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Advice for Democrats, Advice for Republicans

Advice for Democrats

Democrats have the presidency and a slim majority in both houses of Congress. They can control the agenda, but they'll need either full cooperation from their own party, or help from across the aisle, if they want to enact any new legislation. The two previous Democratic presidents pushed ahead with an agenda that apppealed to liberals. In both cases Republicans spent two whole years trying to stall or block all legislative progress. And as a result, the Republicans won a majority of seats in the midterm congressional elections.

If Joe Biden wants different results, he'll have to try a different approach. He needs to start with a bipartisan agenda--another round of Covid relief, extended unemployment benefits, maybe some infrastructure projects. Maybe the Republicans will still try to block or stall everything, but if they do, the Democrats can point to the benefits people didn't get because of the Republicans' inflexibility. If the Democrats want to keep control of Congress, they need to show they have improved people's lives, or that they would have if their agenda had passed. So they need to focus on things that don't benefit a select few. They need to show conservatives and moderates that they care about us too.

They especially don't need to enact sweeping new changes like packing the Supreme Court, or revamping the health care system with a public option, or instituting a universal basic income, or outlawing rifles. All of these ideas have been suggested by elected Democratic representatives, but all of them would be fodder for Republican challengers in 2022.

Advice for Republicans

Republicans in the Trump era tacked sharply toward the conspiracy fringe, culminating with an insurrection two weeks before Joe Biden's inauguration. If Republicans want to remain a major party, they need to repudiate Donald Trump and his enablers. They need to stand up in the second impeachment trial and vote to convict, and to bar him from ever holding office again. They need to remove Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who pushed Trump's lies about election fraud, going so far as to vote against accepting the election results even after the insurrection. Republicans need to censure and marginalize the six other Senators and 139 Representatives who also voted not to accept the election results. They need to stand up and say that this kind of antidemocratic behavior cannot be tolerated. Otherwise, the next coup attempt may succeed.

And then they need to demonstrate to moderates and liberals that they care more about the country than about their party. They need to make Covid relief a bipartisan effort. They need to work as a "loyal opposition" that acknowledges the Democrats won the election and have the right to set the agenda, but Republicans can look for ways to make the legislation better. This was standard practice before Newt Gingrich orchestrated the Republicans' 1994 midterm wins. If our nation is going to heal from the division of the last four years, our politicians need to start putting country above party again.

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