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December 17, 2021

There’s a very brief moment in a Simpsons episode from 1994 that I think about constantly.

First, we see a clip of a Republican convention, where banners above the stage read “We want what’s worst for everyone” and “We’re just plain evil.” Then, we see the Democratic convention, with different banners: “We hate life and ourselves” and “We can’t govern!”

It’s hard not to lose faith in the Democratic Party’s ability to govern when its members control both houses of Congress and the White House but can pass hardly any progressive legislation thanks to one or two impossible-to-please holdouts. As my colleague Noah Kim pointed out earlier this week, Democrats appear unlikely to pass the Build Back Better social spending bill this year, and even less likely to succeed with voting rights reform. That leaves Democrats in the undesirable position of having to spend 2022 campaigning on an infrastructure bill whose tangible benefits could take years to build.

It’s hard to pass laws, and I can’t fault Joe Biden for Joe Manchin’s obstinance. But there has been a flippancy about the Biden administration’s attitude toward the struggles of ordinary Americans that I find frustrating. Asked at a press conference why the government doesn’t make rapid COVID tests free, press secretary Jen Psaki asked sarcastically—to the internet’s immediate derision—”Should we just send one to every American?” Whether such a rapid testing program would mitigate the virus’s spread in the United States is beside the point. It was Psaki’s tone that stung.

And then there’s the issue of student loans. The Trump administration suspended loan payments when the pandemic broke out, but they’re set to resume in January. Biden’s proposal to eliminate $10,000 in student loan debt has not come to fruition. Asked about it in a press conference, Psaki again delivered a dose of sass: “If Congress sends him a bill, he’s happy to sign it. They haven’t sent him a bill on that yet.”

I’m supposed to rest my hopes of financial solvency on Congress? The body that won’t even pass a child tax credit to lift more than 4 million kids out of poverty?

With abortion rights in the hands of a staunchly conservative Supreme Court, I have to keep reminding myself that an inability to govern is better than the alternative: “just plain evil.”

Abigail Weinber-Mother Jones Daily

P.S. Before we head into the weekend, I wanted to boost MoJo’s big December fundraising campaign. On an all-staff call yesterday, our membership lead Brian said that the fundraiser is humming along but that there’s still an eye-popping amount of money left to raise this month. So check out our CEO Monika Bauerlein’s post about the year that was and the work ahead, and please consider pitching in today if you can!

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