Politics Update – March 12

Lead+Opinions+Editor+Mia+George+and+Opinions+Editor%3A+Print+Daniel+de+Beer+break+down+the+most+important+political+stories+of+this+past+week.

Helen Roth

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

Sal Cerrell and Cameron Spurr

The Master of the Senate

In divided government, compromise yields progress. Though the recent passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on party lines may have blurred that fact, its reality will soon become clear as President Joe Biden moves to pass more expensive parts of his agenda. As much as Democrats hate to admit it, Republican votes will be necessary under the power-sharing agreement they signed onto. 

The pathway to a GOP-Biden backed bill will likely be through moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. The West Virginia senator has prided himself on his unique ability to work across the aisle and remains a small relic of bipartisanship. This has awarded him a unique position in the party: a popular blue senator in a deeply red state. It will also make him the most powerful person in the senate and the most important senator Biden must woo. 

As Biden signed the stimulus bill into law March 11, he moved quickly to define his next legislative moves on both infrastructure and voting laws. These bills, as warned by Manchin, must receive some Republican votes in order for Manchin to sign on as well. More liberal parts of the legislation, such as clean energy infrastructure and expansion of voting for minorities will likely see their scope watered down. 

Compromise is the necessity to progress. In the current political climate, this attribute is hard to find, and Joe Manchin is someone who can catalyze it.”

More progressive members of the party will butt heads with this sentiment. House Democrats, unconcerned by backlash from Republicans in their state, will continue to pass legislation that forces Manchin to cast votes that might sink progresive wish list items which have no chance of passing in the Senate and are deeply unpopular with his constituents. This will put him at odds with those progressive members and the Democratic party itself as many look to root out any moderate members. However, his value to the party and the White House must not be overlooked. 

Manchin’s votes will likely decide both whether or not Biden’s agenda will pass and the extent to which it will be bipartisan. Republicans are already hesitant, for reasons unknown, to vote for any Democratic-backed bills. Not a single GOP Senator or House member voted for the stimulus bill, which was popular amongst most Americans. Manchin’s signature will be increasingly important to bring Republicans to the table.

As this column loves to note each week, compromise is the necessity to progress. In the current political climate, this attribute is hard to find, and Manchin is someone who can catalyze it. Democrats must recognize this fact should they hope to retain their congressional majorities in next years’ elections.

‘Quad’ summit shows subtle effort to manage Chinese influence

China and the U.S. are equally notorious for making enemies and not just of one another. Beijing’s list of enemies includes the four members of the “Quad”: Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. Geographically, India and Japan have the most pressing worries about growing Chinese influence, and yet the U.S., which lies thousands of miles away, has established itself among the four as the primary geopolitical opponent to China’s ever-expanding strength.

However, even as a country with significant influence of its own, the U.S. depends on these nations to manage China’s power. Amid an unrelenting trade war, Biden has turned to the Quad nearly two months into office.

The Quad is short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. It’s a loosely defined military and strategic alliance intent on managing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. In its brief history, this will be the first summit where all heads of state will meet. Therefore, the summit March 12 probably represents the biggest tactical opportunity for the Quad. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Quad’s diplomatic relationship will become “closer than ever before” as a result of the summit. Ironic, given the summit is conducted virtually.

Perhaps they don’t want to poke the bear – appearing too threatening will increase unwanted tension and in turn, Beijing’s aggression.”

Further, Modi said beyond discussing collaborative efforts in tackling the pandemic, the Quad is “united by our democratic values and our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.” Covertly, Modi seems to allude to Chinese action in the Indo-Pacific being blatantly unfree, closed and exclusive.

Oddly, in their statements prior to the summit, not one of the four powers made any mention of China. Perhaps they don’t want to poke the bear – appearing too threatening will increase unwanted tension and in turn, Beijing’s aggression. Not to mention there are other concerns to discuss, such as the COVID-19 vaccine, so China may not even be the main focus.

Exactly how the Chinese Communist Party will respond to this ramped-up coalition effort to undermine them is unclear. But calling the alliance emblematic of a “poisonous” Cold War mentality gives some indication to their general opinion. Individually, Asian countries surrounding China are skittish in their confrontation. Sure, India fires a few bullets over their Himalayan border every now and then, but massive strategic campaigns are uncommon.

China’s bullyish advances in Asia are well-documented, but nonetheless difficult to counter. The Quad summit has the capability of devising a plan which does.