Unity: From Vision to Strategy to Action

    Good speech. Well delivered. Apparently heartfelt. America wishes President Joe Biden well in his vision of unity. We need it. 

    So, what might a strategy to achieve unity look like?  It is certainly understandable to bask in the political victory for a day or two, but Biden doesn't have a lot of time before the forces against unity across the political spectrum re-establish their footing. Some thoughts. 

    1. The biggest divide is between the Democratic majority and the Trump wing of the Republican Party.  As symbolized by the assault on the Capital, there has not been such a divide in our lifetimes. Justice and reconciliation require separating the deeds of the Capital perpetrators from the Republicans who challenged the election through legal and non-violent processes.  The perps have scant support among the vast majority who cherish our democratic process; the tens of millions who questioned the election are at issue. Two suggestions:

    - The second impeachment of President Trump by a Democratic House which has been focused on his removal for four years provides an opportunity for President Biden to demonstrate leadership, and to take a stand for unity by actively opposing Senate consideration.  He has the added rationale and benefit that the Senate should be fully occupied ratifying his nominees and addressing legislation necessary for his agends.  A decision to instead give the irate Left their pound of flesh would be an opportunity missed - and resented. 

    - A small bipartisan commission should address the major complaints about the November election. Facts are facts. His election needs be legitimized and shortcomings (which did not come close to determining the outcome of the election) need to be corrected.  Most would trust the word of someone like Chuck Grassley on the Republican side.  

   2. The Trump administration did accomplish a lot - as evidenced in the list published by the White House this month. Most of the hundreds of items reflect the political differences between the parties or are puffery, but there are many which should be supported by both parties and which can serve as the basis for Biden administration policies: rapid vaccine development; criminal justice reform; progress in reducing the opiod epidemic; lowered prescription drug costs; extension of broadband in rural America; reform of the Veterans Administration; the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement; the obliteration of ISIS; recognition of Israel by its neighbors; engagement with China on trade abuses, Hong Kong, and the Uighurs.  It is too much to expect Biden to support  any Trump accomplishments in controlling illegal immigration, deregulation, tax policy, climate change, or  civil rights, or to acknowledge the strength of the economy pre-Covid,  but where there can be common ground a shout out to Trump's successes would be a welcome change. 

   3.  President Biden will need Republican support in Congress, particularly if he is willing to stand up to the left wing of the Democratic party.  The acknowledgements at the beginning of his inaugural speech - Chief Justice Roberts; Vice President Harris; Speaker Pelosi; Senate leaders Schumer and McConnell, and Vice President Pence, but not House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy - reflect either a snub for McCarthy's support of challenges to Electoral College votes, a deferrence to Pelosi in the House, or an oversight. Given the superb orchestration of the entire event, the latter explanation is unlikely.  Much discussion has been directed at the 50-50 Senate where 60 votes are needed for most legislation, but the House with 221  Democrats, 211 Republicans, and 3 vacancies isn't chopped liver either.  And there is a reasonable chance that in 2023 the Democratic president will be faced by a Republican House led by McCarthy. And, and... McCarthy is uniquely positioned in the Republican party to serve as a bridge. 

  4. Many conservatives are jaded, and view a unity vision as little more than a campaign slogan and a request for the Right to join in Democratic policies.  It certainly is that for many on the Left who think that the price for return to polite society for Trump voters is an admission of Original Sin, but for the moment we should give the president a chance to be better than that.   We will know within weeks whether Joe Biden intends to move from a unity vision to strategy to action.  

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    One final thought for this week of momentous transitions: Trump's orgy of pardons and commutations as he left office represents a salute to the swamp. Sure, some were relatively low level people who received unreasonable sentences for drug charges, but the theme is politically connected felons who were convicted after fair trials for moral turpitude offenses. It should not be enough to draw a parellel to Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich or Barack Obama's pardon of Chelsea Manning.  Trump supporters who responded to the "Drain the Swamp" applause line deserved better. 

bill bowen - 1/21/21 

    


Surveying the Battlefield

      As Nancy Pelosi, the New York Times editorial board, and the legions of anti-Trump pundits roam the battlefield looking for wounded survivors to butcher, a moment of reflection and a few forecasts are in order. 

    On the positive side: 

        - We remain a center-right country. A strong majority oppose "defunding the police".  A strong majority oppose late term abortion.  A strong majority see budget constraints  as a larger problem than climate change, racism, or terrorism, at least conceptually. A strong majority understand the success of capitalism and the failures of socialism. 

        - Despite losing the White House, the House, and the Senate, Republicans gained House seats, lost only a net 3 of the 23 Senate seats that they defended, and remain dominant in governorships and state legislatures.  Prospects look good for 2022. 

        - The federal courts have been populated with three Supreme Court justices and 226 federal  judges who see it as their job to apply the constitution and laws as written.  

    On the negative side:

    - For a time it will be fashionable to extend the guilt for Trump's behavior since the election to his supporters in government and to the 74 million who voted for him.  Liberals are circulating lists of celebrities, businesses, and politicians who have supported the president and are thus to be banned from polite society. The divide in the country has been magnified - with sanctimonious glee. 

    - The people who got us into the mess in the Middle East and thought that appeasement would bring "peace in our time" with Iran are back in a position to repeat their errors. 

    - Federal budget deficits are escalating by trillions of dollars; it will eventually take a trauma of inflation for our grandchildren to recover from the profligacy of the Baby Boomers and Generation X. 

     And the forecasts:

    1. The twin crises of the pandemic and Trump's attempts to subvert the election will be used to change the playing field for future elections. At present, Republicans have several structural advantages - a tilt in the Electoral College; two Senators from each state; the exclusion of the 600,000 permanent residents of Washington DC and the 3.8 million residents of Puerto Rico and other territories from the federal electorate - with the partial offset that the Census, which allocates House seats among the states, includes illegal immigrants, thus giving extra seats to California and others. The DC Statehood Bill ,which passed the House and died in the Senate in 2019, will be a priority for Biden's core constituency, giving the Democrats 2 Senate and 1 House seats.  Puerto Rico may follow.   

    2. Election reform will be a cause for both sides - for Pelosi, to institutionalize mail-in voting with mass mailings and vote harvesting; and for Republicans, to establish proper safeguards. Both will favor a larger federal government role in federal elections. 

    3. There will be a crisis in "law and order" within the next few years, as the "defund the police" movement plays out, shifting resources away from "community policing", and toward social services agencies. Perhaps more important, and less publicized, is the George Soros funded effort over the past five years to elect uber-liberal major city district attorneys who oppose holding poor criminals for bail, oppose capital punishment, and will not enforce drug and "quality of life" laws such as urinating in public. Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland; Denver; Chicago; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Houston; Fairfax County, Virginia. The approach of the Biden administration, presumably with a significant role for Vice President and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris,  will soon be evidenced as the 94 regional Federal Prosecutors, as is  custom, tender their resignations to be replaced by properly oriented and Senate approved successors. 

    4. The political context of social media will be transformed. Some disparate data points for thinking about the future - the decision by Amazon, Google, and Apple to destroy conservative competitor Parler is a stark notice that a few liberal tech billionaires control much of the national conversation; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has called the banning of Trump's account necessary, but "a dangerous precedent"; a walkie-talkie type platform called Zello used by right wing militias was used by some for coordinating the Capitol assault; the tilt of big tech toward Biden and the Democrats will soften the pending anti-trust legislation. 

    In the meantime, for Trump voters the best advice is to keep your head down in conversations with family and friends.  We are due for a few more weeks of the media being consumed by impeachment, erasing the history of the administration's accomplishments, potential legal liabilities for the Trump family, conjecture about his future role in the Republican Party, and conjecture about him starting a competitor to Twitter.   Before baseball sesason we will be able to see how many in the media have the skills and inclination to return to objective reporting.    

 

bill bowen - 1.14.21