The political bumbling by the Senate and White House Democratic leadership in the last two weeks have only driven down the numbers of the ambitious ‘Build Back Better’ agenda of the Biden White House. This bill, which is a down payment on making the U.S. into a basic social democracy in line with the rest of the G20, should have passed in May, on a 50+1 vote in the Senate and then the Republicans could have until the 2022 midterms to complain about a fait accompli.
Instead, we are on the verge of letting the lack of party discipline cost the day, especially the hapless Senate Majority Leader (for now), Chuck Shumer. He seems to see his role as the concierge of the Senate, not as a tough cookie like LBJ or Harry Reid, who would be exacting pounds of flesh out of recalcitrant centrist Democrats instead of being their errand boy. I’m going to focus today mostly on local politics, so I don’t blow a gasket commenting on how the national Democratic leadership is fumbling the bag for all of us and effectively ending the Biden presidency.
On a cheerier local note, per the estimable IT reporter Christian Kallen, October 14th, 2021: “Almost five years after the City of Sonoma approved a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in a November 2016 special election, the State of California followed suit. Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed into law a bill that would outlaw the use of gas-powered lawn equipment – aptly categorized as small off-road engines, or SORE.” What a great acronymic rhetorical device! Two-stroke engines are an environmental and quality of life abomination, whether on leaf blowers or on those infernal motorized scooters, which should all be banned and impounded and sent to the scrapyard.
All the dedicated local activists on the local ‘Ban the Gas Blower’ campaign, including my friend Georgia Kelley and her friends Sarah Ford and Laurie Gallian and a cast of hundreds that pushed it through in 2016 should be taking a victory lap right now. When you see your small city policy objective ultimately inscribed into state law, that‘s called winning big time. My respects.
I will admit that I stayed aloof from that campaign. I was skeptical at the time that the leaf blower campaign would just get tagged as a PMC (Professional Managerial Class) non-structural lifestyle issue that could ultimately blow up into a culture war deadlock with conservatives. I was wrong on that one. It turns out to be pretty popular.
The prior thread on local landmark victories excited a Proustian memory of local campaigns past, although those memories are not as sweet as Proust’s madeleines and tea.
In the November 2013 Special Election, Measure B failed, to the surprise of many of the proponents who had a long stretch of wins up to that point. The X-Factor that altered the typical political trajectory of the localist greens in that campaign was the quiet deployment of labor’s formidable platoon of canvassers.
I still believe that I was on the right side of history on that issue. The union team had negotiated an agreement with the ownership group to create, by arrangement, the first union hotel in the county to serve as the model living-wage baseline that the labor organizers were keen to make the industry standard throughout the Wine Country.
The takeaway from that 2013 campaign for me was the necessity of building a strong Blue/Green Alliance that can work to resolve the political tensions between two natural allies, labor unions, and environmental organizations. We need close contacts at the leadership level of the progressive institutions in the county to maintain unity. That coalition can defeat the business lobby of the Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance, Farm Bureau, and the non-union North Coast Builder’s Exchange in this county. That’s a worthy project for 2022!