Democratic Party has found a tool to reconnect it to a working and middle class whose loyalty has been threatened for well over half a century.
There are a host of centrifugal forces pulling at the Democratic Party coalition: In the early 1960s, clashes over housing, jobs, schools, crime and welfare divided Black and white working-class voters. Cities like Berkeley and Seattle repealed fair housing laws, and in 1964—the high-water mark of postwar Democratic Party strength—voters in California overwhelmingly banned such laws. By 1968, George Wallace’s campaign for president was striking chords beyond the South. The fraying of the New Deal coalition was very much on the mind of Robert F. Kennedy, whose presidential campaign was based on holding it together. In his last weeks, he began talking about an issue he believed had broad appeal: specifically, how many of the wealthiest Americans avoided paying a fair share of taxes. By the end of 1968, divisions over the war in Vietnam, deadly riots in the cities and upheaval on college campuses reduced the Democratic share of the presidential vote from 60 percent in 1964 to 43 percent; Richard Nixon and George Wallace divided the rest.
Little more than a decade later, the twin demons of recession across the industrial heartland and double-digit inflation helped turn millions of voters into “Reagan Democrats,” leading to two landslide victories for the Gipper and 12 consecutive years of GOP presidencies. All through the 1980s, Democrats and their intellectual allies tried to grapple with the fact that voters seemed to prefer Democratic policies (on health care, education, taxes), but voted, at least at the presidential level for Republicans. (I have a vivid memory of House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt assuring a group of journalists that once the American people saw his party’s proposals for lower drug prices and access to college, they would return to the fold.)
It took “a different kind of Democrat” (as Bill Clinton defined himself) to win back, at least temporarily, those defecting Democrats by breaking with his party’s orthodoxies on crime and welfare, and by pledging that “the era of Big Government is over.” And it took an emerging demographic sea change that yielded an increasingly nonwhite electorate, and a more liberal cohort of college-educated whites, to outweigh (at least in popular vote terms), the increasingly Republican tilt of less-educated whites and to put Barack Obama in the White House.
But both Clinton and Obama suffered severe political damage in their first midterms from the fact that their principal battles—for deficit-cutting tax hikes on the part of Clinton, and from a stimulus and a health care plan from Obama—had failed to deliver tangible success. While both were reelected, those midterm failures had severe consequences that endure; in particular, 2010 produced a GOP takeover at the state level that now threatens severe voting limits across the country.
With the American Rescue Plan, Democrats are offering something very different: a package that is in a key sense a throwback to its roots first planted in the days of Andrew Jackson. It is an unapologetic assertion of the power of government to redress a set of grievances without any assertion of identity politics; while the stark facts of the pandemic mean that it has hit with special force in Black and brown communities, the remedial power of government is directed to the victims defined by circumstance, not color.
The political potential here is impressive. Consider a 2022 midterm where the future of the now-temporary child tax credits is on the line, and where every Republican House and Senate incumbent will have to explain to the electorate why they voted against them. Consider the votes of tens of thousands of small-business owners—the entrepreneurial heart of what Republicans rhetorically celebrate—whose enterprises survived because of the law enacted with a clear partisan split. Imagine a Republican arguing that only a small fraction of the law addressed the costs of the pandemic, when there are countless parents of school-age children, restaurant workers, retail shop owners, hotel clerks, freelance consultants, who know exactly what happened to their lives when Covid struck.
This is a possibility that Republicans simply may not have imagined, given their midterm successes in running against the initiatives of the past two Democratic presidents, and inflicting on Clinton and Obama successive political catastrophes.
This time, the benefits of the new law are easy to grasp, and will be—literally—in the hands of Americans within weeks. The scope is broad enough to encompass both the poor and large elements of the middle class, which is why it now enjoys a level of support almost unimaginable for a law passed along such partisan lines. There is a hint that an outbreak of public happiness may be about to begin; when American Airlines tells its workers to “tear up those furlough notices!”, it portends the chance of celebration with every reopened restaurant, with every eviction notice burned. More broadly, it appears to contain provisions that leapfrog a dilemma that has plagued Democratic social programs in the past: When they are perceived as helping one class of voters, they meet with a powerful backlash, (often one infused by racial resentment). When a program reaches broadly—Social Security, Medicare and, increasingly, the Affordable Care Act—it becomes politically potent.
Potential is not prediction. There are plenty of ways that 2022 could be another Democratic disaster; perhaps inflation will accelerate, or the looming issues of an overwhelmed border and rising crime may override good economic news, or the Republican efforts to limit the vote in state after state will prove too formidable.
But what does seem clear is that, unlike past measures that required huge congressional majorities, a radical change in the social fabric of the United States has become a reality—and with it, an opportunity for the Democratic Party no one could have imagined 50 days ago.
LETTER: On politics and medicine – SaltWire Network
The irrational hysteria and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are an integral part of what historian Richard Hofstader called “The paranoid style in American politics.” This phenomenon has now permeated Canadian politics as well and suggests that “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.”
Vaccines against disease and pestilence have been viewed as major advances for humanity. But few vaccines have been subjected to the scrutiny and public vilification that COVID-19 vaccines have. Why? The statistically minute number (percentage) of negative reactions to vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, is rarely mentioned by their detractors; similarly, every surgical procedure has a small probability of a complication.
Over the course of the past two centuries at least 15 life-saving vaccines have been developed without a similar public outcry. Those vaccines include (selectively): smallpox (1796), typhoid fever (1896), diphtheria (1923), whooping cough (1923), polio (1952), measles (1963), mumps (1967), chicken pox (1974), meningitis (1978), and malaria (2021). Defoe’s classic, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772) gives us an idea of what the world was like without vaccines.
Why COVID-19 vaccines have created such vitriol warrants serious sociological and political study. One suspects that there is a close correlation between right-wing populism, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion politics, and anti-vax sentiment. They are all part of the same political culture that promotes this paranoia. It would be easy to dismiss anti-vaxers as “know nothings,” but they are more than that. They mirror the social divisions within our society. And their ignorance is dangerous.
Canadian constitutional law is premised on promoting “peace, order and good government.” A corollary is that the courts attempt to follow John Stuart Mill’s dictum of creating, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people,” rather than the highly individualistic American approach of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Within this context, collective rights will supersede individual rights, which may be “reasonably limited” by circumstance such as a national emergency. The Canadian Charter of Rights was never intended to promote a wild west show like our neighbours to the south.
In the interest of public health policy, it is time to defend the history of science and its many advances.
Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.
‘Heartbroken’: Politicians express shock at killing of British MP – Al Jazeera English
British Member of Parliament David Amess has died after being stabbed several times during a meeting with his constituents at a church in eastern England. He was 69.
Reports said a man walked into Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, south Essex, on Friday while Amess was holding a surgery with locals and attacked the politician.
Police arrested a man and recovered a knife.
Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sadness over the horrific incident.
Here are some of the reactions:
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister
In a tribute to Amess, Johnson said the late MP was killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.
He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.
“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”
Johnson continued: “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
“Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”
Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister
“Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”
Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) October 15, 2021
Priti Patel, UK interior minister
“I am devastated we have lost Sir David Amess … David served the people of Southend with endless passion, energy and integrity. That he was killed while going about his constituency duties is heartbreaking beyond words. It represents a senseless attack on democracy itself.
“Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country’s elected representatives and I will provide updates in due course.”
Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister
“The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”
Liz Truss, UK foreign minister
“Devastated to hear the terrible news about Sir David Amess MP. He was a lovely, lovely man and a superb parliamentarian. My thoughts are with all his family and friends.”
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland
“This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.
“Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.
“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”
Nadhim Zahawi, UK education minister
“Rest In Peace Sir David. You were a champion for animal welfare, the less fortunate, and the people of Southend West. You will be missed by many.”
Sajid Javid, UK health minister
“Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business minister
“Sir David was a thoroughly decent, kind and thoughtful man. An exemplary Member of Parliament who fought for his constituents with devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this deeply tragic time.”
Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister
“What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”
Michael Gove, UK levelling up minister
“David Amess’s passing is heartbreakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news. He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”
Joao Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK
“Very shocked by the news of the death of MP Sir David Amess following a horrific attack. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”
Philip T. Reeker, US charge d’affair to the UK
“I’m deeply saddened to hear about the death of Sir David Amess MP. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and all those who worked with him during his distinguished parliamentary career.”
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Sir David Amess dedicated his life to championing causes he believed in, serving constituents and his country for almost forty years as a Member of Parliament. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice. We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death.”
Carrie Johnson, wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”
Keir Starmer, opposition Labour Party
“This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.
“Above all else, today I am thinking of David, of the dedicated public servant that he was and of the depth of positive impact he had for the people he represented.”
Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons
“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Brendan Cox, husband of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016
“My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”
Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.
— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) October 15, 2021
Theresa May, former Conservative UK prime minister
“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy.”
Gordon Brown, former Labour UK prime minister
“Saddened and shocked to hear about the death of Sir David Amess. My condolences to his family and friends.”
David Cameron, former Conservative UK prime minister
“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”
Tony Blair, former Labour UK prime minister
“David and I came into Parliament together in 1983. Though on opposite political sides I always found him a courteous, decent and thoroughly likeable colleague who was respected across the House. This is a terrible and sad day for our democracy.”
Jonathan Soloman walking away from politics – TimminsToday
Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon is retiring from politics with mixed emotions and feeling good about his tenure.
Solomon is resigning effective today, Oct. 15.
With over a year still left in his term, Solomon, 59, said he is leaving the office to focus on his health and spend more time with his family in his home community of Kashechewan.
After reflecting on his career and speaking with his family, Solomon said he decided to walk away from politics.
“My diabetes really spiked up. So, I thought about my well-being first and foremost. My family wants me to be well and I want to be well,” he said. “I’ve been in politics for many, many years and it’s taking a toll on me.”
He will now be working as a health director in Kashechewan. Solomon said the job is non-political, more private and allows him to stay in his home community.
Solomon said the Council of Chiefs will likely hold a by-election to elect a new leader for the remaining term until the next Mushkegowuk Council election in 2023.
To a new grand chief, Solomon advised to have a good vision, work with communities and staff, have good communication and continue supporting the ongoing work at the Mushkegowuk.
“You got to love what you do. Don’t do it for the sake of getting that title,” he said. “Lead from the heart.”
Solomon has been leading the organization, which represents seven First Nation communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay, for the past six years. Before that, he was chief of Kashechewan for six years.
He got into politics at the age of 19 when he was elected to council. He first became Kashechewan chief when he was 27.
He also worked as director of education and served as Mushkegowuk deputy chief.
“Although I was a politician, I’m more of a human. I had a heart, I had compassion. I loved what I did,” he said.
During his tenure, Mushkegowuk Council signed a revenue sharing agreement with the Ontario government.
Most recently, the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Parks Canada regarding a proposed National Marine Conservation Area in western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay.
As a chief, Solomon said he championed and lobbied to launch the inquiry into the suicide crisis in the First Nation communities.
Mushkegowuk Council established a People’s Inquiry in 2013. The communities raised their own funding to conduct the inquiry, hold public hearings and choose commissioners. The final report with recommendations was released in 2016.
Re-establishing the Mushkegowuk youth department was also one of his priorities as the grand chief.
“I lobbied so hard to get the funding,” Solomon recalled.
When the funding was approved, it was an emotional moment.
“I still remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said.
He said he also lobbied to establish the Mushkegowuk health department.
When he was first elected as the grand chief, his first priority was to get the organization “back on feet.” Solomon said he was surrounded by dedicated hardworking people who had the same vision for Mushkegowuk as he did.
“They’re the ones doing most of the work, the technical work. You got to have the right people surround you and to support you, and vice versa,” he said.
Solomon questioned why a sitting grand chief can’t have a satellite office and work from their home community.
He is from Kashechewan, while Mushkegowuk Council’s head office is in Moose Factory.
Spending six years between two communities, away from his family was quite challenging for him, Solomon said adding if he had an office in Kashechewan, he’d finish his term.
“I missed the part where my children were growing up. I was too busy. I missed a lot of parts. The next thing I knew they were starting their own families,” he said. “I want to be there for my grandchildren, I want to see their birthdays, special days. I want to be part of their lives, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
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