Thursday, March 22, 2018

Listen: we can do this. We can make it.

After the election, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and have a pliant fool in the White House.  Even though they needed to deal with a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, they could be assured of using reconciliation to strong-arm some of their most important legislation through Congress.  Remember all the horrorshows being proposed a year and a half ago?  Remember proposals to ban all Muslim immigrants, to repeal all of Obamacare, to punish sanctuary cities, to bring stop-and-frisk nationwide, to transform the tax code, to build a wall?

Republicans have done a lot of damage with the power they won in 2016.  The executive power is great, and it can do a great deal of harm.  Slack and stupid governing at every level, purposefully ineffectual and sometimes downright dangerous.  But their achievements are a pittance compared to what they wanted.

They managed to repeal the individual mandate and the reinsurance in Obamacare, but all they've done is made healthcare more expensive -- the law remains, to be restored under another administration.  They managed to pass a lurching, abortive, slender version of a Muslim ban -- months later, and after a dozen humiliations.  They managed to pass tax cuts that are mostly temporary -- not the generational shift towards a regressive tax code that they hoped.

Republicans have scrabbled for scraps and gotten crumbs.  And it is thanks to unceasing, courageous, ferocious resistance.

And now they are almost out of chances.

The omnibus bill going through Congress now is shockingly okay.  Just like the last few spending bills, Republicans and Trump got rolled.
  • They were going to help employers steal tips.
  • They were going to defund Planned Parenthood.
  • They were going to kill the NEA, NEH, and funding for NPR and PBS.
  • They were going to build a wall.
  • They were going to slash the budgets of the EPA and the IRS.
  • They were going to block the D.C. assisted suicide law and budget autonomy.
  • They were going to rescind the Johnson Amendment so churches could become political lobbies.

They got none of that.  Not one of those things was in the bill.  Instead, it includes things like hundreds of millions specifically allocated to the FBI to fight Russian election interference, billions earmarked for fencing (and specifically not allowed to be used on a border wall!), some minor gun control provisions, and... well, read more about it for yourself.

And now it's the end of March in a midterm election year.  Republicans lost a seat in the Senate to Doug Jones of Alabama, dropping their majority down to a slender 51-49, and John McCain's illness means that it's often more like 50-49.  There's no more chance of reconciliation bills, either.  And there are eight months before the election, so the stakes are a lot higher and time is scarce before campaign season.

This was almost certainly the last major bill before elections.  We're not out of the woods yet, of course.  The president has a lot of power, even if he cannot make laws.  But the trees are thinning.

So what matters now?  2018 and control of Congress.  Now we must pour everything we have into that fight -- every fiber of muscle and every drop of sweat.  We must win.

And someday, when this long night has passed, we will feel the warm sun on our tired limbs and think back to this time before the dawn, when we shouted until our throats ached and marched until the ground shook, when we did everything we could to save our country... and won.

228 days until the midterm election.