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Dirty Socks

This is a very hard piece to write for my emotions have a tendency to overtake rationality, particularly when the consequences of such actions can levy enormous hardships on those who will pay the price both today and in the future. So let me just state for the record, there are times when I want to take a dirty, smelly, pair of socks and stuff them into Joe Manchin’s mouth. But that passes and once again civility and common sense prevail.

I have devoted over four decades to a career in public service and therefore my allegiance is to this nation and those who reside in it. Caring for our nation also has direct consequences for those in the world who look upon us as the guiding beacon of liberty and freedom to which most humans aspire to be a part of. We do not stuff dirty socks down our politician’s throats, so we must deal with them, particularly when they are both members of our party and deciding votes. So I will constrain my emotions and encourage the President to do what he does best, namely: work it out.

I consider myself a liberal in my political ideology and so am naturally attracted to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. However, a lifetime devoted to studying, participating in, and teaching democratic principles has also taught me how important compromise and civility are to maintaining those principles. Somehow we have lost our way and find ourselves in the midst of what is most likely the most serious degree of divisiveness since the 1860s when a brutal and devastating civil war ripped the country apart.

The American people are frustrated beyond belief and merely want to see us moving forward on a plan that will benefit the nation.

We are teetering on the edge of a philosophical/political razor’s edge and have become a nation of red and blue provinces that have little bearing upon development of a national consensus. Whether it is the Electoral College, gerrymandering, fractured Federalism, institutional racism, conspiracy theories hatched and disseminated in the incubator provided by social media where misinformation and disinformation find comfort, or simply refusal to acknowledge a history where slowly but surely we have embraced diversity and differences, our nation is cracking under the weight of intolerance. Cannot we just agree to disagree? At this point we can hardly agree to agree, even where there is no disagreement.

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How fragile is our democracy? It rests precariously upon a Senate where obstruction on behalf of 52 Senators can work to thwart efforts to revive an economy struggling with a Covid virus that has killed three-quarters of a million American citizens. The margin for error is a tad less serious in the House of Representatives, however internal disagreements threaten to tear our precarious advantage apart as this sorry saga drags out.

President Joe Biden, who was brought up in a system where compromise was the essential ingredient to progress on the legislative front, must surely be incredulous at this point that despite all the education he learned with respect to pragmatism and dedication to progress on behalf of all Americans, not merely those who supported him, his efforts to find the appropriately delicate balance to move us forward is stuck in neutral. Unless we can move this nation into gear we will ALL suffer. The American people are frustrated beyond belief and merely want to see us moving forward on a plan that will benefit the nation. Is there an end in sight? When is the point of no political return?

It is all too easy to lash out, as progressives, against the obstructionist methods of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and to a lesser extent Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema. I, too, have felt not only disgusted but downright hostile to their efforts to stymie a bold effort to tackle issues like climate change, health care, and a host of physical/social infrastructure issues that will benefit an overwhelming majority of Americans. I, like the President, was convinced not only of his confidence to get things done but by my own experience of how the machinations of our governmental system work that we would be well on our way towards reenergizing the nation. Alas, we are approaching the end of the first year of the Biden Administration and still find ourselves in a political quagmire.

I have counseled my progressive-minded friends that it was counterproductive to levy attacks upon our fellow Democrats and that we would eventually find our peace with them on these critically important social issues. While I still believe this to be the case, I must admit my patience is wearing thin and the personal invectives I have privately levied against these two individuals carries a triple X rating, and realistically what choices do we have if we abandon efforts to reach that illusive compromise? The answer is none.

If we allow ourselves as Democrats to be divided amongst ourselves we effectively cut off our noses to spite our face. I still have the greatest faith in Biden to fight as hard and hang on as long as it takes to get the best deal possible. We must not be sucked into the vacuum of looking merely at the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey and concluding that had it not be for the Manchin-Sinema obstruction at least Virginia might have turned out differently. I lived there for 22 years, it was a long shot at best. According to the conventional narrative New Jersey would not have even been close. Probably so but let us not dwell on speculation. We won one of two and the betting money was not that we were favored to win both. We must move on.

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So as we enter the upcoming seasonal holidays, keep the faith in our efforts to wrangle another $2 trillion investment in our nation. And hopefully, one day in the not too distant future our wayward brother and sister will come to appreciate all that compromise has to offer. So throw the socks in the hamper and hold your tongues on criticizing these two wayward souls. Trust that in the end we will be better off as our democracy does what it does best: namely, strive for the least worst option.

Lance Simmens