Editorial: Progressives demand change, Dems in power freeze up


LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin

Courtesy / Jay Godwin, LBJ Library

Lanthorn Editorial Board

Just over a year after the 2020 election, members of the Grand Valley State University community are looking back on the events of last November and looking towards the new political landscape that is being built by the Biden administration. It’s certainly different, and most would agree that it’s better— but the extent to which things have actually progressed is subject to debate. 

President Joseph Biden secured his 2020 election victory by winning several swing states— including Michigan, which Democrats lost in 2016. But Dems lost Ottawa County in 2020, and now it’s looking like they could lose all of Michigan, again, in midterm elections. Democratic and Republican voters alike have been disappointed with what the Democrat-controlled White House, Senate and House have managed to accomplish. And that disappointment was reflected in their recent trips to the polls. 

The Democratic Party suffered heavy losses on election day last week, partly attributed to his difficulty passing the landmark bills that they ran on in 2020. However, they just barely managed to pass part of the new infrastructure bill— a small victory, which they desperately needed

However, a facet of the infrastructure bill that didn’t pass was the part that offers incentives for fossil fuel companies to reduce CO2 emissions, a policy that was one of the points in the climate solutions section of Biden’s Build Back Better framework. This development was poorly timed, as last week marked the beginning of the global COP26 summit, where leading nations are meeting to discuss climate change strategies. 

Democrats have more power than they have in years— President Obama’s terms in office were plagued by Republican stonewalling, a conservative strategy offset by Democrats controlling the House and the Senate— but present-day Democrats still struggled to pass a piece of legislation, thanks to the efforts of West Virginian Democrat Joe Manchin and the majority of Republicans. 

Moderates and conservatives are pleased with Biden’s struggle to get anything done, but those pains have been brought on by the demands of their representatives in Congress. However, progressives are also frustrated with Biden, because of what got tossed aside— including the CO2 emissions incentive— in the hopes of pleasing extreme Republicans and moderate Democrats. 

Biden is trying— and failing— to please the opposition, and in progress, is losing support from Democrats. The Squad— a group of far-left senators which includes Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar— voted against the infrastructure bill, citing the removal of the CO2 emissions incentive, among other parts of the bill that were dropped, but resonated with voters

While Biden’s juggling act demands some degree of sympathy, his presidency so far has been what progressive critics predicted; he may have stopped the bleeding from the near-lethal political and social wounds dealt by the Trump administration, but beyond functioning as a figurative tourniquet, he’s having a hard time mitigating the consequences of the United States’ past failures, like lax environmental policy and weak, or nonexistent, social programs.