Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States. No amount of pouting, legal maneuvering, or simulated outrage by the current occupant of the White House and his enablers will change that. Praise Jesus!
So now what?
It is clear a majority of the country wants sanity, science at the forefront of important policy decisions, and to see some progress on a myriad of issues facing the nation around the economy, healthcare, racial equality, climate change, and so much more. But a significant minority, 70 million and counting, either do not want those things, believes those issues are non-existent or not as large and important as Democrats claim, or do not understand the benefits of what Democrats are offering – for whatever reason.
Where do we go from here?
Biden will step into office leading a country that remains deeply divided and, unfortunately, will most likely not have the majority he needs in the Senate to enact sweeping legislative changes we seek. Democrats held the House, but Republicans picked up more seats than seemed possible a week or two ago. Liberals and progressives have derided the fantasy world that Republicans have lived in for the last four years, now is not the time for us to create a fantasy world of our own.
Understandably, Democrats are angry and itching to push their agenda forward. From our perspective the last four years have been a nightmare of lawlessness, cruelty, trampling of norms, and frankly stupidity – all led from the Executive Branch and cosigned by Republicans in Congress. Others do not see it that way, which may be hard for us to understand. Already there seems to be much hubbub from the liberal wing of the party that if Biden does not push for the most liberal policies, reaches out to Republicans too much, or does not essentially railroad over Republicans will be tantamount to some sort of betrayal by Biden.
Here’s the thing – math matters and quite simply we do not have the votes for the sweeping legislative change desired to accomplish things like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college for all and so much more. There will be no railroading over anyone, for better or worse, without the votes. Quite simply, it does not appear the American electorate at large gave him the governing margins to do with some Democrats would like. Biden can do many things through Executive Order which will matter in the short term, but we have learned that an Executive Order is only as good as the current occupant of the White House.
Mitch McConnell, sadly, will most likely remain the Majority Leader in the Senate and so, at best, Biden will need to compromise if he intends to get anything done. Biden and Harris do need to try and govern the entire country and reach out to the other side. Yes, Republicans under Trump did not do that, however, that doesn’t mean our side needs to carry on with scotched Earth tactics.
70 million people, and counting, voted for Donald Trump. It might make us feel good, but I believe it is too easy to simply say all of these people are racist, misogynistic, homophobic and whatever other horrible labels we can throw at them. I would be lying to say the thought has never crossed my mind. However, when looking at the situation logically – it is not helpful.
No doubt, some of them are “deplorables” as Hillary Clinton famously said, but what good is focusing on the people we cannot reach. Some of these so called “deplorables” voted for Obama – twice – in counties and states all across this country, only to turn around and support Trump. With that information in mind, it would appear unwise to right off this swath of the electorate. It may seem illogical that Obama and Trump could speak to the same person, but it is clearly possible.
Whatever the reason, the people who voted for Trump remain amongst us and so do many of their representatives. Our time would be better spent discovering why we have a disconnect and to try find a way to chip away at that Trump supporting number, or at least not to incite them to action – i.e. voting in large numbers against their own self-interests and the interests of the nation at large.
On paper 2020 should have been a blockbuster year for Democrats down ballot. It was not. This means Democrats need to find a way to cut through the right-wing noise and fog machine and to get the truth to people. It means that Democrats have more work to do with turnout, despite more people voting in this election than ever before. It means that the the Democratic message is not working, or at least not in the places we need to win. I am a proud man from New York City, but New York does not decide elections and Senate control – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and other states do at the moment.
Republicans have a shrinking tent in terms of the types of voters who vote for them, which explains the extremism and the desperation often exhibited by their leadership – as well as the overall corruption (but that’s for another blogpost). Democrats have a tent that while large, diverse, and growing – is geographically in the wrong places electorally to provide them with the sorts of large scale wins needed for legislative victories.
No, the Electoral College is not going anywhere – anytime soon (it would be unwise for me to say never). Democrats need to begin acting like it and develop an agenda that can consistently provide more electoral paths to victory for the Presidency, and in down ballot races in various states. We should not punish or chastise Biden for working with the hand he has been dealt – by the voters and the Constitution. There are ways he can reward his base while extending his hand to the other side.
Biden will have his work cut out for him in just resetting things in Washington and attempting to get back to “normal.” This is no small task and he should be given credit for winning in this hyper polarized climate. Lowering the temperature in the country will be important. Liberals and progressives, who need to be on his team, should allow him the time to do that. What exactly is the alternative? Martin Luther King said it best, “we must learn to live together or perish together as fools.”
It will take Biden time to get the vast majority of Americans to believe in the power of science again and to pull the country back from an economic and public health calamity. The worldview and antics that Trump championed cannot, and will not, be put back in the bottle magically. He will have an uphill battle combating the corrosiveness of social media, Fox News, and American’s general impatience – on both sides – as he attempts to make change. America is a wounded patient at the moment and Biden’s main task, at least for the first two years, might be to simply stop the bleeding. Liberals and Progressives may have to accept that possibility and remain in his corner – he cannot afford for us not to be.
Some of the same people who now want to see all of this change on the Democratic side, are some of the same people who sat at home in 2016 and did not cast their votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016. They are also some of the same people who failed to show up and affirm Barack Obama’s agenda during the 2010 and 2014 midterms. Mitch McConnel and his cronies didn’t magically get control – we voluntarily ceded ground. Maybe these defeats will be a permanent lesson that one election never means game over.
We won an important battle with this 2020 victory. It is likely, and by no means is this meant to be hyperbolic, that we saved our republic with Biden’s victory – which is no small and meaningless feat. In politics the war is never completely over and we have other battles to wage, the most imminent one being the the Senate runoffs this upcoming January in Georgia. I am cautiously optimistic we can win at least one of those races. After that, no matter the outcome, we should immediately shift the focus to the 2022 Midterms and, yes (insert groan), the 2024 Presidential election.