As I return to blog posting after an extended, unexcused absence, I am struck by the times we find ourselves in. The present moment is existential. More is on the table and up for grabs than I can remember.
The vote to raise the debt limit has been postponed to early December. The delay is described as a sort of victory for the Dems. Victory? Today McConnell declared unconditionally that the Republicans will filibuster the bill, an action which will result in the first default in U.S. history. Who knows what this will mean? Will Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits and just about everything else stop paying? Certainly investors holding treasury bills will not get their money since the federal government will not be able to borrow more money. Will this mean the government will come to a virtual halt? Experts warn that this will cause a spark that will cause a financial meltdown, massive job losses, skyrocketing interest rates and another Great Depression. Others say that the likely outcome is so severe that the powers that be won’t let it happen. I recall from my history lessons that that is what people said before World War I when the armies were so large, any potential conflict was thought to be so catastrophic that the powers that be would never let it happen.
Then there is the Biden agenda. With no Republican votes, we need every Democrat in the Senate and all but a small handful of Democratic representatives in the House to agree on these two bills that will move America forward. There is actually rare bi-partisan agreement on the infrastructure bill. However, two Democrats in the Senate right now continue to hold out on the “Build Back Better,” social infrastructure bill, saying the price tag is too high. Progressives in the House seem to be willing to budge somewhat on the price tag but insist on tying the two bills together—pass both or nothing. If the result is nothing, the Democrats can pretty much throw in the towel in the 2022 elections as even loyal Democrats like me throw up our hands in despair.
If that is not enough to get your attention, democracy itself is in peril in the United States. The new state voter restriction laws in many red states will make it harder to vote for people who typically do not vote Republican. The new laws in red states politicizing vote counting and the vote verification process are serious threats to trust in the democratic process. The Trump diehards continue to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen and that he should be our president. The insurrection on January 6 is being downplayed by Pence and most Republicans as a minor incident at the same time that domestic terrorism is now listed by the CIA as a greater threat than foreign terrorism.
The U.S. Supreme Court is now politicized with justices appointed by a Democratic president deciding typically one way and the judges appointed by a Republican deciding the other way. With six judges appointed by a Republican president this does not look good for a woman’s right to choose or blocking the new voting restrictions.
And all this is happening in covid-time in a country still battling the pandemic and that has never been so divided since the Civil War. And it is happening in a world where the climate crisis is accelerating as sea levels rise, horrific storms increase, and the Greenland ice cap is starting to melt. When the Greenland ice cap goes, so goes the planet Earth as we know it.
What will happen? How will we see our way through this? How can we come together to reach consensus on reasonable solutions to address the problems of inequality, lingering racism, class divisions, trust in government, and saving the planet? What about our children and our grandchildren and their children? What kind of world are we leaving them? These are the questions that I find myself asking as I try to take stock of where we are in the autumn of 2021.
I am not giving up. There are signs of hope. Maybe the Republicans will back down on opposing raising the debt limit—especially since a financial meltdown will hurt the Republican fat cats and major donors. If not, maybe the Democrats will modify the filibuster rule. Maybe the two Biden agenda bills will pass. A paired down version will be better than nothing. Maybe the Supreme Court will overrule the most onerous voter restriction laws, and maybe it will not overturn Roe v Wade. Maybe we will begin to make inroads on tackling inequality and class and race divisions—and, of course, fighting climate change. Maybe we will get past covid, and no new deadly variant will appear. Maybe, maybe…
My hope is that we will figure out some way to pull through. We have the technology to tackle a lot of the issues, especially those associated with climate change. But do we have the will? The time we find ourselves in is a nail biter. It is indeed an existential moment.