Keeping it real, and repairing what’s broken

By Zach Polett, Senior Vice President and Campaigns Director, The Public Interest Network
First appeared in Social Policy, Winter 2020, Vol 50, #4 “What Should the Biden Administration Do? – Looking Forward: A Special Feature”

We have to be real. It’s great that Biden beat Trump, but there is no mandate. Biden’s margins in the battleground states were narrow, and across the country down ballot Republicans did much better than in 2018, keeping control of state legislatures and gaining a net of between 9 and 11 seats in the House. Indeed, if the coronavirus hadn’t occurred and if Trump hadn’t so screwed up the response to it, Trump would have likely been re-elected, as unfit for the presidency as he is.

The country is deeply divided and Biden needs to recognize that as he attempts to govern.

His top priority needs to be successfully dealing with the pandemic: implementing an effective plan for delivering the vaccines; promoting mask-wearing while talking about getting the economy going; winning from Congress assistance to unemployed workers and impacted small business; getting resources to schools so they can re-open safely, etc.

After that he should focus on solutions to important problems with which the majority of Americans are in agreement — where he has the people on his side — including a significant set of Republican and independent voters.

Some examples:

  • expansion of broadband internet, especially to rural communities, the way Democrats led on rural electrification in the 1930’s.
  • infrastructure: it’s well-recognized that our nation’s infrastructure is outdated and crumbling and both Democrats and Republicans have proposed a national infrastructure bank as a tool to help fix this.
  • climate change: not a branded “Green New Deal” but aggressive progress on combatting climate change including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement (which Biden will do), reforestation, reinstituting California’s clean car standards and pursuing trans-partisan measures to put a price on carbon.
  • right to repair: a popular idea, not yet focused on by politicians, to stop manufacturers of everything from smart phones to tractors to motorcycles from preventing us from fixing the things we buy from them. Right to Repair stands up to corporate power and the tech industry and unites rural farmers and young tech users.
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