No, The Sky Isn’t Falling
And Progressives don’t get to go to the sidelines even if it is
Back in the bad old days of the previous administration, I encountered any number of Facebook posts, tweets, and comments under articles along the lines of “I’ve had it…I’m leaving the country.” We’ve all seen them. Some of us might have been guilty of posting such defeatist prose ourselves.
I thought that once we kicked that guy out and put a rational person in the White House, the handwringing would stop or, at least, slow down. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The “leaving the country” folks seem to have been joined by a legion of “the sky is falling” prophets of doom who appear to be ready to jump off tall buildings because…well, it’s hard to tell.
We all know that the progress of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) and the Build Back Better (BBB) legislation has been slow and frustrating. Very frustrating. But the two bills together could toss far the better part of $3T into our economy during the next decade. The BIF alone, which has been all but ignored by progressives, will provide over $500B during the next five years for infrastructure alone. It provides $1B to reconnect communities, most of them black neighborhoods, that were separated by interstate highways. There is a $65B check for broadband expansion in the bill. All to say, maybe they’re worth waiting for.
With those points in mind, take a look at the replies to Chris Hayes’ tweet about the bills. Here are a few quick examples:
“At what point do young people, especially young women, start leaving the country?”
“This is the [capitulation] that has made me state that I am done with the democrats.”
“[There is] is blatant and open corruption in every aspect of our system. They aren’t even trying to pretend to hide it anymore.”
Mind you, the BIF alone is larger than the stimulus bill passed during the Obama administration, the bill that eventually pulled us out of the Great Recession. I might have missed it, but I don’t recall progressives threatening to scurry to Canada when that bill passed Congress. All this sturm und drang is simply because bills have been and are…moving slowly.
This wailing and grinding of teeth is the manifestation of white privilege at its most vivid. What must it be like for people of color, working people, and poor families to hear white folk talking about leaving for foreign lands because good bills are…moving slowly? I’m guessing most of them are relieved when bills aren’t being passed that allow their neighbors to shoot them on sight. And, yes, those bills are being passed too but I haven’t seen nearly as much outrage prompted by their passage as I have about the slow movement of two infrastructure bills.
Some will read these words and accuse me of not being passionate enough about progressive aspirations. Some will even make the silly argument that I’m shilling for the neo-liberals and the right by excusing the inaction on two vital infrastructure bills and two essential voting bills. In doing so, those readers will show that they altogether misunderstand my argument.
My view isn’t that none of us has reason to be upset. It’s that taking the “I’m giving up and getting the hell out” stance is performative, cowardly, and privileged. For most Americans, there is no option to “get the hell out”. They’re here for whatever comes next, like it or not. When they hear “progressives” say, “I’m done fighting for you. God bless and God speed,” they can be forgiven for assuming that those “progressives” didn’t have much interest in their lives to begin with.
I often wish that I could ask the Chickens Little, “How many doors did you knock on or phone calls did you make on behalf of progressive candidates during the recent general election? How many calls have you made, or emails have you sent to your reps at the city, county, state and federal level? How many letters to the editor have you written in the past year? What progressive organizations do you participate in or give a few dollars to?” I don’t have any data, so I could be proven wrong, but I’m willing to bet the percentages would be small.
To those who are wallowing in left wing depression and looking for cheap flights to…wherever…I have a suggestion: Read “Wilmington’s Lie” by David Zuchinno. Or “The Burning” by Tim Madigan. Or “The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, The Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction” by Charles Lane. Or “Devil in The Grove” by Gilbert King. You’ll be reading about men and women who suffered and died because white people were complacent. Or got tired of “fighting the good fight”. To say, “What’s the use?” is to throw our black, brown, and queer neighbors to the curb.
The best response to legislative inaction (or harmful action), the best way to express our disappointment in our representatives is to write or call and give ’em hell. Hearing liberals say, “I give up. I’m leaving,” is music to fascists’ ears.