Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Larger Transition Is Upon Us

For Democrats, it could have been worse. The Senate seats that seemed within reach probably never were, despite what the polling said. The expanded House majority did not materialize as Republican candidates ran hard on painting Democrats as socialists and soft on support of the police. State legislatures that started to move leftward in 2018 snapped back to the right, which means that Republicans will draw gerrymandered maps in many of the states that stand to gain representatives and electoral votes in 2022 and 2024. And the Supreme Court? know.

Why, then, am I feeling pretty good about the direction of the country?

Because the biggest loser was Donald Trump, who lost because he alienated enough suburban women and moderate Republicans that they voted for Joe Biden for president and, it seems, their local and state Republicans because they are...wait for it...Republicans. And Donald Trump is no Republican. He belongs to his own reality, and that reality was too dangerous or anti-science or anti-democratic or racist or misogynist or all of the above for the mainstream GOP. Add in many voters, especially white men who came back to the Democrats in the upper Midwest and Pennsylvania, and there's Biden's victory. Georgia and Arizona were added bonuses that were on the cusp of becoming bluer in past elections. This year, it happened. 

The biggest slap in the president's face was that he might have given wavering conservatives and moderate Republicans enough reason to switch to the Democrats this year. After all, conservatives have a solid majority on the court, and the Senate will likely stay Republican, but even if it doesn't, Republicans can filibuster and block progressive legislation. Also, Democrats like Joe Manchin are not voting for tax hikes on the wealthy or court packing. Further, taxes will stay low and the economy will probably rebound once there's a vaccine. We don't need the drama anymore. It's the perfect environment for gridlock and stability.

We have, though, taken the first step toward the political center and are on our way leftward, no matter what other pundits will say. Democrats who believed that there would be a blue wave and a landslide this year were fooling themselves. First of all, Donald Trump is far more popular than many Democrats wanted to give him credit for. His approval ratings since he took office were around 45-47%. He won 47% of the popular vote. It shouldn't have been a surprise. And in the United States, we do not generally swing wildly from one political extreme to another. We are in a conservative era that took 40 years to mature. We will eventually be in a more liberal era, but that will take time and hard political ground work.

Still, the election of 2020 is an improvement over what could have been, and it should serve as one building block toward a more inclusive, prosperous future. Most important is that the climate will finally be at the top of the policy agenda. Coal is dead. Oil and natural gas are the fuels of the present, but Joe Biden was absolutely correct when he said they were bridge fuels to the future. The decision by Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, to abandon the Justice Department's case meant to force California to give up its more stringent environmental laws is a huge win for climate policy. Electric cars and cleaner energy are in our future. If the oil and fracking companies want to be a part of that, then they better change their direction now, or they will be in the Kodak, U.S. Steel, Compaq, Blockbuster, and Pan Am wing of the Bankruptcy Hall of Fame.

Democrats have a tough road ahead trying to cement a new coalition, given that many more Latinos and Black men voted Republican than in past elections. They need to make the case that government can work if given proper resources, and that they can enable people to get affordable health care, child care, better roads, airports and schools, and support when things get bad. If Republicans get in the way, then Democrats need to play hardball, and blame when necessary, Joe Biden wants to be a healer and a uniter, but he also needs to send a message that is clear and unambiguous for those who will stand in the way.

Donald Trump has demonstrated since the election, that he cares only about himself and is uninterested in helping the country through the pandemic. It's time to move on from him.

To a brighter future.

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