At 3 o’clock this afternoon the Senate rejected an effort on a motion to proceed to a vote on the Rebuild America Jobs Act, which would have provided money to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong. A majority of the Senate voted in favor of proceeding to a vote on the bill. But that’s not good enough in our constitutional system. We needed 60 senators out of 100 to agree. We got a mere fifty-one. Here’s what the president had to say in response to the Senate’s intransigence.
For the third time in recent weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a jobs bill that independent economists said would boost our economy and put Americans back to work. At a time when more than a million construction workers are looking for a job, they voted “no” to putting them back to work doing the work America needs done – rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. That makes no sense.
It makes no sense when you consider that this bill was made up of the same kinds of common-sense proposals that many of these Senators have fought for in the past. It was fully paid for. And even though it was supported by more than 70 percent of the American people – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – 100 percent of Senate Republicans said no. It’s more clear than ever that Republicans in Washington are out of touch with Americans from all ends of the political spectrum.
The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America. They deserve an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what’s necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now. It’s time for Republicans in Congress to put country ahead of party and listen to the people they were elected to serve. It’s time for them to do their job and focus on Americans’ jobs. And until they do, I will continue to do everything in my power to move this country forward.
I met an old friend and a committed progressive activist in Philly tonight to catch up and talk about a few things. She’s more in the thick of things than I am, especially with the progressive groups who work hard each day to move this country in a better direction. There is a kind of culture within the progressive left, particularly among the college-educated urban white community, that is profoundly disappointed in the Obama administration. But it isn’t completely unself-aware. It’s kind of like a feeling that progressives were a little naive. They should have known better than to think that progressive outcomes could be produced in a system so awash in corporate money and influence. And then there is this strange tension between a basic sympathy for the Occupy Movement on the one hand, and a feeling that it is rudderless on the other. For people who are committed to progressive politics and actually dedicate their lives to it, there’s a disconnect with a movement that kind of rejects the whole concept of the legislative process. It’s like “okay, this venting is understandable under the circumstances and it might even be doing some good, but when can we get back to discussing something concrete?”
It was an encouraging conversation for me because it kind of showed me that even some of the organizations that have been a little too critical for my tastes are beginning to reevaluate their own assumptions about what is possible and to make more accurate assignations of blame for where we are as a country. And, at the same time, there’s an appropriate concern that the Occupy Movement could splinter the left and leave it weakened in an election season.
We’re actually in a bind. As the president’s comments make clear, we just can’t get anything done in Congress and the American people deserve an explanation for why we’ve reached this point. But the answer is that the system is broken, and fixing it is a bit more complicated than just electing a bunch of Democrats. People who are still trying to work within the system are hard-put to explain how they can be successful, which is why increasingly we are seeing people embrace the Occupy Movement.
Yet, to the degree that the Occupy Movement rejects the legislative process, it makes matters even more difficult. How do we motivate people to go to the polls if they’re rejecting the system as a whole?
And, what we have to keep ever-present in our minds is that this kind of Hobson’s Choice is part of the design of Mitch McConnell’s strategy of total obstruction. If he can break government and make us give up on it, he can divide the left and make it feed on itself.
Forget about the depressing spectacle of progressive groups trying to figure out how to benefit from or co-opt the Occupy Movement. What people are trying to do is ward off catastrophe. Are we self-aware enough to realize how we’re being manipulated? Are we mere puppets on Mitch McConnell’s string, or are we smart enough to understand that we have two simultaneous fights on our hands? We have to reelect a Democratic president and we have to fight the systemic problems in our system that make progressive outcomes impossible.
Tonight I am more optimistic that progressives actually do get this. But I still think it’s a gargantuan challenge that too many do not understand.