Jan 23, 2022 • 1HR 8M

Theory of Change #034: Heather Digby Parton on Joe Biden's first year as president

Do Joe Biden and his team realize who they’re dealing with?


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
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Episode Summary

It’s a bit hard to believe that one year ago, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. A lot has happened during that timespan but a lot has also not happened.

As of this week, Biden and the Democratic majority in the Senate have confirmed 41 federal judges, the most ever for a president’s first year in office.

He also led a successful effort to make vaccines against Covid-19 freely available everywhere in America through the American Rescue Plan Act which also ramped up funding for manufacturing and deployment of scientific testing for the SARS2 coronavirus. No Republican in Congress voted for the law in either chamber of Congress when it passed in March of 2021.

Biden and Democrats also passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which included $550 billion in new federal spending for improvements in roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging, and broadband internet. The law was originally supposed to be passed in tandem with another bill, the Build Back Better Act, which has not passed. Both bills have been under constant opposition by congressional Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who figured out decades ago that a do-nothing Congress actually helps the GOP.

The Republican opposition has been greatly helped by the persistence of the Senate’s filibuster rule which, as currently interpreted, makes almost all legislation face a 60-vote hurdle. Most state legislatures in America don’t have filibusters and most national Democratic Senators say they want to end the outdated rule, but two of them, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have publicly committed to helping Republicans stymie President Biden, and also to opposing his more progressive proposals.

Did it have to be this way, however? What could Biden have done differently? Or is that the wrong question to ask?

Joining me to talk about this today is Heather Digby Parton, she’s a columnist for Salon.com and also one of the original bloggers on the internet. She’s been operating her site, Digby’s Hullabaloo, for 19 years now.

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