Bidin’ time with Biden and the Democrats:
A post-election elegy

By Shivaji Sengupta

On Election Day 2021, the Democrats are taking a beating. They have lost the most watched gubernatorial race in Virginia – Glen Youngkin beating Terry McAuliffe. The New Jersey race is still too close to call, with the incumbent Democrat governor, Phil Murphy, clinging to a narrow lead against Jack Ciattarelli. Here on Long Island the Republicans are winning most of the local contests. Ragini Srivastava, one of very few Indian origin candidates on Long Island to have contested these elections, has won running as a Republican.

Writing as a Democrat, I am dismayed at my party’s poor showing. To quote Lawrence Tierney, a district leader of the Brookhaven Town Democrats, Democrats lost “because of the mood of the voters countrywide.” So much has happened in the past eight weeks that is bad for the Democrats – it is unbelievable!

First, the Trump factor. Any subsequent election involving Democrats and Republicans, after the incumbent President collapsed in 2020, is seen either as an affirmation of Donald Trump’s canards about the election being stolen, or their refutation. Joe Biden had defeated Trump by a comfortable margin; but the Democrats barely won the House and squeaked by tying the Senate 50:50, with Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie. Thus, all the campaign slogans blurted by Biden – the Build Back Better bombast – were immediately jeopardized by the Democrats’ razor-thin margin in Congress. Yet technically the Democrats had captured both parts of the legislative, the bicameral Congress and the Executive. The Republicans are now having a field day bloviating at Democrats: you control all three seats of power and yet what have you done with it?

Time was, not so far ago, we used to lament the inability of the Democrats and Republicans in Washington to work together. Because of the rift between them, many major policy decisions concerning the country have not been made into law since as far back as George W. Bush. Immigration, for one; gun control is in a stalemate, steep drug prescription prices – all because Republicans and Democrats can’t agree. Our president, Joe Biden, prides himself as a negotiator. He campaigned on his strength of being able to convince Republicans on difficult issues.

Now that he is president, the rift is not just between Democrats and Republicans. It is between the Democrats themselves!!! It is they, and not the Republicans, that are not able to agree on any of the major Bills that need to be passed to build back better. The two infrastructure Bills, the Voters’ Rights Bill, not to speak of Immigration and Gun Control – everything is stuck. The Democrats were able to pass the post-Covid American Rescue Act, bringing relief to families though the continuation of unemployment has had its critics. Now, the several months long stalemate between the so-called Moderates and the so-called Progressives over the two infrastructure Bills between the Democrats themselves has appalled Americans. On the one side, we have the likes of Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, two firebrand Democrats who should perhaps start a more extreme party of their own; on the other, we have Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who call themselves Moderates but they seem more like Republicans. At best they are Dinos – Democrats in Name Only! Their arguments about national debt, “who’s going to pay for it?” and their protectiveness about taxing the wealthy sound more Republican than Democrat. Thanks to the Ocasio-Omar-Manchin-Sinema show, the Democratic Party has not been able to deliver. The Republicans? They are on the side, watching (the) Sinema.

Meanwhile, the elections have rolled in. It was crucial for Congress to pass the two infrastructure Bills before November so that the American people could appreciate that something at last has been achieved. President Biden’s image abroad depended on it as did the Governor’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey.  But the Progressives in the name of the poor, and Dinos, in the name of responsibility, have hung out their party to dry. Biden’s approval ratings are taking a beating. Terry McAuliffe leads in Virginia polls vanished like ether. The Democrats are still fighting. They have lost Virginia and are on their way to losing the mid-terms.

But let’s spare a thought for Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna, the moderates among Progressives. Well-educated, logical, and reasonable, they are trying their best to maintain a balance between fire and ice: the fire of Ilhan and Alexandra, and Sinema’s ice (she doesn’t speak to reporters). Having been able to adequately influence Joe Biden with progressive policies, they served – and still serve – as a bridge between Bernie Sanders and the then Joe – and now – President Biden. Our expectation is that, because of Joe Biden’s extremely delicate handling of the Dinos, and Jayapal and Khanna’s efforts to douse out the fire in their midst, Congress will pass the two Bills upon the president’s return.

The question is: will it be too late? And this article, a raven messenger?

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