Alon Ben-Meir: The Democrats’ victory can save the Republican Party
The retaking of the House by the Democrats will soon allow them to exercise checks and balances and stop the Republicans from going down a slippery slope. Otherwise, the party would have slid into complete self-implosion as they blindly but willingly followed Trump’s chaotic political agenda. During the past two years, Trump and his party have rendered the country a severe disservice with massive domestic and international implications. Partisanship became the norm, and the party’s abdication of its oversight role over the executive branch has allowed Trump to pursue policies that defy logic and reality, to the detriment of the United States.
With the exception of a few Republican Congressmen who decided not to seek reelection, the vast majority of the Republican party leadership have become totally subservient to, if not enslaved by, the President. They have remained largely silent about his regular maligning of our friends and allies, his racism and outbursts against people of color, his sweeping opposition to immigration, his Islamophobic attitude, his defiance of climate change, his deliberate polarization, his repeated lies and misleading statements, his shameless attacks on the press and any perceived or real opponents, his fear mongering, and his vulgarity and demeaning attitude toward women.
Yes, the Republican party lost its soul, and two more years in control of both the House and Senate would have caused irreparable damage to the US both internationally and domestically. Ironically, the Democrats’ victory may well pull the Republican Party away from Trump’s spell and save it from its own self-destructive path.
I believe that it will be a major mistake for the Democrats to even contemplate the impeachment of Trump, not only because it will not pass the Republican Senate, but because it will further galvanize his base and allow the Republicans in the House and Senate to regroup behind the President.
The fact that the House will soon be under Democratic control offers Republicans the chance to redeem themselves by working across the aisle to begin the process of healing a dangerously divided country. Under any circumstances, however, the Democrats must focus on four major crises facing the nation that have a direct and indirect impact on every American.
Making healthcare a central issue in the mid-term election was a winning strategy, precisely because healthcare is a fundamental issue for every American. Healthcare, to be sure, is a basic human right that must be granted by either the federal government or the state. It is nothing short of a travesty for any American, regardless of age and preexisting conditions, not to have accessible and reliable healthcare.
The Democrats must remain relentless in pushing for comprehensive healthcare legislation, particularly revising the Affordable Care Act in the context of universal healthcare, and invite the Republicans to support it. The prospect for success and the potential for failure, should the Republicans decide to oppose it, will serve the Democrats’ interests come 2020.
The source of America’s greatness is in its people and their backgrounds, sets of beliefs, cultural riches, diversity, and differing resourcefulness that immigrants bring with them, which together made America not only great but unique. The Democrats must present all-encompassing immigration laws that will address the millions of undocumented immigrants, DACA, asylum seekers, and the regular flow of legal immigrants, and finally pass the DREAM Act.
Regardless of Trump’s disdain for immigrants of color, the demographic composition of America is changing. Black, Hispanic, and Asian-Americans will become a majority within three decades, a trend that Trump cannot stop, and his embrace of white supremacists is a stain on America. The Republican Party must make their choice, and the Democrats must press for what America stood for—as the country of immigrants.
It is time for the Republican Party to wake up to the indisputable scientific evidence that climate change is a reality that must urgently be addressed. Indeed, only totally ignorant and morally corrupt people do not recognize that climate change is already upon us. The unprecedented ferocity of fires (particularly recently in California), hurricanes, tsunamis, rising sea levels, and pervasive destruction of the coral reefs are a direct result of climate change and is obvious for all to see.
Environmental deregulation is criminal and no Republican, including the President, has the right to contaminate our air, water, and land only to make the rich richer. The Democrats must make climate change a national emergency and leave no stone unturned to ensure that no business can financially benefit from deregulation, at the expense of the health and well-being of every American, who will suffer greatly from chronic diseases related to climate change. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord will offer a good start.
The fourth thing the Democrats must focus on is the disastrous conditions of infrastructure throughout the country. Roads and bridges are crumbling, with over 54,000 bridges rated structurally deficient; more than two out of five interstate roads and highways are over capacity and can no longer accommodate the massive congestion, which is consuming more fuel and costing the economy $120 billion annually. Thousands of small and medium sized towns are disintegrating and are in need of major revitalization. Moreover, the country’s railway network is in sorry condition, vastly underfunded and cobbled together with freight and commuter rail lines, putting us to shame compared to countries like China, Japan, and most European states.
The Democrats must remain unyielding until infrastructure legislation passes. The Republican Senate will be hard-pressed not to work with the Democrats on such a critical bipartisan bill as 2020 hovers around.
The Democrats’ focus on these four major national projects (including education and gun control) is central to maintaining the viability of the party. This is precisely what’s needed to change the lives of ordinary Americans for the better, instead of demonizing the Republicans. The Democrats’ victory in the House offers Republicans in the Senate an opportunity to redeem themselves by collaborating with Democrats on major issues that face the nation, saving the party from disintegration.
In 2020, the Democrats should be running on their achievements, or at a minimum, on their genuine efforts to deal with issues of great concern and urgency to the American people, and clearly demonstrate that the national interests take precedent over party politics.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. Online at www.alonben-meir.com.