Last November, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy delivered a very long, rambling speech in an attempt to stall a vote on the Build Back Better Act. He claimed, “Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR,” referring to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man most notable for his welfare-expanding New Deal. He was so popular that he was elected four times.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez then interrupted McCarthy’s speech to say, “I did!”
And I did, too.
But here we are, nearly one year after young people like me helped elect Biden, and we have frustratingly little to show for it.
Biden has yet to cancel student loan debt on any large scale, despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — along with many others — claiming he could do it with the flick of a pen. Build Back Better, which had provisions such as Medicare expansions and universal pre-school, is basically dead, killed by conservatives in both parties.
All of this to say: it’s hard being a leftist in America. There is no legitimate political party that represents us. The mainstream media constantly either refuses to publish our views or blames us for the government’s failures. Our political goals always feel out of reach.
We leftists feel chronic anger at the state of the U.S. every single day. Without fail. One day it’s Nancy Pelosi excusing what essentially amounts to Congressional insider trading by saying, “We’re a free market economy.” The next it’s a drone strike killing innocent people in Afghanistan.
If you’re not a leftist, just step into our shoes for a moment. Imagine you’re anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, pro-democracy and all around in favor of egalitarian politics. Can anyone say they wouldn’t be depressed by the actions of the supposed left-wing party of the United States?
Remember when Donald Trump called Kamala Harris a communist? If only!
It’s hard not to laugh (and cry) at such nonsense. But if you’re an American leftist, not everything is hopeless.
Firstly, our ideas are popular. A majority of Americans say the government has the responsibility to provide healthcare for all, according to Pew Research. Other proposals, such as free college and government funding for child care, are also extremely popular with the public.
Another thing leftists should be excited about is a renewed American labor movement. Last year saw strikes across the country at companies such as John Deere and Kellogg’s. Workers quit their jobs at record rates.
The pandemic, for all its terrible consequences, is perhaps providing one good: class consciousness in American workers. Calling workers “essential” and then paying them starvation wages? The contradictions of capitalism are on full display.
None of this is socialism, of course, but this is how a movement gets off the ground. As leftists, we must continue to agitate and organize. We should still — for the time being — vote for Democrats, but we must drive the party further to the left. One of our goals should be to make the Democratic Party as radical as Republicans claim.
There will always be setbacks and days when you just want to scream, like when Sen. John Kennedy invoked Red Scare-era paranoia during Saule Omarova’s hearing for her nomination to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“I don’t know whether to call you professor or comrade,” Kennedy said, referring to Omarova’s background as an immigrant from the Soviet Union. It was infuriating to see her later withdraw her nomination due to scrutiny over her background.
But I must admit, I take a certain satisfaction in the continued fear of socialism from conservatives. My fellow leftists, when times are hard we must take some pleasure in knowing the spectre is still haunting America — it just refuses to go away.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.