Dear President-Elect Biden,
First and foremost, congratulations on a hard-fought victory that has finally been confirmed. I know it was an exhausting struggle and you’re frustrated that even with your decisive win, much of the country still doesn’t believe it was legitimate. But you will be our 46th President and as you take office on January 20th, it marks the time for our country to begin moving forward from this dark chapter in American history. It will not be easy repairing the damage, but I am confident that you are committed to the task of healing our ideological fractures and addressing the most critical challenges facing our nation.
I was once a proud Republican, but I’d become increasingly disillusioned with the party over the last 15 years and voted for you, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The current GOP represents none of the traditional values and principles that it once stood for; it has become a morally bankrupt party, mainly serving as a vessel for the interests of corporations and our wealthy donors. The Trump era disemboweled the Republican Party, as evidenced by the loss of both Senate seats in Georgia, and the party now necessitates a long-overdue reckoning and self-examination if it is to survive. And that will have to be done knowing that part of President Trump’s base will not abandon him. Ever.
Having had a foot on both sides of the aisle, I’d like to offer some well-intentioned advice as you begin the formidable task of bringing together our bitterly divided nation.
First, Americans’ expectations of a functional government are so low right now, you actually have a unique opportunity to lead the country into whatever the new post-Trump normal will be. The nation craves capability in its leadership, not controversy, and the first step in this next phase of governing must be to earn the power of your position, rather than simply grab it like many in your party are demanding. Governing by executive orders will not serve the country, nor will power grabs such as abolishing the filibuster and “court packing.” There has to be some kind of working relationship between the two parties, even if on just a few key issues.
Given Democratic control of the Senate, the Republican Party will have to recognize that the era of gridlock and stalemates is over. Bills passed by the House of Representatives will no longer have to die a slow death on the soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. McConnell and other Republican leaders who enabled Donald Trump simply to maintain power, will also have to face the hard truth that in 2022, there are 20 Republican Senate and 14 Democratic seats up for election. If the GOP has any hopes of regaining the Senate or the House, they will have to start actually governing again, especially as our country tries to stabilize and rebound from the horrific human and economic toll of the coronavirus. And this means Democrats must also reconcile the differences within your own party–no small task given the divide between the left and center.
Even with the storming of the Capitol shocking some of the GOP back to reality, it would be naïve to think Democrats and Republicans are suddenly going to resolve all their differences. So, rather than simply hope for a movement of both parties into a new era of collaboration, there should be a focus on forming issue-based alliances between Democrats and Republicans. The recent coronavirus relief bill was achieved only because of the bipartisan efforts of a small number of practical problem solvers from both parties.
So, what are these issues where there could be some bipartisan consensus? First and foremost, is the safety of all Americans who are simply worn out by the relentless stress, danger and uncertainty of the coronavirus. COVID must become a health issue, not a political issue, and we can’t solve the current economic crisis until we solve the health crisis. By the time you take office, our nation will have suffered close to 400,000 deaths. Rather than leaving it up to the states to handle, the Federal government must take charge with immediate action on additional financial aid to support its citizens and businesses and to dramatically increase the production of tests and vaccines and oversee their distribution and inoculations.
You’ve asked citizens to wear a mask for the first 100 days of your administration, which is a good start, but even more importantly, you must convince people who are showing a resistance to actually getting the vaccine to become more comfortable with the idea or we’re never going to get to herd immunity. You will also have to bring Republican leaders on board to preach the vaccination message and this will be one of your greatest challenges and perhaps, your most notable achievement. There has been no greater shame than the ineptitude of our government in dealing with a deadly virus, as well as innumerable other challenges. Right now, the majority of Americans are craving basic competence and a government they believe works for them.
Second, would be climate change, which should start with a new marketing plan. Despite major evidence of global warming, instead of being solely portrayed as a science-based issue, climate change should also be presented as a major economic opportunity. Thus, rather than only being seen as a massive expense with the return on investment still years away, we’re talking about creating millions of alternative energy jobs, evidenced by the solar panel industry already employing more people than the entire fossil fuel extraction industry. If we can create a logical transition plan from fossil fuels to alternative energy, you will have energy companies working with you instead of fighting you, because they can see the writing on the wall.
Third, the cyberattack by Russia on our most vital government agencies, public utilities and private corporations should be seen as a preemptive act of war by a foreign power. Some experts say this is the most serious threat to our national security ever, exposing vulnerabilities that will take months or even years to unravel and repair. With our civilian and military infrastructure breached, both parties can agree that our nation needs far stronger cyber forces to remain prepared on the digital battlefield, particularly defensive capabilities to detect and thwart these attacks. And countries like Russia must be held accountable for their aggression–Trump’s controversial relationship with Vladimir Putin will no longer be a factor and you must deal forcefully with this cyber assault.
Lastly, with Democrats bringing an article of impeachment against Donald Trump, a logical, visceral response to the heinous attack on the Capitol, another clear motive is to ensure that the president cannot run for office again. But the impeachment process also presents a conundrum. While we must follow the axiom that no man is above the law, a Senate trial would consume the first days of your presidency, distracting you from focusing on vital issues, especially the pandemic, getting Cabinet appointees confirmed and winning support from some of the 73 million people who voted for Trump.
You’ve said your “hope and expectation” is that the Senate could simultaneously hold an impeachment trial while also confirming your nominees and working on an additional coronavirus relief package, but that could be extremely challenging considering you will be seeking bipartisan cooperation. Whatever happens next, Congress must also conduct a thorough investigation of the complete breakdown in security measures at the Capitol and ensure that the presidential pardoning process is reexamined and a self-pardon by the president challenged.
We must also remember that once the president leaves office, he will not have immunity from state or local charges, nor will he be protected from any future crimes he may commit. Both the Southern District of New York and NY’s attorney general have ongoing legal and financial investigations of the president and based on the dismissals of all the numerous lawsuits seeking to overturn the election, please have faith in our judicial system and let it play out. Both Trump’s supporters and all Americans need to feel there was due process in the courts.
As a political pragmatist, my final message to you seems appropriate when our country is under unprecedented pressure and duress and your greatest task is to begin healing this nation while simultaneously addressing our most urgent crises. I can’t think of a time where the Serenity Prayer would be more fitting. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Here’s to a new era of American politics, Mr. President-Elect. I wish you Godspeed in shaping whatever this new normal will look like.