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Protesters hang a banner reading Biden Protect Abortion, from a crane at a construction site at North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue NE, in the NoMa neighborhood on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Boiling Like Frogs in a Pot, Will Democratic Leaders Ever Jump Out?

What remains clear about our murky future is that these are pivotal months within crucial years, for the entwined fates of our democracy and our planet.

In times like this, I find myself suspicious of language. The very act of stringing sentences together seems to aid and abet inertia; there is something far too "business as usual" about paragraphs. On Friday I sweated in a sea of protestors. We gathered to share our grief, our rage, our exhaustion. What was missing was a plan. The sound system wasn't working, or was too weak to reach most of the crowd; we stood and listened to the distant crackle of magnified anguish we couldn't quite make out, and we cheered when others cheered, and we read each other's signs, and we fervently, ironically, sadly, gratefully agreed. But now what?

The problem is that Biden put his own blinkers on, so he could pretend that what we need is a "return to normalcy." And we can't wait around for him to take them off.

A block away from the protest, a truck had knocked over an elderly man, who lay in the middle of the street with his head bleeding. Others who had left the protest used their signs about reproductive freedom to block oncoming traffic, while several people stood in the middle of the intersection and directed cars around him. Together these strangers cleared the bottleneck of cars so that the ambulance could reach him. 

We protect us. But we have to learn how to scale it up, and fast. 

In case you haven't already seen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's excellent Saturday thread on how "the ruling is Roe, but the crisis is democracy," and "leaders must share specific plans for both," here are her seven proposals for next steps from the legislative and executive branches:

  • Restrain judicial review

  • Expand the court

  • Clinics on federal lands

  • Expand education and access to Plan C

  • Repeal Hyde

  • Hold floor votes codifying Griswold, Obergefell, Lawrence, Loving, etc

  • Vote on Escobar's bill protecting clinics

Two of these proposals are specifically within the purview of the executive branch: opening abortion clinics on federal (not tribal) lands, and expanding education and access to Plan C. All of them are worth fighting for. 

On Sunday Bill McKibben proposed a novel idea for how Joe Biden could save America: board the presidential train car, and travel from state to state all the way up to the midterms like Harry Truman did, campaigning against the filibuster and corporate greed and Republicans who would happily strip from us every hard-fought-for protection. Here's how McKibben sells it:

You need a story line. You're putting it all on the line. You've turned your life upside down to save ours. You're seeing every inch of the beautiful nation you're trying to save. It's a drama, a man in a last-ditch battle for the America he's spent his life serving. Harry Truman, whistle stop after whistle stop, said he cared more about "the common people" than about "the interests of the men who have all the money." So do you. But so far mostly theoretically. Now's your chance to get the hell out of Washington and prove it.

To me, it seems one of the main obstacles to Biden taking such a tact is that he doesn't want to believe that America is actually teetering at the brink, on the verge of a terrible downslide. If he did—if he saw that everything he loved about this country was on the chopping block—how could he ignore the call to save the day? But the problem is that Biden put his own blinkers on, so he could pretend that what we need is a "return to normalcy." And we can't wait around for him to take them off.

Other Emergencies

Over a month ago, Congress approved $40 billion dollars in emergency aid for Ukraine, including $5 billion for global food aid, $4.35 billion of which was supposed to be "disaster assistance funding," quickly aiding populations experiencing dire food shortages as Russia blockades Ukrainian food exports. Weeks later, USAID still hasn't distributed any of that emergency money. 

Lawmakers have pressed USAID head Samantha Powell on the delay, and gotten no real explanation other than "logistical challenges." The US government needs to drastically improve its emergency procedures for staving off and remedying shortages, at home and abroad. This is an opportunity for USAID to dismantle bureaucratic and logistical hurdles that typically plague emergency aid, and create a blueprint for coming years, as the climate crisis alone guarantees that shortages are about to become a lot more common. 

The Environmental Integrity Project recently released a report on the consequences of Biden's decision to push increased exports of LNG (methane gas) in response to Putin's war on Ukraine, and the ensuing energy crisis. The findings are terrifying: the 25 new and expanding LNG terminals in the U.S. could emit more than 90 million tons of greenhouse gasses a year, or as much pollution as all the traffic in Florida or New York. And that's only the emissions from the terminals themselves—not from drilling, fracking, or eventually burning the gas. 

The Washington Post reported Monday that methane emissions in the Permian Basin, the nation's largest oil-and-gas-producing area, "jumped 33 percent from the previous quarter, and soared by 47 percent from the first quarter a year earlier." Worldwide, methane emissions are rising fast, heedless of the Global Methane Pledge from last year to cut methane emissions 30 percent by 2030.

We might look back someday at the administration's decision in March 2022 to respond to the developing energy crisis by doubling down on domestic fossil fuels as a step into "a clearly more sinister dimension." Whatever the turning point that resonates most with you, what remains clear about our murky future is that these are pivotal months within crucial years, for the entwined fates of our democracy and our planet. 

Hannah Story Brown

Hannah Story Brown

Hannah Story Brown is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project.

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