Joe Biden Has Saved American Democracy

November 9, 2020

We have dodged a bullet; the nightmare is over. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won the election, with a solid, three-point margin, 50.6% to 47.6%. The Democrats have received a mandate; the voters repudiated Donald Trump and his cramped, dark vision for America. Our nation faces huge challenges, but we can start to rebuild our democracy and move forward.

This is a time to celebrate, despite some disappointments.

The Democrats have routed an incumbent who used — and abused — all his advantages as he fought to remain in office. Rather than make it easier for Americans to vote by mail and protect their health, Donald Trump cynically sabotaged the Postal Service and attacked mail-in voting as illegal, making up stories about ballots being dumped in rivers. Millions of citizens defied Trump; they mailed in ballots, in record-shattering volumes.

Joe Biden’s victory has saved American democracy from the existential threat posed by Trump. The President has grown increasingly despotic after Senate Republicans made a mockery of his impeachment trial.

Saving Our Democracy

During his campaign, Trump called publicly, and repeatedly, for his Attorney General, Bill Barr, to launch criminal investigations into his political opponents. The list grew to include Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar.

Trump never made it clear why they should be prosecuted, except that they were his enemies. At his rallies, Trump nodded approvingly and applauded as his followers chanted, “Lock him up!” or “Lock them up”! No other American President, not even Richard Nixon, has acted in this way.

Even Bill Barr balked at Trump’s demands. But is there any doubt that if re-elected, Trump would have found an AG who would indict his political enemies? One of the most frightening aspects of Trump’s administration has been the number of toadies who will trample the rule of law at his request.

And Trump’s refusal to accept the election results shows that as far as he is concerned, an election is “fair” only if he and his party win. That is how “democracy” works in Russia and Hungary, not in the United States.

Now, instead of worrying whether Trump will destroy our democratic institutions, we will have a President who respects our traditions and obeys the Constitution.

Defeating a Racist

Donald Trump ran an ugly, blatantly racist campaign. Americans responded by choosing a Black woman as the first female Vice President. Kamala Harris represents a rising generation of new American leaders. Assuming that she performs well as VP, Harris will have the inside track on running for President in 2028, or perhaps, 2024, depending on Biden’s plans. This opens an exciting new chapter in American history.

Nonetheless, the election revealed some chilling truths about our country. Seventy million Americans voted for a man who they know is a racist and an authoritarian. Over 90% of Republicans stayed loyal to Trump, according to exit polls.

These voters had many reasons for supporting Trump, no doubt, but it’s deeply disturbing that so many Americans don’t seem to care much about democratic values. It’s also clear, based on the campaign that Trump ran, that many of his followers do share his racist views. That is profoundly depressing.

Mitch McConnell Will Be a Roadblock

The Democrats failed to win control of the Senate, despite dedicating vast sums and many volunteers to many hard-fought races. Barring a miracle — that is, Democratic candidates winning two Senate run-off races in Georgia — Sen. Mitch McConnell will remain the Majority Leader. McConnell did his best to undermine Barack Obama’s presidency, and he will try to obstruct Biden, too. McConnell won’t suddenly become a statesman.

This will limit Biden’s ability to implement his agenda through legislation, including his goal of repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the top 1%. Because of those tax cuts, the US government has a structural deficit of $1 trillion a year. That’s without factoring in any expenditures for boosting the economy to offset the effects of Covid-19. And McConnell and other Senate Republicans have suddenly rediscovered that deficits are bad,

So Biden may have to shelve most of his ambitious legislative agenda. Biden planned to finance these initiatives by increasing taxes on the top 1% of Americans and corporations, and that won’t happen with the Republicans ruling the Senate.

Some Possible Wins In Congress

Still, Biden might be able to achieve some legislative wins, although they may represent incremental progress rather than sweeping change. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives will be disappointed…but she wasn’t elected President.

Unlike Obama, Biden won’t have any illusions about dealing with McConnell and other Senate Republicans. The President-elect just might find some common ground with them by appealing to their own interests.

Biden has proposed to invest $700 billion in infrastructure and green energy projects. That program would speed up economic growth, generate good blue-collar jobs and facilitate a gradual transition from fossil fuels. McConnell might balk, but he also knows that coal is a dying industry, even in his home state of Kentucky. Biden could suggest allocating a good slug of those funds to Kentucky, Ohio and other Republican states where coal is still a big deal. That is how the sausage is made, folks.

The new president might also have a shot at expanding the Affordable Care Act, by increasing its subsidies, even though that would cost a fair amount of money. McConnell knows that the ACA is popular with voters. Furthermore, many Americans, including those in Republican-led states, are losing their medical insurance along with their jobs, as COVID-19 rages throughout the country.

Perhaps the new administration could pass a $15 minimum wage bill in Congress, which would help working-class Americans. Voters in Florida, the bastion of socialism-hating Cuban-Americans, just approved a phased-in $15 minimum wage. McConnell has undoubtedly noticed that.

Biden might also be able to negotiate a solution for protecting the 800,000 Dreamers, which the vast majority of voters support.

Biden Can Achieve A Lot Without New Laws

In any case, the new administration can accomplish a lot even without enacting major new legislation.

Most importantly, Biden can focus the Federal government’s existing resources on fighting the virus and helping states and cities, rather than wishing away the disease. Biden can change the tone from the top and let the scientists run the show. The new administration can ramp up testing and require masks in Federal facilities.

Leadership Has Its Privileges: Executive Orders

There’s another avenue for Biden to take decisive action. The Trump administration managed to get remarkably few important laws passed (except for the tax cuts). The President mostly ruled by decree, issuing executive orders, or changing regulations. Biden can reverse many of Trump’s policies by nullifying the orders and rewriting the agencies’ rules.

Biden can put the “Protection” back in the Environmental Protection Agency. The US can once again take a leading role in combating climate change, by returning to sensible policies, such as restoring the Obama auto mileage standards, and rejoining the Paris Agreement.

Biden can restore decency to our treatment of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, by changing the leadership of ICE and curtailing abusive practices.

The new President can scrap Trump’s inane trade wars, which have hurt American farmers, companies and consumers without accomplishing anything. That will help boost the economy. Biden can follow a more strategic policy on trade, rebuilding our traditional alliances to put pressure on China to stop stealing technology.

Finally, Joe Biden can show the country how a decent, competent administration operates.

Who knows? Some of those 70 million Trump voters may decide they like that.

A Wall Street Democrat. Security analyst (financial institutions), former lawyer and banker.