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The challenge facing incoming House Democrats

November 8, 2018

Tuesday’s election altered the power sharing structure of the federal government. The temptation will be strong for Democrats, the new majority in the House of Representatives, to exact political revenge on President Donald Trump.

There should be scrutiny through House investigations of Trump’s tax records, his investments, his creditors, and the money that foreign governments funnel into his privately-held company.

But while oversight is an important role of the legislative branch, one which the Republican-controlled House has largely abdicated, it is not the only role. Yes, those who voted to send Democrats to Congress want the president held accountable, but they also want actions taken to improve their lives. Democrats will make a huge mistake if they settle only for being the anti-Trump party. Democrats must show the country that they know how to govern better.

The 2018 election cycle was more than a counter punch to the overreach of an unfit president. The election was the first confirmation of a country on the cusp of rapid social transformation. The new House of Representatives will have more women and more ethnic diversity than ever before, reflecting demographical shifts.

A new country is emerging, one where minorities, collectively, will be the majority population. The east and west coasts and the large urban areas of America are transforming into a post-industrial, high-tech, socially progressive and demographically diverse society. The Democrats recognize the changes. The Republicans, under the Trump influence, pretend it is not happening.

But it is not enough to simply recognize and celebrate diversity. What is required is a political party that can unify the diversity of the population under policies that advance the nation.

A prime example is health care. The momentum for expansion of national health care insurance is building. Many Democrats campaigned on a “Medicare for all” update to Obamacare. That’s a swell slogan, but it is not a plan of governance. Democrats should develop a health care plan that identifies both the costs and the ways those costs would be covered through taxes and/or diversions of government spending.

Republicans, with no vision for how to provide for health care needs, have left a vacuum Democrats can fill if they coalesce behind a plan. Allowing individuals 50 and older or the companies they work for to buy into Medicare may be a start. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is among the proponents of this idea.

With Republicans in control of the Senate there is no chance for major health care reform, but using the House to frame the debate could propel the Democrats in 2020.

Immigration is another issue where Democrats need a coherent policy, devising a comprehensive, compassionate and rational approach that puts America back in the business of welcoming immigrants, fairly assessing the cases of refugees, providing the resources to secure the border and better tracking those who exceed their authorized stays.

Concerning potential malfeasance by this president, his administration and his 2016 campaign, protect the Mueller investigation and let it run its course, then assess its findings. Until then, talk of impeachment is premature and unhelpful.

Trump will try to paint the House Democrats as obstructionists. They should not play into his hands. This moment calls for leadership to put America back on the historic path of its noble journey to improve the lot of mankind. The challenge for Democrats is to lead the way and rise above revenge politics.

Throughout America’s tumultuous history the country has advanced the cause of human rights. America became a better country by ending slavery, extending voting rights to blacks and women, and welcoming tides of immigrants from all oppressed parts of the globe.

Every thrust of progress on human rights was met with resistance. Backlash from counter movements caused the county to regress a few steps before regaining forward momentum.

Recent American history is rife with dramatic change from the election of Barack Obama, to the advancement of gay rights, technology advancement, global trade, the disruption of mass migrations and the growing threat of climate change.

These dramatic changes created unease and push back. That push back led the nation, unfortunately, to the election of Trump.

Trump has squandered his presidency and thwarted America’s forward movement by promoting divisiveness and demonizing every opponent who crosses his path.

The Trump Era is destined to be assigned a role of disgrace in the American story. The faster our politics can regain its faith in the American ideal of justice for all, the faster the nation can put the sorry aberration of Trump’s presidency into the rear-view mirror.

 

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