Now That Democrats Hold the Majority, It’s Time to Go Bold

In three days, the United States will inaugurate former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President.

Getting rid of Donald Trump after four years of lawlessness, mendacity, and perfidy–and two impeachments–that brought our Democratic Republic to the brink of fascism is a cause for celebration.

But ushering in a Democratic successor to modern American history’s worst president is not the most important aspect of this moment.

Joe Biden will walk into the Oval Office on Wednesday with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

The last time this happened was those 74 days during the Obama administration during which the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was passed.

While it’s true there was a stack of legislation Democrats could have addressed while in the majority, they couldn’t have passed it all in that limited time .

Passing the ACA, while imperfect, was definitely the right decision.

Now Democrats will have a full two years before the 2022 mid-term elections to roll up their sleeves and pass progressive legislation nearly impossible under the current Senate.

If they do it right, if they go bold, they might avoid the mid-term rout that traditionally descends on the majority party.

That would put us in a winning stance for 2024, when rising stars of the fascist wing of the Republican party will be seeking the GOP nomination.

There are no excuses anymore for why we can’t have a Medicare-for-All-type single-payer national healthcare system.

No longer do we need to contend with Mitch McConnell’s obstruction when it’s time to pass real COVID vaccine distribution and economic relief.

Here are some other long-overdue reforms on which we can finally see movement:

  • Student loan forgiveness
  • Rollback of the Reagan, Bush, and Trump tax cuts
  • Aggressive infrastructure investment to address climate change, such as that outlined in the Green New Deal
  • Trade deals that strengthen living-wage union jobs
  • Tuition-free college
  • Heavy investment in public education
  • Rent forgiveness
  • Postal banking
  • Expanding the federal courts
  • A constitutional amendment eliminating corporate personhood and affirming money does not equal speech
  • A constitutional amendment guaranteeing an inalienable right to vote.
  • Federal voter registration requirements for all fifty states and U.S. territories
  • Raising the federal minimum wage
  • Paid family leave
  • An immigration pathway to citizenship
  • Criminal justice reform

And, of course, a federal response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic that should have been applied last year.

As Jacobin magazine founding editor explains in The Guardian:

“The party has two paths before it–sweeping action or excuse-making…There is a lot that the Democrats can and should be doing. For starters, as Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer will be able to select which bills come up for a vote. Combined with the weight of the presidency, this gives his party the ability to dictate the national conversation on everything from pandemic relief to healthcare. Though his record gives reason to doubt his commitment to change, Schumer could demonstrate through the legislation he prioritizes that Democrats stand for economic egalitarianism and Republicans for elite privilege.”

David Sirota states in The Daily Poster:

“They [Democrats] will be in a position to immediately deliver the $2,000 survival checks President-elect Joe Biden promised people would receive if the party won the two Georgia senate races. 

“Democrats would also have the power to do what Republicans did four years ago: Invoke a law that lets lawmakers immediately repeal recent rules enacted by the outgoing administration.

“The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a 24 year old law that allows Congress and a new president to reject the recently enacted rules and regulations from a prior administration.” 

Fortunately, Joe Biden already has some audacious policy proposals and a roadmap for his first 100 days.

In-coming Chief of Staff Ron Klain stated Biden’s first 10 days in office are going to be a “blitz of executive actions” rolling back some of Donald Trump’s most controversial and divisive policies, from COVID relief, immigration restrictions, to criminal justice.

But executive orders are not laws.

They are temporary fiats succeeding administrations can overturn.

Authentic progress will lie in Congress’ ability to listen to the majority of the American people yearning for real change that alleviates their woes over inadequate healthcare, college affordability, job loss, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, and the militarization of police.

Remember that on the campaign trail Joe Biden stated if elected “nothing would fundamentally change.

Despite releasing the most progressive climate and economic plan of any Democratic nominee in modern American history, and proposing a cabinet- or senior adviser–level “Climate Chief” position, he still refuses to ban fracking.

He is vague on how he would respond to a Medicare-for-All bill should one pass both houses of Congress and land on his desk for a signature.

It’s a mistake to assume Democrats will rise to the occasion simply because they should.

Despite Trump’s impeachment, destruction of institutional norms, evisceration of the rule of law, and amateurish response to the worst global pandemic in over a century, Republicans in November won almost every toss-up seat in Congress, and picked up six more.

Despite narrowly winning the Senate majority in this month’s run-off election in Georgia, Democrats did not flip a single statehouse and lost some seats in Congress.

QAnon” conspiracy theorists now have seats in the House of Representatives.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell beat his challenger Amy McGrath.

Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, who won former Senator Jeff Sessions’ seat after Sessions was tapped to be Trump’s Attorney General, lost re-election.

One of 2016’s surprises was the number of suburban white women who voted for Donald Trump.

We could assume after four years in which 26 women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual assault, and the barrage of insults he hurls toward female reporters and lawmakers, that popularity would have diminished.

Surprisingly, though, more white women supported Trump this year.

Some progressive commentators are attributing Democrats’ loss to the obscene amounts of money anti-Trump conservative groups like the Lincoln Project poured into resources that could have been put toward progressive messaging.

More than 70 percent of Americans want a Medicare-for-all-type universal healthcare system.

They worry about climate change and yearn for an infrastructure that will protect them from its ravages.

They want the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

They want to ensure the minimum wage is a living wage.

They want to an end to racist mass incarceration and policing practices.

They support free tuition at public colleges and universities.

They want to protect Social Security.

They want to bring our jobs back from corporate avarice responsible for shipping them to low-wage countries.

They hate having to pay more than any other other developed nation for prescription drugs.

These are bold, realistic, progressive policies every Democrat should adopt.

This is why so many genuine progressives who threw their hats into the political ring after Sen. Bernie Sanders’ inspirational 2016 bid for the White House have unseated entrenched establishment Democrats.

Some of those progressives, like “The Squad”–New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley–mopped the floor with their opponents again.

It’s why former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman trounced 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel.

It’s why activist Cori Bush has become Missouri’s first Black congresswoman.

It’s why Raphael Warnock has just become the first African American Senator ever elected to represent Georgia.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote recently:

“The moment calls for public investment on a scale far greater than necessary for Covid relief or ‘stimulus’–’ large enough to begin the restructuring of the economy. America needs to create a vast number of new jobs leading to higher wages, reversing racial exclusion as well as the downward trajectory of Americans whose anger and resentment Trump cynically exploited.

“This would include universal early childhood education, universal access to the internet, world-class schools and public universities accessible to all. Converting to solar and wind energy and making America’s entire stock of housing and commercial buildings carbon neutral. Investing in basic research–the gateway to the technologies of the future as well as national security–along with public health and universal healthcare.”

He concludes:

“It is a question of political will. It requires a recognition that there is no longer a ‘center’ but a future based either on lies, violence and authoritarianism or on unyielding truth, unshakeable civility and radical inclusion. And it requires a passionate, uncompromising commitment to the latter.”

Do Democrats really think Republicans are going to surrender their intransigence now, and how much more to the right are Democrats willing to move when they don’t?

Although Joe Biden has a neo-liberal past to reckon with, he can–and must–become “the most progressive president since FDR,” as Bernie Sanders insisted he has the potential to be.

If we don’t successfully push President-elect Biden further left, we risk another fascist Republican who’s actually competent marching into the White House in four years.

And the republic might not be as retrievable by then.

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.