In 2021, American society stands massively divided due to divisive politics followed by both sides of their two-party system – perhaps, the most polarized it has been since the American Civil War. While President-elect Biden mouths cliched statements about unity and healing, his own party is undergoing a significant churn as progressives within the party want to move the Democratic Party more and more to the left of the political spectrum.
Though the progressive movement has been a part of the political spectrum of the States for some time, it gained significant momentum only during the 2016 Presidential Primaries when Bernie Sanders, representing the progressive movement within the Democratic party, gave a reasonably tough fight to Hillary Clinton.
Progressivism in the United States
In the early 90s, a congressional caucus by the name of Congressional Progressive Caucus was formed as an umbrella group for the most left leaning among the Democrats. Bernie Sanders was one of its founding members. The group stood for democratic socialism and progressive policies.
But while the caucus has grown significantly, it hardly ever had the clout to bring about any worthwhile change to government policies of the United States. It is hard to imagine that Nancy Pelosi, the current speaker of the House, herself was one of its earliest members. She left the caucus in early 2000s.
Modern progressivism is rooted in social justice, environmentalism and a whole lot of activism that waits for a revolution to reform government, society and the whole world itself.
Progressives have established several social media channels over the past few years and created independent media outlets. These outlets took the narrative of the established mainstream media head on to propagate a leftist counter narrative. They actively used these platforms to provide a significant boost to Bernie’s campaign.
When Hillary lost to Donald Trump, it resulted in rising anger among the Progressives, who believed that Bernie would have defeated Trump easily. Members from these independent media outlets along with prominent progressives created a political action committee called the Justice Democrats. Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks (TYT) and Kyle Kulinski, who hosts a YouTube channel called the Secular Talk were two prominent members from the independent media who drove the formation of this PAC.
Since then, both of them have resigned from the PAC, but they continue to actively promote progressive policies and the elected progressive members even today on their respective channels. TYT, in fact, is considered a major progressive independent media outlet.
The goal of the Justice Democrats was to create a strong progressive base within the Democratic Party and slowly but surely overthrow the current establishment within the party, who they consider to be corrupt and sold out to corporate interests. For this purpose, they would primary their own candidates against incumbent Democratic candidates in the House, the Senate and Governorships.
Once primaries were won, they would go on to win elections and enter the corridors of power to drive a progressive agenda that included policies such as the “Green New Deal”, immigration reform, legalizing drugs, anti-discrimination laws of all manner, universal education, universal healthcare, popularly known as Medicare for all (M4A), and so on.
In the 2018 election cycle, they put up 70+ candidates in various primaries and won several primaries. While they could not dent the Governorships or the Senate elections, eventually a handful of progressives supported by the PAC made it into the House of representatives.
In the 2020 cycle, they decided to reduce the number of candidates supported and focus on increasing their base within the House. Today there are 10 Justice Democrat representatives in the House. There are a few more progressive Democrats, not necessarily funded by the PAC, who staunchly support these policy positions.
The most prominent Justice Democrats are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib – all of whom hog the limelight on any and every issue in the United States through their social media accounts and through the independent media outlets. They along with three others call themselves “The Squad” – a kind of hip name that was meant to appeal to the youth.
Force The Vote
As the 2020 election cycle came to close, the United States House of Representatives saw a reduction in the number of seats won by the Democrats as compared to the previous Congress. Post every election cycle, a new Speaker of the House is elected by the new members. With 221 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the House, it was a foregone conclusion that the Speaker would be a Democrat and, more so, the incumbent speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a consummate politician.
The Speaker of the House is a powerful position. The Speaker is second in line in the presidential line of succession to become POTUS, after the Vice President, if the President is unable to discharge his or her duties of the office. Furthermore, the Speaker decides which bills will reach the floor and when and thereby practically controlling the legislative agenda of the United States.
With the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans narrowing in the House, the progressives in the larger public square considered it an opportune time to push for “Medicare for all” by withholding support for Nancy Pelosi, unless (and until) she conceded by bringing the M4A policy to vote on the floor of the house. The fundamental premises for bringing the vote for a policy, that has almost a bipartisan support in the general populace, was three-fold.
One, it would clearly show the public who was on their side as a pandemic raged – the vote would show where each member stood. Two, it would drum up the noise on a critical piece of legislation, further amplifying public clamour for it. Thirdly, it would help the progressives to gain Senate seats when the time came, since the Senate was more likely to squash the bill.
Jimmy Dore, a progressive stand-up comedian, who runs a show on Youtube and was once part of TYT, started a “Force The Vote” movement to put this idea into action. His expectation was that the Squad led by AOC would pressure Pelosi into getting this legislation on the floor of the House, particularly because all of them had stood on the platform of universal healthcare. OpIndia covered the story as it happened here.
Jimmy Dore went to great lengths to reproduce verbatim the arguments made by AOC and other members of the Squad to adopt such a tactic to push a progressive agenda. He was suggesting nothing new, he argued.
But he did not get the response he was hoping for. To the contrary, he was given innumerable excuses by both AOC and other independent media outlets on why this tactic would not fly. They hinted at a secretive grand plan that they were working out with the incumbent leadership by highlighting some lightweight concessions that they had won recently.
And in any case, they said, the Senate would not pass the bill anyway. Now, Dore is not one for niceties and is often seen using expletives in his rhetoric. Consequently, AOC and several members of the independent media played the man instead of the ball and refused to push, what could have been a significant victory for the progressive movement. Instead, they blamed his language.
Nancy Pelosi, who AOC calls “Mama Bear”, was re-elected with complete support of the Squad.
What followed was hardly a surprise. The “Cancel Culture” which is a core value of the progressive movement took over and each side ended up cancelling each other vociferously. Nevertheless, it once again became apparent that power corrupts. Representatives, who were supposed to champion progressive causes, have been co-opted by what the progressives call the corrupt establishment.
Twitter trended #FraudSquad organically for more than a day in the United States. A clamour is rising now for a Third Party to represent progressive interests. The same clamour, albeit less loudly, is also being seen on the Republican side as well, for completely different reasons – but that is for another day.
Hypocrisy of AOC
Now that the election of the Speaker was over, the focus shifted to Trump’s Presidency. After the fracas at the Capitol, Democrats bayed for his blood and he was impeached for a second time due to “incitement of insurrection” by the House of Representatives. The impeachment process itself is not over yet since the Senate has to hold a trial and a 2/3rds majority is needed to convict him.
The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejected demands from Nancy Pelosi for an immediate impeachment trial and said that the trial can only begin after the Senate returns from a recess on 19th of January, 2021. Trump’s presidency ends on the 20th of January, 2021.
When a twitter user asked (paraphrased here since the tweet has since been deleted) AOC what the purpose behind this impeachment trial would be considering the term is coming to an end and, in any case, the Senate would not convict him anyway, AOC replied:
The exact same reasons that Jimmy Dore has explained as the reason to “Force The Vote”, the exact same reasons that were refuted with lame excuses were now the main reasons behind pushing for the second impeachment of Trump.
As Thomas Sowell noted, “No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems—of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.”
For AOC, M4A is, now, far behind.