October 17, 2022, Raleigh, NC—Now in mid-October, 2022, the mid-term elections are fast approaching, here in the United States. Control of Congress in Washington, DC is up for grabs, and here in North Carolina, the questions are who will be the next Senator to represent the State, and who will control the NC State legislature? Will the rest of Governor Roy Cooper’s (Dem.) agenda be passed, most notably, Medicaid expansion, or will the voters hand over the State legislature, once again, to the incumbent party in control, the Republicans, and thus put the ka-bash on any hopes of further progressive politics passing into the next term?
Last I checked in on this blog, Medicaid expansion in North Carolina looked likely. Despite the Democratic Governor’s repeated calls to enact it, however, the Republican legislative leaders have failed to do so. Although it looked promising one year ago, agreement proved elusive, and no action has been taken. Instead, enactment of the progressive change that would expand access to healthcare in North Carolina to the working poor has failed. The effort became caught up in a bureaucratic pitfall called the Certificate of Need (CON) law in North Carolina, which governs how much healthcare providers are legally allowed to provide. When reforming the CON laws failed, so did Medicaid expansion.
Now, it’s the election. If voters care enough about insurance for the working poor, or about 500,000 people across North Carolina, then they will vote Democratic for the State legislature. Otherwise, our current stalemate will continue, most likely, and Medicaid expansion will not happen, not anytime in the near future. Now, it is up to the voters to decide.
For this reason alone, I would argue, people in North Carolina should vote by party affiliation, and award the Democratic Party control of the NC State legislature. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th. By Wednesday, November 9th, we should all know who controls the State legislature here in Raleigh, North Carolina. As it currently stands, the outcome of that vote will determine the fate of what remains of Gov. Cooper’s agenda, and whether Medicaid coverage is offered to the working poor in North Carolina, or whether they will continue to be denied coverage, and thereby denied access to quality healthcare.
Another big race at stake in the election this year is for the next Senator of the State of North Carolina. Will it be the Democrat, Cheri Beasley, or the Republican, Ted Budd? Recent polls show the race is neck-and-neck, with Ted Budd holding a slight advantage, as the two candidates approach the finish line in this race (News and Observer, 10/9/2022, p. 18A). This race is one of the closely-watched races in this country that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Since Roe vs. Wade was overturned recently by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is worth noting, also, that Beasley is pro-choice, and Budd is pro-life.
I endorse the Democrat, Cheri Beasley. I hope she wins this close race here in North Carolina, and I hope the Democratic Party retains control of the U.S. Senate, and in fact, both chambers of Congress in Washington, DC. Again, the vote is Tuesday, November 8th. We should know the honest results, statewide and nationally, soon thereafter.
I should take one step back from partisan politics, at this time, however. The war in Ukraine drags on. Thankfully, although the U.S. has been providing weapons for Ukraine, the U.S. itself is not directly involved in the war against Russia. That is good. I still believe, however, this is a war of Russian imperialism and Russian aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine, and I stand by the Ukrainian people’s right to defend themselves and their country. It is a question, for me, of the principle of the self-determination of peoples. Ukraine has the moral high-ground on this one, to my way of looking at it, no questions asked. I think President Joe Biden is handling the situation well.
That said, I continue to call for peace in the Ukraine, concerning all sides. This war in Ukraine between Russia and the Ukraine has proved devastating and tragic so far to the Ukrainian people. I call on all parties involved to engage in peace talks and end this war, immediately. Unfortunately, that prospect seems unlikely, at this time, but that is what I think should happen.
One promising note in the United States has been the overwhelming, if not quite unanimous, bi-partisan support for Ukraine in this war. It is good to see the two parties in Washington working together, when necessary.
Also, it is good to see the two parties coming together for the clean-up and recovery effort in Florida, which was hit so hard recently by Hurricane Ian. President Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Republican) should be given credit for their bi-partisan support for the recovery effort in Florida.
Although it is crucial to vote in the mid-term election this November, only a few weeks away, it is good to remember that the two parties can work together when it comes to a national priority, such as the war in Ukraine, or a national emergency, such as for the recovery effort from Hurricane Ian, especially in Florida.
This blog: post, 2/22/2022; post, 12/5/2021.
News and Observer, Raleigh, NC: 10/9/2022, pp. 18A, 1, 4A-7A, 12A; 10/4/2022, p. 8A; 9/25/2022, p. 18A; 9/18/2022, p. 13B; 10/10/2022, p. 8A; 10/12/2022, p. 6B.
New York Times, 10/14/2022, pp. 1, A6.
WRAL news, Raleigh, NC, television; ABC news, national, evening, television; National Public Radio (NPR), news, radio.
February 22, 2022—Afghanistan. The Ukraine. An economy that threatens to burn itself out with record high inflation. Democrats divided in Congress, unable to pass anything, despite holding the majority in both houses. A drubbing for the Democratic Party, nationally, in last year’s, off-year, 2021 elections. The precedent of history that shows that the party of the president usually loses seats in Congress in the first mid-term. And worst of all, a record low approval rating for President Joe Biden that rivals only that of former President Donald Trump, at this point in both men’s terms.
I think it is fair to say that at this point in his presidency, President Biden and the Democrats face significant headwinds going into this year’s mid-term elections. The control of both houses of Congress hangs in the balance in this year’s mid-term, national elections. The fact is that the election later this year will serve as a bellwether for two years of Democratic Party rule in Washington, as a referendum on Biden’s presidency, so far. The results will either surprise pollsters and political science prognosticators, and affirm President Biden’s rule, or they will serve as a death knell for continued Democratic rule in Washington, at least in Congress, at this time. The simple fact is that the oncoming mid-terms are approaching American politics like a semi-truck fresh off a Canadian protest against liberal pandemic policies, back on the highway, and roaring ahead at 75 mph in a free-market, laissez-faire, 70 mph speed limit zone. In this metaphor, the trucker is not going to receive a ticket for speeding down the road, nor for protesting liberal policies on the pandemic in Canada and America; instead, in this scenario, this protesting trucker, roaring ahead in his semi-, this trucker owns the road.
The Republican Party is on the march. Watch any episode of the 6 o’clock news on Fox News on cable TV, and you can see lots and lots of hungry Republicans, foaming at the mouth, anticipating their next big meal, in which they devour fresh red meat and re-take control of Congress later this year in the mid-terms. In this political context, at this time, whatever is a Democrat to do?
As a registered Democrat and a proud, public, democratic socialist myself, I respectfully disagree. I think that despite the headwinds, President Biden is doing basically a good job. The challenge for the Democratic Party and Democratic Party leadership, to me, is putting out the right message, the right spin, and showing how President Biden is doing a good job at this time, and why the Democratic Party deserves, currently, another two years in control of Congress. The time now is not to show what they would do, but what they have done, so far, in the past two years. The time now is to show how President Joe Biden has been doing a good job as our US president, and how President Biden and the Democrats still represent the best interests of working Americans and—dare I say it—the middle class. I think if the Democrats can put out this message, and be convincing about it, then they still have a chance in hell of holding on to the reins of power in Congress. True to the principles of our democracy in America, the voters will have the final say, come this November in our national election.
The question for me, on this blog, is why? Why do I think that President Joe Biden is doing a good job, and why do I think he still represents the interests of the working and middle class in America? I am concerned, also, with the interests of the working class, internationally, but as we are discussing specifically the American president, I will limit my focus to the American working and “middle class.” Furthermore, I will remain interested only in the top-of-the-news items, and not give too much credit to President Biden for changing the rules for organizing labor unions, which he has done, in favor of labor unions. President Biden deserves credit for this change, in federal regulations, but I will not delve into that here. I will remain on the top-of-the-news issues, and I will respond to the issues we see in the mainstream daily newspapers and on the broadcast and cable television news. Even with these limits, I think President Biden is doing a good job. That is the job of the Democratic Party to do, to win this mid-term election. They must tout the success of this Administration, or they will be lost. I think there is substance there to say that, on this basis, we can judge that President Biden is doing a good job, and his Party, the Democrats, do still deserve to remain in control in Congress, and thus in Washington, in general.
What do I base this pro-Democrat, pro-Biden viewpoint on? First of all, let us examine foreign policy. I will studiously, consciously ignore the current hot topic, the Ukraine, for reasons I shall state below. Suffice it to say that I believe in diplomacy only for the US in the Ukraine, and I agree with President Biden’s closing statement, in his speech today to the nation, that there is still a chance for diplomacy. I am against any war between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine. I do consider the situation in the Ukraine to be regrettable, however, since I do support, in principle, the self-determination of peoples. This support I give applies to the people of Russia, it should be stated, and for the people of the Ukraine.
Let us examine President Biden’s record on foreign policy more closely. Afghanistan comes to mind, namely, President Biden’s withdrawal of US forces from that country last summer. In this case, the right-wing of this country currently controls this narrative. Although Americans had lost all appetite for yet another endless, 25-year war, dragging on, interminably, seemingly forever, with no end in sight, Americans had even less patience, it turns out, for a messy withdrawal. President Biden did the best withdrawal humanly possible, pulling out tens-of-thousands of aggrieved, at-risk Afghans, but, rather predictably, once American troops were gone, the so-called enemy, the Taliban, quickly re-took the government. The war lasted, not quite 25 years, but around 20. What did America gain after 20 years of war in Afghanistan? Not much, as it turned out. As I just said, the Taliban quickly re-took power. These are the same people who had been in charge in 2001, when Al-Qaeda perpetrated 9-11 on our country, the United States, largely from Afghanistan. How can that possibly be seen as a foreign policy victory for President Biden and the United States?
Let me remind you, I am a democratic socialist. In all of this talk of Vladimir Putin’s supposed aggression in the Ukraine, what is totally lost, and totally absent, from all of this discussion is even the mention of that old, socialist concept of American aggression. We used to call it American imperialism. If it has not already been done, let me hereby name the US war in Afghanistan, after 20-some-odd years, with no end in sight, not unlike Vietnam, which did in fact last 25 years, let me name that ongoing war in Afghanistan as one that evolved into one of American imperialism. Simply put, after 20-some-odd years, the Americans really had no right to meddle in someone else’s country, halfway around the world, in this case, Afghanistan. Even if you believe that it started out with a noble cause for the United States, after 9-11, after all, still, after 20 years, I think it was high time for the US to get out. To withdraw. We no longer had any business there. They heard us, already. Let them practice their own self-determination of peoples, and if they choose the Taliban, then let them have it. If we get attacked again, and they do understand this, by now, then we can go back in, if and only if we actually need to. Otherwise, it had already become long overdue that the US get out. Let them have their own country again, already. I have stated this once, already, however. It is my opinion, however. The United States desperately and sorely needed to end that war, and to end our involvement and control over their country, Afghanistan, and that is exactly what we did. That is exactly what President Biden accomplished with our withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Far from the criticism President Biden still receives from the hawks and much of the mainstream media on Afghanistan, I think he did the right thing. Whatever your opinion of the beginning of the war and the underlying reasons the US had for originally going in to Afghanistan, it was long time for the US to exit their country, and to relinquish control back to their military, and/or militaries, and ultimately, back to the Afghan people. Now, the US is free of another 25-year, endless war, not unlike Vietnam, in which American lives and the American treasury and, worst-of-all, American blood is wasted on an ignoble effort to control the destiny of a different people half-way across the world. Thank God it is finally over. President Biden did us all a great favor by freeing us of this endless war, this endless morass. Any hint of American imperialism taking over in their country was crushed by our American withdrawal.
President Biden does not deserve blame for our American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Rather, despite the Taliban retaking their government, President Biden deserves credit for extricating America, and for preventing the lives of ever-more young, American men, American soldiers in our military, from being sacrificed on the altar of remote control, from Washington, DC, over the destiny of the country in the mountains of Afghanistan. Kudos to Joe Biden. He has saved countless American lives already from war in that country, since our withdrawal, and our country cannot be accused now of pursuing classical American imperialism in their country. There is no more claim of “big stick diplomacy” from the US in Afghanistan—we are out-of-there. Finally. If anyone in the US wanted to be heard in Afghanistan after 9-11, trust me, they heard us. Now, they can have their country back, again.
For the record, however, let it be known that I opposed the war in Afghanistan from the start. I thought we should be talking, not bombing and invading. I was a part of the peace movement here in America, at the time. I protested the war in Iraq on February 15, 2003, the day of global protest against the war in Iraq, and I opposed, also, the war in Afghanistan. Suffice it to say, 20 years later, I still opposed the war in Afghanistan. I feel, as I stated above, that 20-years-on, there was even more reason to oppose the war in Afghanistan than when we first went in.
I applaud President Biden for our withdrawal in Afghanistan. I consider it a foreign policy victory for the United States, even if not a military one in the country of Afghanistan. I think that distinction is a very important one, too. We should not allow the right-wing of this country, America, to control our perspective on this, and our mainstream narrative about it. We should be touting the end of the war in Afghanistan as a victory for the US, not an ignoble defeat. We have no business determining their government for them. They heard us already. Move on. Once again, kudos to President Biden for this.
On to the next foreign policy hot topic: the Ukraine. Here, I support President Biden’s approach so far, also. I am studiously, consciously ignoring this issue. President Biden is moving US troops around in Eastern Europe, but he has not given up on diplomacy, believe it or not, in the face of potential Russian aggression in the Ukraine. Here, President Vladimir Putin of Russia is the imperialist, not the United States. In any case, I agree with diplomacy only in the Ukraine for the US. This country really is on the doorstep, in the “backyard,” so to speak, of Russia. The United States really has no business at war in this country against Russia. In terms of the Cold War, it would have been unthinkable. It would be akin to the Soviet Union placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, in the United States’ “backyard.” I am thankful that the Soviets withdrew their nuclear weapons from approaching Cuba in the Cuban missile crisis during the Cold War last century, thus avoiding nuclear Armageddon and the destruction of the entire planet, within minutes of the ship approaching the island of Cuba. Similarly, the US really has no right to fight a war in the Ukraine at all, which is, after all, itself a former Soviet republic. That said, I do support the right of self-determination for the Ukrainian people, and I condemn any Russian imperialist aggression in that country.
That said, not unlike former President Donald Trump, I feel no ill will toward Russia, itself, nor toward their President, Vladimir Putin. I noted that Putin named Vladimir Lenin and Stalin as heroes of his, as a Russian leader, not as a Communist. I should note that, as a socialist, myself, for all of his faults, and there are many, Stalin is credited by some as being critical in ending World War II and defeating Hitler. I know that is a terrible sentence. I do feel awkward about crediting Stalin with anything, but I acknowledge the critical role he played in defeating fascism in Europe and the world during World War II, in particular. Remember, it was not until after World War II ended, with a mutual, shared victory for the United States and the Soviet Union, who fought on the same side, against Hitler and the fascists; it was not until after the end of World War II that the Cold War began. Before the beginning of the Cold War, there was the united front, globally, against fascism and the Nazis. We were on the same side, then. And in the Soviet Union, may I remind you, that meant Stalin. Later, he became the evil villain incarnate to the Western world. First, it must be remembered, he was an Eastern hero, fighting against Hitler. To be honest and accurate, however, I must acknowledge that Hitler betrayed Stalin, and early on in the War, they were not enemies, unlike the United States. The Soviets and Germany fought one hell of war in World War II in the Russian winter in Russia, however, we cannot forget. Remember, also, the US and the Soviet Union won that war, together. Germany had too many fronts, all-at-once, and Germany lost the War on all fronts, and in Germany, itself.
Then, there is Vladimir Lenin, of namesake, Vladimir Putin. President Putin named Lenin as a hero of his, also, specifically. As a democratic socialist, myself, I claim Lenin to be a hero of mine, also, albeit for different reasons. May I remind President Putin, respectfully, that Lenin’s slogan about imperial Russian wars to the West, namely World War I, was, and I quote, “Peace, land, bread.” That is the slogan that Vladimir Lenin led the Russian army back from the front with Germany in World War I, and he single-handedly, with the Russian army, took out the Russian czar, who at the time was really into waging a Russian war of aggression to the West of Russia. Lenin has been criticized, in fact, for giving away so much land to the Germans, in World War I. The fact that Germany then lost World War I, and the Russian imperialist aggressor, namely, the czar, also lost, should not be forgotten. Who won? Why, Lenin did. Vladimir Lenin came out on top of that one, we should note. President Putin does not need a lecture from me on Russian history and the legacy of Vladimir Lenin, but let me just say, President Putin is not currently pursuing “Peace, Land, Bread” at this time in the Ukraine. Hopefully, the US will heed that call, at least for the “Peace” part of Lenin’s message. Perhaps, President Putin will change his mind and follow Lenin’s lead on that score, also, and not the example of Russian imperialism, in which tradition President Putin seemed to place Lenin.
Likeminded scholars may agree to disagree about the legacy and rightful place in history of Vladimir Lenin. The simple fact is, however, that while I am against Russian aggression in the Ukraine, I feel no ill will toward President Vladimir Putin, who does at least cite Vladimir Lenin as one of his heroes, as well. Putin said this in his address to the Russian people and the world on Monday, February 21. Both President Putin and I cite Vladimir Lenin as one of our heroes, albeit for different reasons. It should come as no surprise, then, that I harbor no ill will toward the Russian president, nor against the Russian people. Also, I should note, unlike President Putin, I harbor no ill will against the Ukrainian people, nor the Ukrainian leadership in the Ukrainian government, either.
I am against any US involvement in a war against Russia in the Ukraine, I should repeat. I hold this position for the reasons stated above. That said, I think President Biden is doing a good job of trying to support the Ukrainian people, short of US military involvement in the country, and also, for not giving up on diplomacy, ultimately, even at this late date in the unfolding events there.
Having said all of this, let me now studiously avoid the topic of the Ukraine. I will now commence to ignore the issue, as I said I would, earlier in this article.
Now, to domestic policy. For the United States, for President Biden, domestically, for the Democrats in this year’s mid-terms, specifically, how is President Biden doing, domestically speaking, here, at home, in the United States?
Again, the question for me, as it should be for the Democratic Party leadership, at this time, is not, what can we do, but rather, what have we done? The answer is not the greatest, but it is good, if you ask me.
Inflation, you say, as do the expert witnesses on Fox News on cable television. Inflation is at record-high levels. How can anyone say that is a success? Inflation is not a success, but the economic recovery from the recession in the United States during the pandemic is a victory. The creation of jobs and very low unemployment is an economic victory. What can I say? Address the inflation bug, and keep the economy humming, as it is now. Keep the jobs available in the current economy. Our problem in America now is that so many people have a little more money, what with last year’s stimulus and with jobs now available again, our problem is that so many people have a little more money on hand, that now prices for goods that people are buying again are going up. Surprise surprise. Address inflation, and keep the economic recovery going. I fail to see a giant policy failure here. Instead, I see success breeding the problems of success.
Again, I do not think President Biden deserves blame. I think he deserves credit, for restarting our economy. The big down-side risk, however, is that the economy is unpredictable. Just as soon as people can be working again, and spending money to buy stuff, just as quickly the economy can go South (no offense intended), and people can be out-of-work, once again. Also, inflation really is a problem; there is no mistaking that, not even from me, here. President Biden’s challenge is to manage the economy, address inflation, and not ruin the so-far short-lived economic recovery. The challenge for Democratic leadership, by the way, is to change the narrative on this. Once again, our right-wing, voiced on Fox News, but not exclusively on Fox News, seems to be controlling the narrative. Democrats have to give credit where credit is due, while still acknowledging the pitfalls of inflation. Instead of blaming President Biden for our economy, currently, we should praise him. We should address, however, the result of success, which is the problem of inflation, along with the achievement of job creation.
Next, domestically speaking, is legislation. How has President Biden done on his legislative agenda? Again, we hear he has been blocked. I would argue, no, far from the truth. If the economy is humming again, I would argue, then the desired result of the stimulus plan of early 2021, and the passage and enactment of the Infrastructure Bill later in that same year, then the desired result of both of these legislative initiatives has been realized. The economy is humming again, no? There are jobs again, no? That spells economic recovery, not recession. Perhaps, we do not need another stimulus, which the moderate Democrats blocked in the Democratic Congress. So President Biden and the Democratic leadership did not get all that they had hoped for out of the Democratic Congress. So what? They achieved their larger goal of stimulating the economy and getting money moving again among now working Americans and the middle class, once again. Perhaps, the Democrats achieved their goals without a few more trillion dollars of federal spending. Perhaps, the Democratic moderates can unite with progressives and the President in claiming victory, once again, not defeat. It is, after all, still about the economy, stupid, as former President Bill Clinton said, back in the 1990s. Not much has changed. I would argue, in fact, that if the US were not shedding jobs like nobody’s business in 2020, then President Donald Trump would have been re-elected. The pandemic and the recession therein handed President Biden the office, and the victory in the election. Now, the economy is doing great again. Great! Let the Democrats cash in, politically, so to speak, and not fall to a conservative narrative that says the Democrats are all a bunch of squabbling failures, led by the biggest failure-in-chief, President Joe Biden. That is not true. The Democrats have restarted the economy. Let the Democrats now deal with the fallout of renewed growth, inflation, and not worry about failing to spend multiple trillions of dollars of additional federal spending and stimulation, trillions of dollars that the moderate wing felt was unnecessary to spend, and to go deeper into debt to do so.
I would have supported the Social Spending Bill. I did take a position last December, on this blog, supporting it. The moderates within the Democratic Party blocked it. So what? It is still about the economy, stupid, and Democrats would do well to remember that. Particularly, Democrats would do well to remember that message. Simply manage inflation, and you’ve got economic success. Claim the victory; do not admit defeat.
Again, the risk here is that the economy will falter. It is unpredictable, after all, and not within government control. This is capitalism, may I remind you, not socialism. Inflation can be managed. A suddenly disastrous economy, however, would definitely cost the Democrats the Congress. The Democrats should tout their success with bringing the economy out of the recent recession, but they should be wary that the economy can betray them by the mid-term election this November. In any case, the Democrats need to re-take control of the narrative on this issue, once again. At this time, this issue should be seen as a victory, not a defeat, for President Biden. Just do not rest all of your laurels on this one, as it can easily reverse itself.
That is all I have to say in this blog post. I think President Biden is doing a good job, both on foreign policy, and domestically, at this time. We do not need a US war in the Ukraine, but President Biden already understands this. President Putin should heed the lesson in history of Vladimir Lenin, but I trust President Putin knows this already. President Putin gave the lecture on international television about his Russian hero, Vladimir Lenin, after all. He does not need me to tell him. All I can say, however, on this score, is “Peace, Land, Bread.”
And re-elect Democrats in this year’s mid-term election here in America. We can build toward a socialist future, but we must do so by achieving international peace, not war.
Here is a slogan I will close with from the American socialist and communist traditions: “Socialism, in our lifetimes.” It did not happen in the 20th century in America, but perhaps, with peace, internationally, it can still be found in our near future. Democracy, after all, still lives, here in America. We shall see what the results will be this November, and before then, we shall see what campaigns, and what messaging, both major parties in America put out there. The voters will decide.
On to the mid-terms for the Democrats and progressives in America! And, as ever, and always, viva la France! Viva!
December 5, 2021, Raleigh, NC—Sometimes government gets things done, despite itself, and despite the ongoing, internecine partisan bickering that marks most of the life of government in America.
This November represented such a moment for America, and for the State of North Carolina, in particular. This November marked such a moment, a time when government took care of the people’s business, a time when rare bipartisanship prevailed in North Carolina with the adoption of a new state budget after three years of partisan wrangling. This real result bodes well for the political future of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. In Washington, the story was not so much about bipartisanship, but about Democratic Party unity, following a poor showing this year for the Democrats in this year’s national election. This legislative result should bode well for President Biden’s next big legislative priority, the social spending bill, up for consideration this December, and it should bode well for the Democrats’ hopefully improved chances at putting forth a better showing in next year’s more significant mid-term national elections. Nationally and in the statehouse in North Carolina, the Democrats got things done. In North Carolina, the Republican leaders of the State legislature can claim credit, too.
Two years ago, in 2019, I wrote a post on this blog in which I excoriated Governor Cooper and the Republican leaders of the North Carolina State legislature for not agreeing to a budget to cover that year, 2019 (“North Carolina Still Without Budget, But I-77 Express Lanes in Charlotte Open,” nickpattifeatures.com, 11/18/2019). Two more years passed, and finally, this past November, North Carolina political leaders agreed on and passed a budget. Writing in the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan noted that it had been three years since the State had passed a budget. “In the end,” Vaughan wrote, “the spending plan had passed because after three years with no budget compromise, lawmakers of both parties and their constituents had run out of patience for any more delay, especially after the long-running coronavirus pandemic” (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 11/26-27/2021, p. 1A). She credited, also, the Democrats on the committee in 2021 who pushed for adoption and compromise, even though the budget failed to meet long-standing Democratic Party demands in North Carolina. Finally, on November 18, 2021, Governor Cooper signed the state budget into law (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 11/19-20/2021, p. 2A).
If it took that long to pass the budget, what caused the delay? What was so important that lawmakers could not agree for so long? Two issues stood out and caused disagreement. One: Medicaid expansion to cover the working poor. Two: teacher pay. On Medicaid expansion, we are talking about an estimated, roughly 634,000 people in North Carolina who have failed to gain Medicaid eligibility since 2019, according to Elizabeth Thompson, writing in the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC, 7/11/2019, on-line). Under Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, the federal government gives states the option to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor, or people who fall in what is called the “coverage gap.” That is the group of people whose income is too high for Medicaid guidelines, but too little to receive federal subsidies to help with the cost of private insurance. Without state-level Medicaid expansion, these hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina would continue to rely exclusively on hospital emergency rooms only for all of their medical care. They generally do not have a primary care doctor, either (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 7/11/2019, on-line). Anyone can see how this situation is unacceptable for working people, or anyone, but it remains the reality. This issue was a top sticking point for Governor Roy Cooper, since the Republican leadership of the NC House would not allow Medicaid expansion to provide coverage for these people. In the final budget that was adopted in November, 2021, NC Democrats still failed to obtain Medicaid expansion. Governor Roy Cooper has said he agrees with many parts of the new state budget, but would fight on in the future for those parts not included. “I will sign this budget, because on balance the good outweighs the bad,” Governor Cooper was quoted as saying in the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC, 11/26/2021, p. 14A). “While I believe that it is a budget of some missed opportunities and misguided policy, it is also a budget that we desperately need at this unique time in the history of our state.” Furthermore, Gov. Cooper said that the budget included many things that he deemed “critical to our state’s progress as we are emerging from this pandemic” (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 11/26-27/2021, p. 14A; 11/18/2021, p. 1A).
Although Medicaid expansion was not included in the 2021 budget, the North Carolina legislature will form a committee to study the issue for the future. With one estimate at $1.2 billion in federal funding to cover Medicaid expansion in 2022, if President Biden’s social spending bill passes, this committee could lead to adoption of Medicaid expansion in the future (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 12/1/2021, p. 5A). Currently, North Carolina is one of only 12 states, mostly in the Southeast, which have not expanded Medicaid. North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger has already changed his mind, now supporting Medicaid expansion. Previously, he was concerned about the cost of the expansion. Now, he was quoted as saying, “I just don’t think the fiscal concerns I’ve had in the past about the cost of expansion are things to be worried about” (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 12/1/2021, p. 5A). Although the state failed to adopt Medicaid expansion at this time, there is hope that it will in the near future.
On teacher pay raises, the two sides compromised, and agreed on a number. This number ended up at 5% pay raises over two years, plus bonuses, and more for teachers in rural counties. Most state workers will also see a raise of 5% over two years, as well (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 12/1/2021, p. 6A).
The 2021 NC budget represented a compromise, but a good compromise. What is more, the Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper came together and took care of the people’s business, which on the state level, begins with the adoption of a state budget.
All of this bodes well for Governor Roy Cooper’s political future. The Governor is in his second and final term, thanks to term limits. His future could include becoming the leader of the Democratic Governors Association, according to Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan of the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC, 11/26-27/2021, p. 14A). Currently, Gov. Cooper serves as the vice chair of that organization.
Equally important, I would argue, is how Gov. Cooper looks, following his performance leading the purple state, North Carolina, through three years without a budget, and finally reaching agreement with the Republican leadership in the legislature this year. Actually, I think that the Governor looks pretty good. Previously, he looked awful, for not being able to reach any agreement or compromise, and for leading the State without finishing the most basic of business, adopting a State budget. This is primary on the state level throughout the United States, for any single, individual state. This is the single most important piece of the people’s business that each state in the Union must attend to. Failure to do so is failing on the most basic responsibility of the people’s business on the state level. The Governor looked pretty bad on this score, until, that is, he reached a compromise with NC Republicans, and found a budget that he and North Carolina Democrats could live with.
What is even more important, I would argue, is why it took so long for Governor Cooper to attain responsible state government, with a current budget. That reason is he was fighting for the working poor of his State, North Carolina, to achieve coverage and access to health care, as newly allowed and encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The pressure is even greater from the federal level now, with the federal government promising to fund most of the expenses for the states (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 12/1/2021, p. 5A). It really is an outrage that we still do not have health insurance coverage or adequate health care for the working poor of North Carolina. We still need Medicaid expansion to provide that care and access. According to a study in 2019, we are talking about an estimated 600,000-plus people in North Carolina alone who lack that coverage and access to adequate health care (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 7/11/2019, on-line). This is truly a noble fight. It is about basic access to health care, especially during the pandemic and during the recovery from the pandemic. I think Governor Roy Cooper is and was justified in taking on this fight, both for himself and for the State of North Carolina. Three years without a state budget is a steep price to pay to stand up for your values. I recommended compromise two years ago, in 2019, in an earlier post on this blog (“North Carolina Still Without Budget, But I-77 Express Lanes in Charlotte Open,” nickpattifeatures.com, 11/18/2019). With the government of North Carolina finally having reached compromise and having achieved a state budget this past November, this fight for basic health care for the working poor looks much better. Governor Roy Cooper did everything in his power to fight this good fight, and although he failed to win on this score, he made significant progress toward this goal in North Carolina, and he still took care of the State’s core business, the budget, in retrospect, as well. More work needs to be done. Hopefully, this new committee, combined with a more welcoming view on the issue from at least one leading state Republican, State Senate leader Phil Berger, can lead to the ultimate adoption of Medicaid expansion. Then we can fill in that crack in the foundation with concrete, properly, and prevent hundreds of thousands of working people in North Carolina from falling through that crack, regarding basic access to adequate health care and regarding finally obtaining health insurance for themselves, where they currently still lack access, even under Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. I think this current situation remains unconscionable. Governor Roy Cooper was right to prioritize this fight, and to continue that fight into the future.
Governor Cooper looks good, as of this past November, and he has now a political future. I wish him the best, for the remainder of his current term, and in whatever endeavor he pursues, after that.
In reaching this agreement on adopting a state budget in North Carolina, elected officials of both parties, Democrat and Republican, finally took care of the people’s business in North Carolina. Although they had been mostly squabbling over this and other issues over the past three years, this past November, they came together, reached an agreement, a compromise, and fulfilled their core responsibility in State government. This November marked a rare moment of bipartisanship in North Carolina, and it was desperately needed.
Now, both parties are returning to their former, usual, partisan ways. Just this past Thursday, December 2nd, Governor Cooper vetoed a Republican-backed bill regarding election integrity or voting rights and ballot access, depending on your perspective (News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 12/3/2021, p. 2A). Aside from your opinion on this issue, my point is that the two parties disagreed once again on this key issue in North Carolina, and thus, basically, returned to partisan squabbling, once again. One outlook for the near future in North Carolina is that the entire NC General Assembly is up for re-election in 2022. That is 170 seats. Up in the air is the possibility that Republicans may or may not need any Democratic votes to override any of Gov. Cooper’s future vetoes, depending on whether NC Republicans win back a supermajority, or not. That is up for grabs in next year’s 2022 elections, according to Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan of the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC, 11/26-27/2021, p. 14A). I support the Democrats in 2022 in North Carolina, and I hope both parties can find it inside themselves in the State to adopt, finally, Medicaid expansion for the working poor.
In Washington, DC, the story was not so much about bipartisanship as it was about Democratic Party unity. Here, however, continued party unity into December, this month, is anybody’s guess. Similar to the bipartisanship in North Carolina, the Democratic Party unity we witnessed in November may well turn out to have been a fleeting phenomenon.
In Washington, DC, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law. This law passed along strict party lines. Prior to the national elections on November 2nd, Democrats were divided, internally, with the progressives and the moderates at odds over the bill. After the election, in which they underperformed, Democrats found the unity to pass President Biden’s infrastructure bill. Next comes President Biden’s even larger social spending package, up for consideration this December. Although Democrats in Washington found unity to pass the infrastructure bill in November, the jury is out whether they can do the same on the social spending bill in December. For the sake of accomplishing President Joe Biden’s agenda, and for the sake of putting forth a better showing for voters ahead of next year’s mid-term elections, I hope the Democrats pass President Joe Biden’s social spending package. The Democrats’ fate next year in the mid-terms may hang in the balance (New York Times, 11/6/2021, p. A1; 11/4/2021, p.A15; “Democratic Voters See Many Losers in Party Schism, and One Winner: Trump,” New York Times, 10/3/2021).
For their part, Republicans were opposed to President Joe Biden’s and the Democrats’ national agenda, marked as it is by large amounts of new federal spending. US Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, put it this way, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal on CNN, “They [the Democrats] are in the midst of an absolutely unprecedented, very damaging spending spree on a scale that we have never seen,” he said. “And they want us to come along and authorize the borrowing to help pay for it when we are totally opposed to what they’re doing” (Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2021, p. A1).
The Democrats’ victory in Washington in passing President Biden’s infrastructure bill in November followed party lines, and was adopted over the protest of the Republican Party. More Democratic Party unity will be required to overcome Republican opposition to President Joe Biden’s social spending bill this December.
Democrats have already won in the US House. On November 19, the House passed the $2 trillion social spending bill, sending it over for consideration to the Senate. “The House on Friday narrowly passed the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, approving $2 trillion in spending over the next decade to battle climate change, expand health care and reweave the nation’s social safety net, over the unanimous opposition of Republicans,” wrote Emily Cochran and Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times (“House Narrowly Passes Biden’s Social Safety Net and Climate Bill,” 11/19/2021).
It is imperative for Democrats to pass this bill in the Senate, and for President Joe Biden to sign it into law, if they are to position themselves for not a loss, but a victory in next year’s mid-term national elections. In the above quote, Cochran and Weisman describe this $2 trillion social spending bill as “the centerpiece” of his agenda. With the poor showing in this year’s national elections, Democrats need to show the voters of the United States that they can deliver, when they control the Congress and the Presidency, as they do now. Otherwise, the Democrats will be seen as a do-nothing party, a party of squabbling factions who cannot achieve their agenda. Republicans would gain from this next year, even more than they already did in this year’s election.
Already, progressive Democrats are breaking from the President and moderate Democrats. President Biden seems unable to pass through Congress, over the unified Republican opposition, any more serious Democratic priorities. These initiatives include proposed legislation on voting rights reform, federally, criminal justice reform, defending abortion rights, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15./hour, and repairing a “broken” immigration system, according to the New York Times (“Democrats Struggle to Energize Their Base as Frustrations Mount,” 11/27/2021). Democrats are seen as falling short of some campaign promises, and “leaving their base unsatisfied and unmotivated before next year’s midterm elections,” according to the New York Times (11/27/2021).
With the Democratic base already uninspired about Democratic victories, it becomes even more imperative that Democrats, nationally, deliver on those legislative priorities that they can, in fact, deliver on. Democrats must pass the “centerpiece” of President Biden’s agenda, the social spending bill, especially if they cannot enact any of these deeper social reforms, nationally. The base is already failing to follow the Democratic Party lead. The voters beyond the Democratic base may question, also, whether the Democratic Party can achieve really anything when they have the opportunity, such as now, to do so. All of these reasons point to the political imperative for the Democrats to pass President’s Biden’s agenda, as much as politically possible, in order to prepare better for next year’s, 2022 mid-term national elections.
In November, 2021, however, we witnessed a moment of Democratic Party unity in Washington, DC. They came together and passed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which included economic and infrastructure investments, and an effort to respond to global warming (New York Times, 11/6/2021, p. A1). Time will tell if the Democrats can continue that party unity into December.
November, 2021, represented a moment of Democratic Party unity in Washington, and a moment of bipartisan achievement in the State of North Carolina. Elected officials were able to accomplish new legislation and take care of the people’s business in Washington and North Carolina this past November. Republicans in Washington would beg to differ. I understand that. The jury is out, however, on whether the Democrats in Washington can continue to deliver, and thus put forward a good face for voters next year, or not. In North Carolina, while I commend both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, for their bipartisan achievement this past November, I doubt sincerely whether that spirit of bipartisanship will continue. In North Carolina, although significant Democratic priorities will probably remain blocked, thanks largely to partisan differences, there remains some hope that one such priority, Medicaid expansion, can be achieved, after the current process of deeper reflection in committee runs its course.
Government in America continues, at this time, largely as it had, previously. We see some accomplishment, and the continued fulfillment of the basic responsibility of government, but we see, also, ongoing partisan divides, and the ongoing inability to reach any deeper level of agreement, at this time. Deeper change remains elusive, but the continuation of the current political and social context appears self-evident.
The only exception I see to this conclusion is the most recent shift in the US Supreme Court on abortion. Roe v. Wade seems as though it may be, once again, in flux. Even then, this potentially significant political shift represents the continuation of an ongoing divide and social struggle in the United States.
Perhaps, after all, in the United States today, there is nothing new under the sun. Except, that is, when something new manages to emerge.