The news outlets just declared Joe Biden President-Elect and the country let out a collective sigh of relief. In spite of no evidence, Trump will characteristically claim the election was “stolen.” Cooler heads will prevail, however, as republican leaders slowly distance themselves from Trump’s sinking ship and the judiciary regains credibility by knocking down Trump’s meritless lawsuits. Trump came in with a bang and will go out with a whimper of impotent rage.
For Trump and Trumpism, there are two possible next steps — grudgingly accept the outcome while railing against the “unfair” result, or hang on, up to and including refusing to leave the White House. IMO, the former is more likely and will result in most Trump supporters also accepting the reality, with the fringe de-energized and retreating to fight another day. The latter, in effect pulling open the curtains on the Trump’s madness will alienate all but his most strident supporters; they may result to violence, but will be rapidly marginalized and driven underground (more on this later).
The Democratic Party, while rejoicing in taking the Presidency, recognizes that its leftward tack hurt down-ballot candidates as the Republicans may hold the Senate and flipped a number of House seats. Republicans, while breathing a sigh of relief for avoiding a rout, recognize that demographics are steadily moving toward purple and light blue — Georgia, Arizona and even Texas providing undeniable evidence. The 2020 vote shows that Americans are tired of extremism and want both parties to focus on solving real problems.
So what happens next? Based on the mixed results, the only clear mandate is for both parties to work in cooperation — obstruction and overreach will very likely be punished in 2022. Based on this premise, here’s my hopeful prediction for American politics to rise from the ashes as the reborn Phoenix:
- Urgent action on Covid. McConnell and Pelosi in lame-duck session will craft joint legislation to address Covid including more financial relief and a national mandate for preventative measures including masks and testing. Trump will likely veto out of spite, but the new congress will pick up the measure in January — Biden will sign into law.
- Peacemaking. Biden, as he has always done, will reach across the aisle with an olive branch. He will put Republican leadership at ease, asking for their help to tackle current issues. Republicans will recognize that failure to cooperate would imperil their chances in 2020.
- Working class. The narrow vote margins in the rust belt will encourage both parties to support measures to relieve the suffering of the working class. Republicans will support tax credits for industrial re-development and Democrats will support re-training, and subsidized benefits for childcare, healthcare and housing.
- Latino vote. Both parties will accept the growing importance of the Latino vote. The notion that it is monolithic was shattered in the 2020 vote. Support for common sense immigration policy will grow. In exchange for better border controls, Republicans will accept more legal immigration. Hopefully they will find a way to re-work DACA and create a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented.
- African Americans. Democrats realize that they have taken the African American vote for granted and as a result have lost some support from African American men. Trump’s limited successes in enterprise zones and criminal justice reform as well as decreasing unemployment will perhaps be the seeds for further positive change. Both parties will support common sense reform of policing including better and more training and diversion of some resources to support non-confrontational interventions.
- Healthcare. Progress will be made in healthcare — this one is tough. Republicans will hopefully see the writing on the wall and compromise to help prevent losing an entire generation of youthful voters. There is some momentum on solving out of control pharmaceutical costs as well as allowing cross state competition for insurance coverage. Republicans should realize that fixing the ACA is far superior from killing it judicially.
- Foreign relations. Biden will slowly right the destruction that Trump caused in international relations. European allies will slowly relax and tentatively accept the new normal. It will take years to undo the damage Trump caused. Biden will soften the stance toward Iran, but is unlikely to reverse changes Trump made with Israel, particularly in the light of Trump’s success helping normalize relations with some of Israel’s Arab neighbors. Based on 20+ years of futility, Biden will not likely reverse Trump’s gradual retreat from foreign intervention in the Middle East and South Asia.
- China. This will be the Biden’s biggest foreign policy challenge. Calm rhetoric will help re-normalize relations, but China could try to take advantage of Biden’s apparent “softness” to push it’s regional expansion. On the other hand, nothing would unite Republicans and Democrats more than Chinese aggression; China must know this and will likely tread carefully.
- Massive Debt. Republicans will likely return to being deficit hawks. Optimistically there could be some compromise between parties to curb some spending while rolling back the Trump tax cuts.
- Climate Change. Biden will take leadership in moving toward green policies. Biden will re-join the Paris Accord and push legislation and take executive action to move the country away from fossil fuel dominance. Technological advances will continue to make solar, wind and batteries more economical.
- Roe v. Wade. The chance that the Supreme Court will take up this issue is real. It is also real that even the conservative members of the court would rather the issue be decided by Congress. There is a small but real chance to make progress on this lightning rod issue.
- Extremist Groups. Biden’s willingness to compromise will hopefully de-energize right wing extremism. Democrats will quietly discourage continued violent protests from left-wing groups. Further, the lack of Trump as a rallying point will dampen violence on all sides.
Is it likely that all the above will happen? No. It is not impossible, however, that some meaningful progress will be made. America continually reinvents itself and some of the best progress follows our darkest days.