Democrats, Pelosi and Biden must unite politically to fight for power

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President-elect Joe Biden

Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MHPS, Guest Columnist

The Democrats have won the presidency but have not yet won the political power they need to carry out a center-left agenda. Although departing President Trump is throwing an outsized temper tantrum, the Democrats and President-Elect Biden must recognize that he maintains strong support among the Republican political base and leadership.

Having received over 71 million votes while losing the second largest number in the history of presidential elections, Trump will remain politically formidable for some time. As a result, Republican elected officials cower in fear, hoping to avoid his political wrath, and allowing him to pursue his unfounded allegation of voting fraud.

Democrats, however, have more urgent actions that they need to pursue. After projecting that they would pick up at least ten House seats to further expand their majority, so far they have unexpectedly lost five. Congressional Representative Cheri Bustos, Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), dropped the ball in defending vulnerable Democrats and recruiting strong candidates. But her most flagrant error was her attempt to turn out a diverse Democratic base with a predominantly White staff.

First, Bustos should voluntarily leave her post so that the angry dispute between Democratic centrists and liberals that erupted on a November 5th call does not split the caucus. Congressional Representative Tony Cardenas, who has demonstrated the ability to raise money and reach out to the fast-growing Latinx community which voted for Trump in South Florida (costing two Democratic House seats and the Florida electoral votes) and for Republican candidates on the Texas-Mexico border, should replace her.

Cardenas, who has led three record-breaking fundraising cycles as head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s (CHC) campaign arm, has announced a run to become the Assistant Speaker in the Democratic majority. But his expertise is more urgently needed as DCCC Chair if the Democrats are to maintain their majority in 2022. At present, they are on track to fall back into the House minority status after that election.

Second, the Democratic leadership team of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn should remain in place. Without Clyburn’s backing of Joe Biden in the February South Carolina primary, in part on the recommendation of his late wife, Ms. Emily Clyburn, there would be no President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. He alone created the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket, relieving us of Trump’s tyranny. The rumblings to replace the Pelosi team should end as there is no better option.

Third, the Party’s progressives, centrists, liberals, and others need to unite behind a centrist agenda for now to educate the nation to embrace a more egalitarian agenda: racial and income equality, climate change, health care availability, criminal justice, and police reform. They also need to dispense with hyperbolic terms, which Republicans exploited for political gain in the last election, such as defund the police, socialism, the green new deal, and Medicare for all. Slogans do matter.

Fourth, they should place the campaigns for the two Georgia Senate seats under the leadership of Stacey Abrams, founder of the New Georgia Voter Registration Project and Chair of Fair Fight Action; Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action; Latosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund; and other get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activists.

These campaigns must not be masterminded from Washington, D.C. Without Abrams’s long-term political organizing efforts, Georgia would not have turned blue, nor would Democrats have a shot at picking up the two U.S. Senate seats that would give Biden the political clout to implement his agenda. As of now, the Republicans have him stymied.

Fifth, as MSNBC analyst and Morgan State University professor, Dr. Jason Johnson, has noted, even though Trump is being removed from office, Trumpism is not dead yet. Biden’s past friendship with Mitch McConnell is irrelevant because McConnell is only interested in maintaining his power. He plans to use the same playbook he used with Barack Obama: obstruct Biden at every turn and limit him to one-term.

Biden needs to realize that like Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid in South Africa, the Republican leadership is fearful of the changing demographics and committed to keeping America’s minority groups, who will make up a collective American majority by 2040, in their place – ill housed, ill fed, redistricted out of political power, and consigned to a permanent American underclass as defined in Isabel Wilkerson’s recent bestseller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Even as he attempts to unite the country, President-Elect Biden must contest McConnell, Sens. Lindsey Graham (D-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who circulated racist Obama memes while serving in the House, and other right-wing Republicans at every turn.

Coupled with their archconservative transformation of the American judicial system and the current decline of the White majority caused by low population growth, the Republicans plan to cement racial inequality for generations.

In a fashion similar to South Africa apartheid from 1948 through the 1990s when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first Black President, their objective is to replicate that odious system in order to institutionalize White supremacy. The residue of South Africa’s political scheme has continued to hamper that nation’s development.

This is the legacy that Mitch McConnell and his disciples desire to leave to their progeny. If successful, they will have achieved their dream world and brought back Jim Crow under the label of democracy. In this scenario, there will be overseers of color who will serve as fronts and exemplars of Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American progress.

Without major Democratic pushback, this is where America is headed. Do President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris recognize this reality?

There are models of minority Americans who have changed the direction of the country from the streets: Martin Luther King, Jr., Diane Nash, John Lewis, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta. More recently in the judicial arena, Fourth Circuit Appeals Court Judge James Wynn’s concurring opinion upholding Obamacare in 2012 served as a baseline for Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This week’s Supreme Court arguments, the attempt to overrule Obamacare, a law which has been a signal achievement for broader health care access, have generated indications from five Justices that it might be sustained. Chief Justice Roberts, who is once more leading support for Obamacare, appears to be joined in his efforts by Trump appointee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, President Trump is threatening to run for President in 2024. In a backup plan, he has cut a deal with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to support him for President if he agrees to choose his favorite child, Ivanka, as his running mate. So it goes.

Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.