by E. Faye Williams
(TriceEdneyWire.com)—I know there are some who remember the film shorts called “Cliffhangers.” They were serial shorts designed to lure viewers back into theaters for each weekly episode. These serials had common characters: a hero, a heroine, the hero’s loyal sidekick, a villain, minions to the villain, and a seemingly impossible challenge(s) the hero must overcome. Facing the ongoing challenge, the hero would experience episodic, insurmountable doom, surely leading to death. The episode would end leaving the viewer to wonder how the hero would get out of the fix he was in—the Cliffhanger.
Entertaining and suspenseful, in retrospect, these Cliffhangers were sexist, misogynistic, racist, and contained an inaccurate multitude of cultural stereotypes. Those attributes were consistent with the then contemporary standards of filmmaking. One could argue that a change to those standards has only occurred within the past few years, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Passage of the COVID Rescue bill and its subsequent signing into law by President Biden was reminiscent of one of those old Cliffhangers. As I made that mental comparison, I realized there were lessons to be learned from the genre. Similarly disposed characters exist in the legislative process and the weekly serial.
In this instance, the financial rescue of millions of Americans could be considered the impossible challenge. Because they live “where the rubber meets the road” and are most dramatically impacted by the COVID disaster, 70 percent of Americans who were polled favored its enactment. Although long-overdue and insufficient in direct support to most citizens, it is as welcomed as a sip of water to someone stuck in Death Valley. Few will benefit from all elements of the new law, but it is certain that those who do will breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
If divided by the 365 days of the declared pandemic, the total $3200 awarded to a single adult in both COVID disbursements yields roughly $8.80 per day. This amount is less than anemic, but long-awaited nonetheless. In addition, the plan includes unemployment aid, tax credit expansions, mortgage/rent relief, eviction moratoria, funds to facilitate school openings, vaccine distribution funds and state and local government relief, among a range of other provisions. This was a weighty challenge for our hero.
Our hero is embodied by both President Biden and VP Harris. The loyal sidekick is embodied by the Democratic members of the House and Senate. If you’re following my analogy, you know that the villain and his minions are embodied by McConnell, McCarthy, and republicans in the Senate and House. Analogies generally oversimplify, but, in this case, I doubt it.
Rather than being dismissive of the analogy, how else can we characterize legislators like McConnell, Graham, Cruz, Hawley, Rubio, McCarthy, Scalise, Greene, and the 250+ republicans in both houses who cared so little for the American public that they unanimously voted against this “Rescue Legislation.”
They have shown that their lust for power and allegiance to the trump/republican line exceeds their commitment to the people they serve. They have distorted the legislative process into a serve the rich and winner take all competition. In the midst of a viral pandemic, an economy in meltdown, and a social/cultural disruption unlike any in the history of this country or the world, republicans who are constitutionally bound to the provide and protect the general welfare have abrogated their responsibility. Their actions contradict their words. They claim loyalty to the American people yet allow immeasurable suffering through their benign neglect.
We have come to the end of one episode and, again, the hero still prevails. How long can he succeed? We must remember this episode and that, in the future, our votes can eliminate the number of villains our hero must face.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women.)