By Gallagher and Schleicher
As we learned somewhat bitterly in 2016, predicting presidential elections in the modern era is a fool’s errand, and 2020 is even wackier than anything we could have imagined in those naively innocent pre-COVID times. Yet here we are, a few days away from the final votes in a completely unprecedented federal election in a bitterly divided nation; even so, a few assumptions seem certain. President Trump (and accomplices such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott) will continue to do everything possible to stop citizens from voting, then everything possible to prevent those votes from being counted, then look to the courts to stop counted votes from being certified.
It is apt that President Trump has developed a fondness for addressing crowds from the White House balcony, given the ever-increasing parallels to Juan Perón. Lyrics from the “Evita” musical capture events as voting draws to a close: “How annoying that they have to fight elections for their cause. The inconvenience, having to get a majority. If normal methods of persuasion fail to win them applause. There are other ways of establishing authority.”
In another election, Trump’s election-rigging on top of our typical American unwillingness to unseat an incumbent in a time of national crisis would surely win the day. Yet the nation seems determined, if consistent national and battleground state polling can be trusted, to rebuke the administration and return to some kind of political normality. Citizens who have been ignored (younger voters), oppressed (voters of color) and disgusted (female voters) appear fully aware that, lacking their voice, American democracy will not survive four more years.
For the moment we dare to hope and so look ahead to priorities for the incoming Biden administration. Herewith, we offer a few humble suggestions to top what will have to be a lengthy list.
First, tackle the pandemic. The Trump administration has given up (“we’re not going to control the virus”) but there’s simply no economic or societal recovery without suppressing it, evening out spikes of new cases (and the deaths that follow). We look forward to a coordinated, unified national response to muster the best of federal, state and local expertise, guided by science and applied with compassion and humanity. No more burning of masks by the overwrought, just as no one would think it rational to burn seatbelts, stop signs and other public safety measures.
Second, deliver economic relief. Some in Congress may welcome the teetering economy, not to mention the real-world struggles of actual people to stay afloat, as a problem for the next administration to face. We sincerely hope these are the last days of such lawmakers to exercise power so callously.
Third, reset international alliances. Our standing in the global community has never been lower and the damage we have inflicted to international alliances and institutions cannot be exaggerated — all at a time when global risks are as pervasive and urgent as ever before: security, climate change and, yes, resurgent or new pandemics.
Fourth, rebalance the Supreme Court. Former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a bipartisan commission to explore and propose mechanisms to reform the federal court system. This seems sensible, if general, and we hope the options include expanding the number of Supreme Court justices to 13, matching the number of federal appellate districts and balancing the unfettered packing of the bench by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (That said, a Supreme Court that unanimously put an end to a meritless election challenge from Trump could preserve its independence and probably thereby squelch such proposals.)
Fifth, stop treating citizens of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as second-class, with statehood for both, and its commensurate representation in the House of Representatives and Senate. Sixth, restore the civil service to a system based on merit (not political allegiance) and one in which whistleblowers are encouraged to speak truth to power. Seventh, revisit emergency power authorizations we now know can be easily abused.
Eighth, seek justice for all but with malice toward none. Some elements of the Democratic Party as well as a number of disenchanted Republicans will howl for punishment for the crimes that will inevitably come to light, including those under investigation now by state and local authorities. No one is above the law and these procedures need to follow their due course but without the vindictive and nakedly political venom of the current Department of Justice and Mr. Trump. Trump should not be jailed for what he has said or thought, but if he’s proven to be a tax cheat, he should serve as Exhibit 1 that justice cannot be suspended due to a defendant’s wealth or status.
Ninth? #End #Presidential #tweeting.
Healing the nation, so grievously ruptured over the past few years, will take years if not decades. After all, wounds from the Civil War and its aftermath still seem to be seeping. But if we learned anything from the last Democratic president who tried to restore unity and hope back in 2008, the Biden administration will be given absolutely no assistance or support to bind back the nation; his time is better spent addressing the multiple existential crises before us now. We don’t need vengeance. Instead we need profound reform based on unflinching integrity. As much water as it has taken on in the last four years, if we leave this disaster of a presidency without having repaired the American ship, its sinking is inevitable.
This originally ran in the Sunday, November 1, 2020 Waco Tribune-Herald, where the Davids are on the Board of Contributors. David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting at @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney who represents U.S. federal employees worldwide and Texas business/non-profit clients. You can find their earlier and future columns at ContranymTimes.com. To receive their free columns via email sign up here or email them: ContranymTimes@gmail.com. Visit/Like on Facebook via this link.