As election week ends, let’s start governing

New York Times, as of 11:30pm on Friday 6 November

It’s now a foregone conclusion that Joe Biden will win the state of Pennsylvania — and if the mail ballots continue trending as they have, it won’t be close. He’ll be our next President. And he’s likely to win Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona as well, and to end up with well over 50% of the popular vote on his first try, as Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter did (and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Donald Trump didn’t).

This is doubtless a bitter pill for Trump backers to swallow, just as Trump’s election was for backers of Hillary Clinton. The President continues to flail, sue, and invent fraud without evidence. It won’t matter. At this point, the lead will be large enough in enough states that lawsuits and flailing won’t affect the outcome. (Fraud on the order of tens of thousands of votes in swing states — the amount needed to shift the outcome — would leave evidence that no one has brought to light.)

The runoffs for two Georgia Senate seats that will determine the majority in the Senate will take place in January. This may deter parties’ desire to take outrageous steps in the lame duck period before Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.

So, in what I hope is my last election post for a while, I’d like to ask, “What now?”

Gridlock or governing?

Are you sick of electoral politics? We all are. I’d like see less demonization of the other side and more collaboration to get things done.

When Donald Trump was elected, I made a post about things I was hopeful he, as a nontraditional Republican, could collaborate with Democrats on. I regret that post — it was about as far off as it is possible to be compared to what actually happened.

Well, my friends, hope springs eternal. In 2008, when George W. Bush was leaving office and Barack Obama was taking over, both parties worked together to address problems related to the financial crisis. We are once again at such a moment.

Here are things that both parties could work on during the lame duck period and the start of Biden’s presidency:

  • Election security. This election was a mess. The last election was a mess. George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000 was a mess. I don’t doubt the results, but we can do better. And regardless of what happens with COVID, I think voting by mail is here to stay. While states are in charge of their own election procedures, I’d like to see legislation encouraging (1) dropboxes for mail ballots, (2) uniform measures to eliminate the possibility of fraud, (3) uniform measures for counting ballots mailed and postmarked on election day, but received three to five days later, (4) sufficient polling places to avoid long lines, and (5) penalties forcing social media sites to take swift action against foreign actors fomenting disinformation and groups promoting electoral intimidation and violence. Feds could encourage these measures by supplying funds only to states that implement them, much as they do with highway funds.
  • COVID leadership. President Biden will doubtless put in place executive orders intended to slow the spread of the virus. But funding for local communities and health care organizations dealing with the problem — or working on treatments and vaccines — would go a long way. Things are going to get worse; by January, many more people will be dying. This is a national crisis that must be addressed by both parties.
  • Economic stimulus. The economic fallout from the COVID crisis is still severe; out-of-work individuals, ailing businesses, and state and local governments are all reeling. We need a package designed to be a lot smarter than the one passed earlier this year — a set of measures targeted to work better for the new world of work and new forms of education that are becoming the norm post-COVID. Now that the political positioning around the election is behind us, perhaps the parties can come together to help Americans in distress.
  • Taxes. Biden wants more. The Senate won’t go along with that. But there’s likely to be a middle ground that will cut back on the deficit while preserving the gains made by middle-class taxpayers in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And let’s remove the cap on income subject to taxes for Social Security and Medicare. That will extend the solvency of those programs while only affecting people making hundreds of thousands of dollars. How is that not a rational bipartisan goal?
  • Health-care. Repealing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is no longer on the table — the new President and the House would never pass that. So let’s fix it instead. Create more price transparency and eliminate “surprise billing” (like the out-of-network doctor who treats you in the emergency room). Help pay insurance companies and primary care practices for wellness, not services rendered. And allow what Biden suggested in the election: a public option, so people can sign up for Medicare, if they want, regardless of age. We’ve now seen how our patchwork health care system deals with a crisis, and it’s not pretty — and the burden on front-line health-care workers is unsustainable. We can do better.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famous vowed in 2010 to do everything possible to make Barack Obama a one-term president. It didn’t work. The soul of the nation depends on a divided government actually dealing with our biggest problems. The time for partisanship is over — it yielded little but destruction and turned us all against each other. Retribution would be loads of fun for all, but wouldn’t get us any closer to solving our most significant problems.

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Let’s do better.

3 responses to “As election week ends, let’s start governing

  1. Curious, Josh. And if the shoe was on the other foot, if as of this morning it looked liked Trump was going to be reelected, would you still be suggesting this kumbaya moment? Somehow I don’t think so.

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