Voices: Why progressives won’t pressure Biden on strikes – while Matt Gaetz runs the GOP

Business in Congress ended on Thursday with Republicans in the House of Representatives getting no closer to an agreement. By the time your dispatcher left the Capitol, Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the far right firebrand who took Kevin McCarthy to 15 rounds to make him speaker, was meeting with House Majority Whip Tom Emmer in his office.

Gaetz waltzed into the office after the House failed to pass a rule to begin the process of passing the annual defence spending bill for the second time this week. Keep in mind that this version of the bill has absolutely zero chance of passing the US Senate.

This is purely an effort by Mr McCarthy to let his most right-wing members act like they did something before he ultimately does what he did with the debt limit: rely on Democrats to help pass the rule and then the final legislation to avert disaster.

Conversely, my colleague Alex Woodward reported this week that President Joe Biden faced pressure from some activists to join members of the United Auto Workers who are picketing. The Washington Post reported that some are nervous about the fact that Donald Trump would join striking workers. Mr Trump, of course, shocked the world in 2016 when he won Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan largely by virtue of his criticism of free trade deals and the decline of manufacturing that he blended in with his xenophobia and racism against immigrants.

But on Capitol Hill, progressive Democrats were more skittish about whether he should join.

“Anybody and everybody should stand with them,” Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a member of the Squad and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Independent. “But I think he's put out statements. He's been very supportive. If his schedule allows, I think it would be significant for him to do that.”

Sen John Fetterman (D-PA), who last weekend travelled to Detroit to support striking workers and has fashioned himself as a pro-labour Democrat, delivered a more humorous dodge.

“Again I don't give advice except on fashion,” he told The Independent, as much of the Senate continues to crow about changing the dress code to accommodate his preference for shorts and Carhartt shirts as opposed to suits.

Rep Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who represents Detroit and many of the auto workers who are striking, was more vocal.

“I'm tired of everybody politicizing the future of the industry that I've care about,” she told The Independent. “So I think it's a distraction to keep having this debate. And I care about what's happening at the table.”

Back in 2016, Ms Dingell, the widow of the longtime former Democratic congressman John Dingell, warned Democrats they were taking Michigan for granted before Mr Trump’s unexpected victory. But she told me that Mr Biden was sufficiently supporting the striking workers.

“But I think he's, you know, he's made it clear that he's standing with the workers, but I don't think he should intervene,” Ms Dingell said.

So what gives? Why do a sliver of the most right-wing members of the GOP get to hold the entire House of Representatives and future funding for the government hostage while progressives don’t petition “Union Joe” to appeal to organised labour?

A big reason for this is because of the makeup of the respective party bases. No clearer example of this comes than whom the two parties nominated in recent years: Republican voters picked Mr Trump largely because he appealed to the most right-wing base instincts of the GOP.

As I’ve written before, most Republicans identify as conservatives. That means that these insurgents often represent the sentiment of most of the Republican voting base. Should Mr McCarthy cross them, they will be able to raise a ruckus.

On Thursday, just as the situation continued to devolve, media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced he would step down from atop his News Corps and Fox News empire. Ironically, Mr Murdoch’s life’s work likely amplified the likelihood of shutdowns and debt limit defaults.

Prior to the creation of the network, backbench members of Congress would mostly have to accept their fate and swallow whatever leadership offered. But the rise of Fox enabled junior members of Congress who had not risen the ranks to amplify their complaints and claim they spoke for the aggrieved conservative base.

Right-wingers who usually would be considered no-names such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Ron DeSantis and Jim Jordan have all gained prominence through their apperances on Fox News.

By contrast, despite some of the most vocal voices in the Democratic Party identifying as progressives, the lion’s share of Democratic voters are still quite moderate, as shown by the fact it nominated Mr Biden instead of Sens Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, Black voters, the most consistent voting bloc within the coaliton, are more likely to identify as moderate or conservative than white Democrats.

In addition, there is no left-wing equivalent to Fox News that exists on the scale or has moved the overton window of debate more toward the left. As a result, Mr Biden feels less of a pull to his left than Mr McCarthy feels when Mr Gaetz yanks his chain.