For all the promises Democratic candidates made in their campaign runs, the election victories and resulting control of the executive and legislative branches of the government have not led to the progress that many expected. Instead, the platform that Democrats have espoused for the past four years seems to be nothing but virtue signaling. For a good part of the last two decades, maintaining the status quo appears the motto of the party, while an outwardly fascist Republican Party continues to pull Democrats further to the right.
A perfect encapsulation of this trend has been the aggressive immigration policies, which have necessitated the use of detention camps, often resulting in squalid living conditions for asylum seekers. Beyond the reports of disease, insufficient food and shelter, as well as accusations of abuse at the hands of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the government has been unable to reunite over 500 children with their parents after separating them at the border. Rather than reversing this abhorrent practice, Democrats have instead re-opened controversial emergency holding camps for children while still removing them from their parents. While a step up from the prison-like conditions in Border Patrol stations, this is little more than the legislative equivalent of polishing a turd.
This era of Democrat control has been ushered in under the backdrop of economic strife and an ongoing pandemic, two issues on which Democrats were largely critical of Republicans. While vaccinations have increased in recent weeks, we are still largely uncertain about when the pandemic crisis will end. In the meantime, millions of Americans continue to struggle with making ends meet. Unlike other nations who provided welfare to citizens on a regular basis, the United States opted for two, one-time stimulus payments. As we are now in the eleventh month of the pandemic, it is truly a wonder as to how the government thought that payments totaling $1800 would suffice for individuals who may have lost their jobs or have had to take care of their relatives during this time. Democrats advocated for additional $2000 checks to be sent out as soon as President Biden entered office, but that has yet to be seen. Despite having a Senate majority, Democrats have allowed for their stimulus checks to be reduced to $1400 in initial negotiations and soon, I imagine, they will forget about this promise altogether. Meanwhile, the voter base who they rely on, namely people of color, will continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
Beyond the pandemic, there is now rather widespread support for a $15 minimum wage among the public. It has been 12 years since the last federal minimum wage increase and the current minimum wage has been proven time and time again as too little an amount of money to survive. Now that the stage is set for Democrats to act on this momentum from the public, President Biden has quietly told governors that the wage hikes are unlikely to happen, essentially killing the prospect of lifting more Americans out of poverty. Further, Biden has also shied away from making effective declarations concerning the elimination of student loan debt. Just over a month into his presidency, he has backtracked from previous promises, almost as if he never meant it in the first place.
What is so beyond frustrating is that Democrats are essentially debating themselves. They propose a policy, then water it down before it even reaches Congress. When you play to compromise, you can never win. Sure, the majority in the Senate isn’t filibuster-proof, but isn’t it worth it to at least make an effort to introduce bills and act on policies that you spent four years discussing? These next few years stand to be a crucial period for American governance. With Republicans split between conservatism and Trumpism, the time is now for Democrats to stand for something besides the status quo.
Ben Borrok is a School of Communication junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.