After four years of fighting just to keep some semblance of the American democracy alive, a final year of fighting just to keep ourselves alive, and a grand finale that included a terrorist attack and the attempted murder of the top elected leaders in our government, it’s easy to see how the mindset has set in that we might not exactly be winning.
Add all of that with the fact that we’re still stuck in a pandemic, the economy is still on thin ice, and the Republican Party is more unapologetically deranged than ever, and it helps create the illusion that we’re still losing. Throw in the reminder we’re all getting this month that constructively governing is slow and tricky even when the good guys are in charge, and it’s easy to understand everyone’s frustration.
But I’m going to tell you something controversial: we are in fact winning. And we’re not just winning in small or isolated ways, either. Remember all those executive orders President Biden signed during the first week? They’ve restored rights, fixed many of the wrongs of the previous four years, and saved lives. The COVID relief bill is about to pass, and while it may not include the minimum wage provision, we managed to get every dollar we wanted into the bill – and it’s all going to the right places.
Russia is openly pissed off that President Biden blew up a Syrian ammo dump in order to get a terror cell to cool its heels. Stop and think about how much of a breakthrough it is that Russia is actually pissed off at the United States. That went four years without happening. Republicans are having meltdowns at CPAC about transgender rights, because we’re in the process of finally making transgender rights happen. We’re also going to make voting rights happen, and yes, the minimum wage will end up happening one way or the other.
So why exactly do we think we’re still losing? Part of it may be that the media spent four years portraying Trump and the Republicans as being able to get their way on everything they wanted, by a simple wave of a magic wand. In reality this was never the case. Despite having majority control, Trump and the GOP only managed to carry out a fraction of their desired agenda, and only by grinding it out. Remember all the times we dragged out a bill or a nomination that the GOP wanted to pass, even though they had the majority? Now they’re doing that to us. Those are the “checks and balances” that in any other context we’d be applauding.
After four years of losing, and four years of (incorrectly) being told that the other side was magically doing everything it wanted to do, here we are in charge – and it turns out to be an incremental grind. But government is always a grind, for whichever side might be in charge. In politics, this is what winning and progress look like. It’s never about foot stomping or instant gratification.
You have to fight for the opportunity to be in charge, and then once you’re in charge, you have to fight to make things happen. If you want instant gratification, or you’re only interested in complaining that good things aren’t happening as cleanly as you’d like, then politics isn’t the right arena for you. The cold hard reality is that we are in fact winning.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report