“Thank You Brandon,” and “Thank You Congressman Ro Khanna”—November 9, 2021
Right-wingers brag about their obscene rallying cry against President Biden, “Let’s go Brandon.” Many pundits are blathering that GOPers, with this hate-filled slogan, will continue their VA “victories” in the 2022 mid-terms throughout the nation because Democrats have no competent “answer” to this fiery cursing. Get real! After 11/05/2021, which side has true bragging rights? Democrats have finally delivered on the infrastructure week that Demagogue Donald bragged about for four long years but never came through on. On 11/05/2021, nearly one year before the networks officially declared Biden President, (11/07/2020), the House by a vote of 228-206, including that of 13 Republicans, passed the first part of Biden’s massive infrastructure bill, the $1.2 trillion BIF or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. Democrats now have turned the Brandon GOP slogan on its head. “Team Blue’s” new hashtag? “#Thank You Brandon (kos.com, GoodNewsRoundup, 11/06/21).” This bill, with the support of 19 GOP Senators, easily cleared the Senate in 8/2021. It even received a “YEA” vote from obstructionist hyper-partisan Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), (cnbc.com, Pramuk, 8/20/21, Zelizer,cnn.com, 11/06/21, cnn.com, Collinson,11/08/21). This BIF bill then went to the House. Twice, in 9/2021 and 10/2021, House members, led by the Congressional Progressive, aka “Purist” Caucus of nearly 100 members, under Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), refused to pass this bill. Why? They wanted it attached at the hip to the larger social safety net Build Back Better (BBB) bill. They wanted the BBB bill, yet to be completed, voted on before the very popular and desperately needed BIF one. Jayapal and Company’s dithering was played 24/7 all over national media and networks. Jayapal’s misguided “strategy” made the Democratic party look like it was in disarray, hung up on ideology, and unwilling to listen to their Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their President, Joe Biden. Jayapal and her gang held this much needed and very popular BIF bill hostage, stunts normally used by the GOP. Progressives believed that the Senate would decide to kill the BBB altogether should the BIF pass alone, a debatable proposition. Any BBB legislation would have to go through the Senate via the reconciliation process. Reconciliation would require the votes of all 50 Senate Democrats with VP Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote to avoid a GOP filibuster. House Democrats practically demanded that conservatives Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) take a “blood oath” to pass the BBB and give in to all their demands on progressive BBB legislation. This progressive-caused deadlock dragged down Biden’s poll numbers and helped cost Democrat Terry McAuliffe the governorship of VA. McAuliffe begged congressional Democrats to pass this bill so he could talk about his party enacting helpful legislation for his state. Instead, GOP winner Glenn Youngkin was able to successfully play the race card and not be countered by any Democratic accomplishments. Youngkin attacked VA schools for introducing books by black authors that rightfully condemned slavery, and went after the extremist CRT, Critical Race Theory, a program never used in VA schools.
After the 11/02/2021 VA “wake up” call and closer than expected NJ governor’s race that popular Dem. Phil Murphy barely won, most Democrats understood that they had better pass these “damn infrastructure bills” ASAP. Still, three days after the VA debacle, progressives and moderate House Democrats were still tussling over passage of these bills as if nothing had happened. It took pressure by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), more pressure from Speaker Pelosi, and, Biden finally speaking to every one of the Congressional Progressive members, including stubborn Jayapal, to assure them that he was “on their side” and to pass the bill (See politico.com, Lizza & Daniels, 11/06/2021). Progressives finally allowed the BIF bill to pass first. They “conceded” that the BBB bill would be voted on later in November (See politico.com, 11/06/21). In the end, only the most “far out leftist extremists” in the Progressive Caucus, the “Squad” of six, including Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) shamefully defied Pelosi and Biden (See politico.com, Lizza et al).
The BIF bill then made its way to Biden’s desk, which he will soon rightfully sign with much fanfare. What’s in this much needed BIF bill that will be the greatest improvement in our infrastructure in decades? For starters, this bill will provide $110 billion for roads and bridges. In addition, $73 billion is in this legislation to upgrade the electric grid as well as $60 billion for rail, both passenger and freight. There will be $65 billion for broadband, including rural broadband. Democrats, who are having repeated trouble getting rural votes, must emphasize what they passed here to that constituency. Included in the BIF are $55 billion for water quality, $50 billion for climate change measures, and $21 billion for environmental cleanup. Yes, despite Sen. Joe Manchin’s grousing about helping the environment, he voted for these measures. There will be $15 billion for electric vehicles, $39 billion for public transit, and much needed $42 billion for ports and airports (politico, Lizza, et al, 11/06/21). Biden’s chief-of-staff Ron Klain tweeted out a photo saying “Democrats in array.” Remember in 2020 when then VP Biden called passage of Obamacare a “Big F—ing Deal? Well, first granddaughter Naomi Biden stated after the BIF bill passed, “This is a Big F—ing Deal (politico, Lizza et al).” Exactly.
In the end, House Progressive Caucus Chair Jayapal and many of her allies couldn’t, according to a Democratic source, sustain the pressure from POTUS Biden and Speaker Pelosi (politico.com, Lizza et al). Success/good news often begets more success. On the same 11/05/2021 that the BIF bill finally passed the House, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the nation’s economy added 531,000 jobs in 10/2021, and the unemployment rate dropped from 4.8%- 4.6%. When Biden took office, the unemployment rate stood at a horrendous 6.3% (americanindependent.com, Israel, J., 11/05/21). And there is additional success on the COVID-19 front. According to Biden’s chief-of-staff Ron Klain, at least 70% of Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. BTW, not all members of the House Progressive Caucus were rigidly against passing the BIF bill first. Biden had many private allies in that caucus who were helping him reach his goal. One of those members was Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, a very influential lawmaker in progressive circles. When the attempt to pass the BIF bill failed in 10/2021, Cong. Khanna had said that he trusted Biden’s word. He told Fox News that when Biden stated that he “had the commitment of 50 Senators, and those 50 Senators are going to vote for this bill and here are the details, that that’s good enough. I don’t think that proceduralism will hold us back (cnn.com, Collinson, 10/25/21).” When the BIF bill finally passed on 11/05/2021, Khanna was delighted. A very decent fellow in sharing the joy of victory, Khanna praised Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Progressive Caucus member Cong. Joe Neguse (D-CO) for their hard work in getting this bill passed. Khanna spoke of getting inflation down by having better paying and more dignified jobs, something this BIF bill will do (See mobiletwitter.com/rokhanna). Meet Cong. Khanna.
Third-term Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna (45) currently represents California’s 17th Congressional District (CD). The CA 17th includes central San Jose and that city’s suburbs in Northern CA. It curves around the southern tip of San Francisco Bay and the Don Edwards National Forest, named for a former long-time liberal member of the House Judiciary Committee. The CA 17th consists of the city of Santa Clara, and a northern wedge of Santa Clara County. The 17th is one of three congressional districts that are based largely or entirely in Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County is CA’s sixth largest county and the largest one north of Los Angeles. A few decades ago, the area included in CA’s 17th consisted mostly of orchards and vineyards. San Jose was then the largest fruit-packing center. Today, this area is the heart of Silicon Valley with a population of over 1.9 million people. Subdivisions, shopping centers, and the office buildings of large high-tech companies have replaced the orchards (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). The CA 17th includes part of Alameda County. The cities of Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Milpitas, Newark, and the majority of Fremont are in the CA 17th. The 17th includes Santa Clara University. The corporate headquarters of Apple are in Cupertino. LinkedIn houses its “net zero energy” campus in Sunnyvale. The corporate headquarters of Intel and Yahoo are also part of the 17th. Tesla Motors also started out in the 17th’s Fremont in Alameda County (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Both Cupertino and Milpitas are 2/3 Asian American. The CA 17th CD is 56% Asian American, and climbing, the largest Asian American percentage of any district in CA. Its median household income of $147, 671 is second in the nation. Biden clobbered Trump here in 2020 by 46 points, 72%-26%. There are many Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in the 17th as well as Mexican ones. Hispanics make up over 16% of the 17th CD. The latest Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the 17th a “y uu ge” D+24 score (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Ro Khanna is a Philadelphia, PA native. Like Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, he is a Hindu who traces his ancestry to the Indian subcontinent. Khanna’s parents had emigrated from India to seek a better life for their children, a very American story. Politics and political activism are in Khanna’s “DNA.” Khanna’s father was an electrical engineer, his mother a substitute school teacher. In India, Khanna’s maternal grandfather had joined Mahatma Gandhi’s independence movement and had been imprisoned for several years for promoting human rights. Grandson Ro Khanna received his economics undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1998 and a 2001 law degree from Yale University. Khanna was a volunteer in Barack Obama’s successful bid for the Illinois state Senate in 1996. Khanna worked for a Silicon Valley law firm where he specialized intellectual property. He wrote a book arguing that manufacturing is still the key to America’s future. He taught economics at Stanford and law at Santa Clara University (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2004, Khanna unsuccessfully ran in a primary against Democrat incumbent Cong. Tom Lantos for a Bay area seat. During Obama’s first presidential term, Khanna served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Commerce Department. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Khanna to the CA Workforce Investment Board. In 2014, Khanna unsuccessfully ran for another Bay Area congressional seat, but lost a general election to incumbent Democrat Mike Honda by 3.6 percentage points. However, the third time “became the political charm” for Khanna. Khanna ran against Honda again in 2016. This time, Honda, hurt by ethics charges, was clobbered by Khanna in the general election for the 17th CD by 22 points (Cohen & Cook 2022). Khanna handily crushed his GOP opponents in both 2018 and 2020 by margins of 45% and 42% respectively (washingtonpost.com,11/07/18, Cohen & Cook 2022).
In the House, Khanna calls himself a “progressive capitalist (vox.com, Klein, E., 5/01/19).” He is one of the six House members and ten members of Congress who state they do not take campaign contributions from political action committees (PACS) or corporations (politico.com, 7/12/17). Although he often advocates for the tech industry, the economic heavyweight in his district, he has criticized high tech for failing to do a “better job dispersing the concentration of economic opportunity to minority groups and rural areas.” He chairs the Environmental Subcommittee in the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Khanna’s support for Biden’s BIF bill with its environmental provisions demonstrates that this bill has a strong environmental component or he wouldn’t have backed it (See, Cohen & Cook, 2022 Almanac, CQ, 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips, cnn.com, politico, Lizza et al).
Khanna is interested in and pushes progressive issues. In 2019, Khanna was vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He is now one of nine Deputy Whips in the Progressive Caucus (progressives.house.gov/caucus -members). Khanna was named a national co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign (Cohen & Cook 2022, @Joe Perticone, 2/21/19). Initially, Khanna opposed the 2020 Democratic platform because it failed to support Sanders’ “Medicare for all” proposal. However, Khanna, ultimately supported Biden in 2020 “as the bridge to the next progressive era (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).” Khanna is, in effect, a “pragmatic progressive.” He is willing to listen to arguments from other Democrats and go along with them. He is not a “my way or the highway progressive,” a view that hurts Democrats trying to get legitimate legislation via compromise. IMHO, Khanna understands that compromise is the key to successful legislation. Khanna knows that in order to succeed, Democrats must compromise on issues and not remain unmovable “purists” checking ideological boxes, a “bridge to legislative failure” that can hurt “Team Blue” in the 2022 midterms.
Khanna worked with former Sec. of State and now Biden’s environmental point person John Kerry to push for the U.S. winning the “green energy race.” Khanna analogizes the U.S. winning the space race to our winning control over the environment (nytimes.com, 12/09/19). He worked with GOPers, including hard-liner Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen (2022 Cohen & Cook Almanac). Indian-American Khanna has called upon every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism and reject the extreme nationalist Hindutva group in India and to speak for equal rights for members of all religions. In addition to being a member of the India Caucus, Khanna is a member of the Pakistan Caucus, India’s often-time foe. Khanna wants better relations among the two countries, even though many Indian-Americans have criticized Khanna for his Pakistan Caucus membership (economictimes.indiatimes.com, 9/17/19, khannahouse.gov). Fellow Indian-American Pramila Jayapal was just one of 17 House members to vote against a bill condemning the BDS or boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning Israel, a bill with anti-Semitic overtones. Cong. Khanna rightly voted to condemn BDS and endorse a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He voted to fund Israel’s Iron Dome, a joint-U.S. Israel project that has protected both Israelis and Arabs in Israel from missile attacks by the terrorist group Hamas that controls nearby Gaza (Pink, forward.com, 7/24/21, newsweek.com, Roche, 9/24/21). Khanna remains a strong progressive and has only voted with Demagogue Donald’s stands just 13.4% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com). Cong. Khanna has received 100% ratings from the NRAL pro-choice and Planned Parenthood groups. He received a Zero score from the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List (Vote Smart). Many fellow progressives rightly follow Khanna’s lead on major policy issues.
Biden has one more major piece of legislation coming up quickly, the BBB (Build Back Better) social safety net legislation that progressives and much of the American public want. This legislation will be much harder to pass than the BIF part of Biden’s infrastructure act because no GOPers will back BBB. Many legislators, including conservative Joe Manchin (D-WVA), are hoping to pass this bill just before Thanksgiving. However, many hard compromises and trade offs will be involved here, especially for progressives. A recent CNN poll, taken just before the BIF bill passed (11/01-11/04/2021), gave Biden just a 48% approval rating to a 52% disapproval one. Those against Biden in this poll strongly disapprove of him. And Democrats are the ones upset with Biden. While 95% of Democratic adults 65 and older approve of Biden’s performance, those under age 30, a key group that gave him victory in 2020, only approve of him by 61 percentage points, and, presently, show little enthusiasm toward him (Agiesta & Edwards, cnn.com, 11/08/21). For Democrats to keep the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms, these numbers must be reversed. Democrats must show this group that they have accomplished much, or the “under 30’s” will stay home from the polls. VA and NJ elections were warning signs that Democratic congressional bickering constitutes political suicide. Democrats, with the likes of Cong. Khanna in their ranks, finally “got the message” and passed the BIF bill. This big win, the declining unemployment rates, and a new COVID-19 antiviral pill will, according to Democratic strategist David Axelrod, help change the “Biden and Democrats are doomed narrative (cnn.com, 11/07/21, Galant).” Signing the BIF bill will be a start in reversing these bad poll numbers. Unlike their failure to puff the passage of Obamacare, Biden and his fellow Democrats will have to brag ceaselessly between now and 11/2022 about BIF. They must also pass the “damn BBB bill” ASAP and similarly tout that legislation. In the meantime, “Thank You Brandon (POTUS Biden)” and “Thank You Pragmatic Progressive Congressman Ro Khanna.”