We are in the thralls of the first few weeks of the Biden/Harris administration and it feels great. Excitement is in the air over all the executive orders and presidential memorandums impacting everything from the LGBTQ community, to immigration, racial justice, and climate change. President Biden’s State Department speech saying America is back and will once again work with our allies was applauded around the world. American diplomats were ecstatic to hear they once again have a president who has their back and supports the work they do.
Democrats loved seeing Vice President Kamala Harris in the Senate President’s chair cast her first tie-breaking vote to move forward the budget resolution that could lead to passing the administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and enjoyed hearing the president say he is prepared to fill every open judicial vacancy within his first two years.
House Democrats stuck together to remove Marjorie Taylor Green from committees and passed the budget resolution, step two toward going it alone on passing the stimulus bill in budget reconciliation if Republicans, as the president says, only support nothing or too little.
Then Defense Secretary Austin answered the call from FEMA to have the military, especially medics and nurses, help states set up mass COVID vaccination sites and it was important the administration use the Defense Production Act to ensure enough vaccine and the needles and gloves to help people get it.
Things are moving along so well we could be lulled into thinking it will always be this way. How long will the high last? Will it all come crashing down to earth like a relationship gone bad? When will internecine fights in the Democratic Party start? Will they outshine all the good now happening?
My answer to those questions is it doesn’t have to happen if Democrats stay focused on one thing: making progress. There will be fights about how fast progress is being made and who gets what they want first. Those things can be dealt with if everyone remembers we are all in this together.
We need to recognize not everything will be accomplished in two years. So as legislation moves forward it’s important to remember part of what needs to happen is to ensure there will be more than two years to accomplish the things we want. Democrats need to keep reminding themselves how much could get done if they keep the House and the Senate for all four years of a Biden/Harris administration, which means we must pass the Voting Rights Act.
It means there shouldn’t be threats of intra-party primaries. It means working together as a united party and using the big tent to move everyone forward. It means not stopping progress because everything isn’t won in one bill. It also means remembering the founders of our great country set up a government requiring compromise to move forward, which often means things happen incrementally. Maybe getting a government option add-on to the Affordable Care Act in the first two years can lead to universal healthcare in the next two. It means eliminating some college debt and lowering interest rates on all of it can be a positive start. It means finding compromises all can live with as we continue to move forward while never giving up our principles could give the Democratic Party the chance to hold on to Congress for more than two years.
None of this will be easy but Democrats must figure out how to take advantage of the civil war raging within the Republican Party. They took advantage of the Democratic Party’s internal fights in the last election and while Democrats won the presidency they lost House seats, didn’t win the Senate seats hoped for, and lost legislatures around the country. We should recognize except for Trump’s total mishandling of the pandemic he would most likely have won. So now it’s time to turn the tables on Republicans and take advantage of their fights while at the same time producing positive results for all Americans.
This can only be done if every member of the Democratic Party recognizes by standing together everyone will win in the long run.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.