Politics Update – Feb. 9


Helen Roth

Opinions Editor: Print Daniel de Beer and Lead Opinions Editor Mia George break down the most important political stories of the past week.

Sal Cerrell and Cameron Spurr

Biden eyes bipartisan compromise

In a moment of intense polarization, rare discussion between two political caucuses is refreshing, especially in Washington. But we forget that discussion is simply the first step. Compromise, the barrier that lies next, is even more difficult.

According to the New York Times, this week 10 Republican legislators reached out a hand to President Joe Biden to cooperate on coronavirus relief. Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan includes stimulus checks and other subsidies. Republicans want a much lower sum, so they decided to meet in the middle – sort of. Their counterproposal technically doles out less than one third of Biden’s.

This is the first true touchstone that will show just how unifying Biden can be. So far, he’s proved that at the very least Republicans are willing to meet with him, something former President Donald Trump couldn’t say about Democrats during his four years in the Oval Office. 

Republicans do indeed seem open to passing a third stimulus package. However, their initial proposal of $600 billion or so in injected funds fell way below Biden’s planned package of $1.9 trillion. 

Biden must not let Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her gang of socialist democrats dictate policy.”

However, even if the president can find a compromise somewhere between those two figures, he may well have to further lower his campaign-era promise of $2,000 checks to Americans. The initial proposal outlined last month gave $1,400 payments to Americans; Republicans may well drag the number lower in negotiations with the White House.

According to Bloomberg, Biden believes he would begin his presidency on a broken promise should he fail to pass a bill that gives $2,000 checks to Americans. This could very well stall talks, and thus relief to struggling individuals and businesses.

Despite this, Biden should consider the ramifications of holding out for the $2,000 mark. While he would take a political hit if he compromises the promise, it would come from the progressive wing, a caucus he need not pander towards. Biden must not let Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her gang of socialist democrats dictate policy. Their proposals are not where Americans, much less the Democrats, stand on issues; Biden’s nomination and victory underscore that reality. 

This isn’t to say he should concede to Republicans. $600 billion isn’t nearly enough money to stop the economic bleeding of the pandemic. He also holds control of both houses of Congress and commands a strong 57% approval rating, according to Gallup. However, he shouldn’t risk those two facts by being stubborn. Broadly, everyone prefers something over nothing, even if that something is less than what they were originally promised. 

Biden would also win the favour of Senate Republicans should he work with them on the package. It would open doors to progress on immigration reform, infrastructure and even climate change, all of which are progressive goals. 

The GOP’s newest blemish

The Republican party is dealing with a cancer. Those are not our words – they came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And he’s not referring to “Trumpism,” which his recent actions have shown he also wants killed off. It’s another pest which has infiltrated the GOP: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia. 

The House voted Feb. 4 to expel Taylor Greene from her committee positions. However, only 11 Republicans joined Democrats to do so. Greene’s credibility on key issues is strikingly poor. Despite being on  the education committee, she allegedly believes the children in certain school shootings, such as the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, were “actors.” The Republican Party is in a rough place if all but its 11 House representatives see that as justifiable.

They need to ask themselves: regardless of whether it is a good political tactic or not, should I support having someone on Capitol hill who espouses egregious conspiracy theories previously only reserved for internet kooks?

Despite being on  the education committee, she allegedly believes the children in certain school shootings, such as the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, were “actors.””

Greene has shown how previously cast-aside lunacy has made its way into the mainstream. Establishment Republicans need to accept that this lunacy is no longer a tiny fringe of voters, but a recognizable force in the American right-wing. If they wish to get rid of it, they need to take a stand against Greene’s antics. 

Military coup backslides democracy in Myanmar

30 years ago, under house arrest by the military authority she fought to undermine, Former State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize. Her fight to instate democracy in Myanmar has persisted well into the 21st century, and it was realized when her party, the National League for Democracy, gained a majority in Parliament in 2015. 

Although Suu Kyi’s democratic efforts had paid off during her first term, the military remained a consistent threat to her leadership.”

On Monday, she and many of her allies were detained by the military in a coup, signalling what many view as the end of the democratic experiment she spurred. It was an experiment that seemed to produce promising results. After the NLD gained a supermajority in that 2015 election, the second test proved even more conclusive – a nationwide election held in November 2020 increased the NLD’s power. All was going smoothly.

But the tanks rolling through the streets of Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw this week have put bumps in the road – literally and figuratively, roadblocks have been installed. The military-backed opposition is, to say the least, dissatisfied with the results of the election. Taking up the mantle of the previous U.S. administration, they cried voter fraud. They believe said fraud barred Suu Kyi’s opposition from gaining seats in Parliament.

Although Suu Kyi’s democratic efforts had paid off during her first term, the military remained a consistent threat to her leadership. Most notably, the military stands accused of ethnically cleansing the nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority. The international community saw Suu Kyi as responsible for stopping the crimes, or at least calling for accountability. She remained a bystander, even refusing to admit any wrongdoing by the military. She dodged the world’s inquiries as to what was happening close to the Myanmar-Bangladeshi border, where the majority of the Rohingya were located. With an abysmal handling of the situation, she bruised her political image, one which was quite venerated before the military’s actions forced her hand.  

The implications of the coup are not solely domestic. Foreign actors are eyeing up opportunities, trying to engineer the best possible outcome. For instance, according to the Economist, China called the coup “no more than a major cabinet reshuffle” through state media, indicating they intend to cozy up to the new Burmese regime. 

Naturally, the U.S. will probably throw sanction after sanction at the new regime in an attempt to maintain its role as the democracy police. And any action taken by Washington will, on some level, be in direct response to China’s ambitions. The UN and the U.K. have similarly condemned the military’s actions, per BBC.

For the last five years, Suu Kyi starved the military of the control it is used to. Now that generals are back in charge, the fragile global democratic establishment has lost a member for the foreseeable future.