As a committed leftie the current political situation is difficult to watch without wanting to hide behind my sofa and shield myself from watching those who are meant to represent and share my values and commitments just shrug them away as if they’re nothing. The Left in the UK and in America is full of inactivity and dallying, which leads to very little being achieved and the representatives looking weak.
Over in America, the party of choice for most left-of-centre voters, the Democratic party, is in control. The President is a Democrat. The Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives (the lower legislative chamber). The Senate (the legislative’s upper chamber) is evenly split, but the Democrats have an effective majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, being responsible for deciding all tie-breaking votes. Because of this, you would expect the Democrats to be doing all they can to act decisively and progressively, given that it has been a decade since they last controlled all three institutions.
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However, other than the Coronavirus stimulus package there has been little activity from the Democrats. The push to increase the federally mandated minimum wage to $15 has stalled with Democrats claiming they couldn’t get it through the Senate because the Republicans would filibuster, and they don’t have the votes to cloture (the 60 votes it takes for the Senate to force an end to a debate on an issue and force a vote, thereby ending a filibuster). The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act may have passed the House of Representatives, but that was three weeks ago, and it has yet to even begin moving through the Senate. Voting rights, whilst under attack in Georgia, have yet to be secured through federal legislation, again because of the Senate and its arcane rules. The solution is to change the rules and end the filibuster, but some moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin are reluctant to do this because they would rather work collaboratively with the Republicans.
Things aren’t much better in the White House, where Joe Biden has already stated he will not move to cancel student debt (other than making it easier to cancel debt through laws already passed by previous administrations), and where instead of tearing apart the cruel and unusual border detention policies of the Trump era, has continued the policy of family separation and even built his own child detention facilities. The sheer inactivity on the part of the left, even when they are in power would be comic if it wasn’t so tragic. It’s like handing a kid the keys to a chocolate factory and all they do is nibble at a bag of buttons and ask where they can get an apple, except the apple is separating families and holding crying children in detention facilities.
Over in the UK things are even more difficult to watch. For those who do not know, the UK is quite unique in that it has an official opposition. This means that there are state funds and offices provided to the second largest party to officially oppose the government. When you hear “leader of the opposition” or “shadow cabinet”, these aren’t self-given titles, but official titles. However, you wouldn’t know this given the state of the current opposition we have in the UK. The Conservative government seems to have been given free rein to be as awful as possible. Priti Patel broke the ministerial code and Labour was virtually silent. When Matt Hancock was found, in court, to have broken the law Keir Starmer stated he would not actively seek or call for his resignation. Had it not been the police actions at the Sarah Everard Vigil Labour was planning to abstain from a vote curtailing the right to protest in the UK, and even though they voted against it, there was no substantial public campaign to rally people against the bill.
The current strategy of the left in the UK and in the USA seems to be to avoid a fight at all costs. They back down and talk about compromise with the right before the first punch has even been thrown. This inactivity and inability to present themselves as effective leaders or opposition, or actually achieve anything, makes them look weak – and there is nothing voters hate more than weakness. If voters see the left continually backing down, appeasing, and failing to deliver change and improvement then they are not going to vote for them. What would be the point? Why vote for parties that fail to defend their policies, achieve legislative goals, or fail to oppose failure and criminality?
In order to gain some more votes then, the left has to do one thing: something. The left has to get into fights. It has to push through legislation. It has to make life better for working class and low-income people. It has to fight for justice and restore voting rights to minority groups. In America Democrats must use their power and position to change the archaic filibuster to make it easier for it to achieve progressive aims. The left wing of the Democratic party has to stand up to its conservative wing and be as tough as they are to introduce real progressive change. In the UK, the opposition has to be bold. It has to take its case to the people, cause a stir, call out the government on every failure and corruption, and not stop, even if it loses. Voters respect a fighter with a broken nose and bloodied lip more than someone who backs away from their opponent.
It is time for the left to be bold, to be active, and to do something!
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