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Pulling on the Rope in the Same Direction

There will be a House vote on the Senate’s previously passed part of the infrastructure bill today, after the vote scheduled for yesterday was postponed. As to what will happen, we are all waiting with bated breath. Here are a few interesting comments from different sources.

The estimable White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain quotes a headline from Bloomberg News, “Democrats are trying to do a lot. That’s not disarray.” Also an article by Stephanie Ruhle of MSNBC. “How is this a major setback? It’s not. We complain that government is doing nothing. This is government doing SOMETHING. No matter your view on the bill, these are lawmakers working and grinding.”

Those were in response to the inevitable NY Times headline: “House delays vote on infrastructure in big setback for Biden agenda.” Maybe it is the NY Times which is the Trojan Horse? No one said there couldn’t be more than one. This once highly regarded paper has systematically written headlines and articles disparaging and minimizing Democrats. Once or twice can be journalistic choice, even a misguided sense of balance. But what they have done since 2015 or so has been appalling, so much so that one can easily see them as one of the principal factors in Trump winning in 2016. What has happened to them would be the stuff of a book which would far surpass anything that comes out of this newspaper. How is delaying a vote for one day, “a big setback.”? Who writes their headlines, and who gives the orders to consistently mislead with them?

But of course the vote is the key thing. It would seem that we are moving in a good direction, but of course there are still the competing forces which could ruin the entire effort. Concepts of game theory are always fascinating, though I have never completely studied all of the various models and paradoxes involved. They are just models, ultimately, and human psychology is more complex, and irrational at times, than those.

I was thinking of an invented metaphor: that two opposing groups are pulling at a rope in a very serious version of “tug of war.” But it is not just one long rope, there are various graspable threads of the rope at each end, which are all attached to the main rope. On the Republicans’ end, their people don’t pull at those threads, they all concentrate on the main rope, and they all pull in the same direction. On the Democrats’ side, they have various people who want to pull on their threads, to pull the main rope in the direction they want.

So we have the people on the Left in the Congress, who do want to win the tug of war, but only if they can steer their end of the rope in their direction. And then the people on the relative Right in the party, also doing it. And then the corporate-influenced forces, and then people who are egotistical enough to want to be in complete charge of the rope pulling, and then a few people who style themselves as “Problem Solvers,” who aren’t sure if they want to win or not, but are halfheartedly pulling on their own thread.

If these forces keep trying to steer the rope in the direction they insist upon, there will be a diffusion of energy; and forces which are then effectively pulling against each other; and the pullers may wear out, and eventually the Republican side will win, as the Democrats are pulled into the mire by the more unified force at the other end.

Well, it is a simplistic analogy, perhaps, but it does make this visual. Everything I read says that Democrats are mostly united, they want to pass the bills. But of course many of them differ as to how they want to pass them, and at what amounts? How much are all sides willing to compromise? If one group is not, that will land you in the mire, and you likely cannot dig your way out of it.

All members must understand that the only thing which is going to save them, and the country, is to win the tug. Losing gets you nothing, except the “right” to complain about your teammates. There are some Democrats who have made a career out of that. Being doctrinaire to a fault might be amusing if you are in a commune where you don’t feel like working, but would rather argue dialectics; but it is enervating and ultimately futile if you are in a deliberative body which is trying to pass actual laws which will help people.

I do realize that the media has almost inevitably mischaracterized this crucial vote and its import. The amount of the price tag must be understood in terms of the fact that they are talking about ten years, not one. If various costs can be paid for; if the economic gain can actually equal or even exceed the cost, it becomes a financial “win,” even irrespective of the quoted costs. The only bills we pile up in this country which are never paid for, are the corporate tax cuts which are a perennial feature of Republican administrations. Republicans push those through, and then use the resultant deficit (and the wealth they put in their pockets), to fight against any spending that Democrats present as necessary to deal with societal and environmental problems.

It is the most simplistic con of all, but they keep pulling it. Trump’s Administration piled up 11 trillion dollars in debt. A cost of $3.5 trillion over ten years, with a very real chance of paying for it with attendant increases in GDP, and jobs where earnings are actually taxable, not avoided by the corporations which are the sole beneficiaries of Republican welfare, is minimal compared to that. But the corporations use their profits to buy media megaphones which always blast out their self-serving narrative.

So we will just see how this vote goes. We generally agree that we need to pass something major, not stymie ourselves with perhaps nobly intentioned but ultimately futile rhetoric. We are not in a position to be able to afford “moral victories.” Our implacable yet demonic foe has a vision of this country that we cannot live with. So we must pull together as best we can, even though we know that no matter what we achieve, the same entities will minimize it, and end every sentence with their favorite word when writing or talking about Democratic achievements, “But….” We can’t change that, but we can keep our eyes on what is most important, and keep pulling in the right direction.