Editorial: Democrats Should Set 2020 Stage With Smart Legislation

  • The Capitol is seen on the morning after Election Day as Democrats took back the House with a surge of fresh new candidates and an outpouring of voter enthusiasm ending eight years of Republican control, in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Friday, November 09, 2018

It’s understandable that voters who felt that the hinge of fate was swinging on the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections might be content for Democrats to use their new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives merely to obstruct the Trump administration’s agenda. However understandable, actually doing so would almost certainly be a big mistake.

Yes, the investigative power that Democrats gained, including the ability to issue subpoenas, can be used to hold the president and his officials accountable for their many excesses in a way that the Republican majority in the House has refused to do. But while important, exercising oversight is only one part of governing. Trying to solve problems through thoughtful legislation is the way to capitalize on the gains Democrats made. With this in mind, we provide here our agenda for the newly empowered.

Go There

Pluck the low-hanging fruit first: President Trump has campaigned on the need to restrain soaring prescription drug prices and to invest in infrastructure. Democrats should happily get aboard that bus, and make an overture to the president by proposing legislation that pursues both those worthy goals. Such bipartisanship might also produce an attractive political byproduct: driving a wedge between Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate, which undoubtedly wants no part of either measure.

Take the long view: Republicans in the Senate have started talking about the need to cut future Social Security and Medicare benefits in light of the huge budget deficits they created by deeply slashing taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals. These programs enjoy immense popularity among voters of both parties, and relatively small changes would ensure their long-term sustainability. Showing how this might be accomplished sooner rather than later is good policy and smart politics. Even if these measures don’t get anywhere now, they could tee up the issue for quick action should Democrats extend their success at the polls in 2020.

Focus on the process: Guaranteeing the fairness and integrity of elections is one the nation’s highest priorities. Republicans have succeeded to some extent in undermining faith in elections by peddling much nonsense about voter fraud. Democrats now have the opportunity to put the lie to this claim through congressional hearings, while at the same time pressing the Trump administration about what measures have been put in place to counter the actual, acute threat to the integrity of American elections — interference by malign foreign actors, such as that engaged in by the Russians in 2016. This would also be an opportunity to revisit the manipulation of social media sites by such actors and to press the companies that own those platforms to make changes to prevent their exploitation.

Don’t Go There

Impeachment: The GOP’s widespread embrace of Trump’s divisive and racist rhetoric in the closing days of the campaign is ample evidence that the Republican Party is now the Party of Trump. The chances of mustering two-thirds of the Senate, which remains firmly in Republican hands, to remove Trump from office are virtually nil. Better to let the American people rectify their 2016 error in 2020, if they choose to, rather than the Democrats spending two years chasing their own tail. Of course, if Trump moved to cut short special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election before its conclusion, that would of necessity change the equation.

Fighting fire with fire: Matching vitriol with Trump is a losing proposition. His rhetoric will always be more vicious and more despicable than anything that can be said about him, at least publicly. The far better path forward is for Democrats to conduct themselves with restraint and civility and set an example for the rest of Crazytown and, for that matter, the rest of Crazycountry.