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Democrats Betray Paid Family Leave

In yet another betrayal, the Democrats have taken paid family leave out of their reconciliation bill. This is how the Democrats work: put forward progressive promises when running and then betray them once in office.

Sybil Davis

October 28, 2021
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Photo: Andrew Burton/ Getty Images

Joe Biden has betrayed yet another one of his progressive campaign promises. Reports came in Wednesday night that, in a compromise with the Democratic Party right, paid family leave was out of the much-debated reconciliation bill. This is a major victory for Democratic Party problem child Joe Manchin and a major defeat for Biden’s stated agenda. However, far more important than any of the intra-party squabbling, this is a major blow to working people across the country who are in desperate need of such leave, and is yet another piece of evidence that the Democratic Party is no friend to workers. 

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic, how predictable the Democrats are. Every election cycle they paint themselves as tireless defenders of workers’, women’s, and queer rights but then, the moment the election is over, all of those promises go out the window or are watered down to the point of farce. This is how the Democratic Party operates: they “talk the talk” (or, more specifically, they co-opt progressive slogans) and use it to gain power and then trade away or simply refuse to fight for the agenda that they ran and got elected on — an agenda that was already completely insufficient to address the capitalist crisis. Then, once the next election comes, they wave their hands, hope we’ve forgotten, and point out how much worse the Republicans would be. And, by and large, the very people the Democrats have spent the past few years betraying hold their nose and vote for the Democrats again. This is the abusive cycle of American politics.

The Biden Administration is a perfect example of this. Biden did not, in any way, run as a progressive. But he did, in his campaign agenda and his initial agenda as president, include some concessions to his more progressive base. For example, he proposed widespread college debt forgiveness, paid family leave, and free community college.

All of those promises have been betrayed.

Every. Single. One.

The Democrats are playing their favorite game: blaming the Republicans. But the Democrats control two of the three branches of government, including the executive and both houses of Congress. The fact that they still can’t pass their agenda should be a sign that it was never really their agenda to begin with. 

The Democrats’ real agenda is to maintain capitalist exploitation and to re-legitimize the institutions of the state after Trump. This is why they initially passed and proposed what appeared to be more progressive legislation: they wanted to get out of the crisis fast and rehabilitate the public’s view of the government. So they passed a large stimulus bill, got their positive headlines, and have now completely failed to do anything else. The reconciliation bill, which was supposed to be the domestic policy landmark of the Biden administration, has been watered down and cut by more than half. Every measure that would actually meaningfully help the working class, like student debt forgiveness, paid family leave, or a higher minimum wage, has been left on the cutting room floor.

The Democrats’ allies in the bourgeois media are trying to lay these betrayals solely at the feet of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And, to be sure, these two ultra-reactionaries had their part to play in betraying the working class. But we shouldn’t be too quick to forget that both of these people are elected members of the Democratic Party. To put it another way; the call is coming from inside of the house. 

For all of their speeches in election season — and for all of the progressives’ protestations — the party is, at its core, an imperialist and capitalist party that serves only the interests of the bourgeoisie. They have nothing to offer us and will continue to give us nothing.

This doesn’t mean, however, that workers should throw up their hands and exit the field of politics. That is the secondary goal of the bourgeois parties: to depoliticize and isolate those they can’t co-opt, and to quell the movements in the street that force politicians’ hands. Rather, we should fight to create our own party. A party of revolutionary workers, a party that truly represents the interests of the working class. A party that is grounded in class struggle and revolutionary theory, that understands the strategic use of elections but doesn’t have any illusions about the ability to overthrow capitalism through elections. A party that understands that only organization, cohesion, and discipline will defeat the bourgeoisie. A party that understands that their historical task isn’t to pass this or that piece of legislation but, rather, to organize for the overthrow of this whole rotten system.

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Sybil Davis

Sybil is a trans activist, artist, and education worker in New York City.

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