Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 12 through Friday, June 18, 2021 [Vol.2 No.48]
Tectonic Political Shifting
The Week’s Most Notable
This was one of those weeks that needs a review of several events to draw the picture – some important political shifting is underway.
Start with Biden’s G7 and NATO meetings, where he reasserted America’s desire for leadership in the fight for democracy and a recommitment (compared to Trump) for strengthening ties with allies. He left a good impression; few question his administration’s competence, but many wonder if his policies will survive the 2022 midterms. In the new politics of this era, U.S. positioning with the world must include China and Russia, whose influence radically affect NATO and European economics. Even with preserving democracy, it’s a new political world complicated by the presence of populist/authoritarian governments (China, Russia, Hungary, Brazil, UK, Poland, Philippines, Vietnam etc.).
Having reset relationships with U.S. allies, Biden met with Putin. It was carefully staged to allow relatively evenhanded spin while affirming some obvious channels for further discussion, such as nuclear disarmament. Of course, Biden wanted to emphasize a massive shift in policy from Trump’s fawning over Putin to Biden’s post-cold war “détente with sharp elbows.” Now we wait to see to what degree Putin got the message.
Then there was the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which sent a loud message to Republicans: the 7-2 margin was stunning, especially Justices Thomas and Barrett voting with the majority. In effect the court announced it was stupid for the 17 Republican state attorneys general to file as the aggrieved party. The court ruled they had no standing and therefore the case was rejected. For practical purposes, this ruling marks the end of years of efforts to kill the ACA, a huge victory for the Democrats.
Enter Joe Manchin, acknowledged kingpin for Democrats’ legislative hopes. On Thursday he dropped a memo with more than two dozen suggestions for the voting rights acts (For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act). It included items like an end to gerrymandering but also offered ideas for voting ID alternatives. The memo was a major bombshell, because it meant Democrats could coalesce around a new “compromise” voting rights act and demand that Republicans show their true colors. Unfortunately, most of the media pronounced the compromise a dead end, assuming the Republicans would filibuster it. Meanwhile, Manchin was also dropping breadcrumbs about rejecting Republican obstructionism and being in favor of “strengthening of the original idea of the filibuster.” He even let it be known that maybe dropping to 55 votes for cloture could be considered or, more radically, that filibuster would require 41 votes and continuous debate (the Franken/Ornstein proposal). Manchin’s moves suggest some massive negotiations at least among Democrats. It could be the beginning of the end of the crippling Senate legislative logjam.
Finally, the week closed with a symbolic act, the creation of a federal holiday for Juneteenth commemorating the official end of slavery in the U.S. This passed Congress with a huge bipartisan margin, at the same time that many Republican states were passing laws to disadvantage voters of color and even going so far as to ban teaching the history of racism. Does the support of Juneteenth represent a shift in fundamental attitudes toward racism? Obviously not, but having the day will provide a platform for ongoing fulminations about fully addressing American racism.
Saturday, June 12
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,318,232; Deaths: 614,976
[G7 Summit] First Biden-Era G7 Summit Ends with Final Communiqué – Agreements include promises on COVID-19 vaccines, international corporate minimum tax, carbon emission goals, and human rights in China. Although limited in effect, several of these items – especially the minimum corporate tax of 15% – represent a major change in policy, and not only from Trump times. The hand of Biden negotiators in this document is striking.