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November 18, 2018 10:27 am

The Democrats Must Now Help Americans, Not Attack Trump

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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The US Capitol building. Wikimedia Commons via Martin Falbisoner.

The retaking of the House of Representatives by the Democrats will soon allow them to exercise checks and balances, and stop Republicans from going down a slippery slope of blindly following 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 GOP’s abdication of its oversight role over the Executive Branch allowed Trump to pursue policies that were to the detriment of the United States.

With the exception of a few Republican Congressmen who decided not to seek re-election, the vast majority of the Republican Party leadership have become totally subservient to Trump. 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.

The Republican Party has 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 is 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.

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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.

Health Care:

Making health care a central issue in the mid-term election was a winning strategy for the Democrats, precisely because health care is a fundamental issue for every American. It is, 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, affordable, and reliable health care.

The Democrats must remain relentless in pushing for comprehensive health care legislation, particularly revising the Affordable Care Act in the context of universal health care, 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.

Immigration:

The source of America’s greatness is its people and their backgrounds, sets of beliefs, cultural riches, diversity, and resourcefulness. The Democrats must present all-encompassing immigration laws that will address the millions of undocumented immigrants, DACA participants, asylum seekers, and the regular flow of legal immigrants. Congress must also finally pass the DREAM Act.

Regardless of Trump’s disdain for immigrants, 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 once stood for — a country of immigrants.

Climate change:

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. The unprecedented ferocity of fires (particularly recently in California), hurricanes, tsunamis, rising sea levels, and pervasive destruction of coral reefs are a direct result of climate change; this 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 corporations 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. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord would be a good start.

Infrastructure:

The fourth thing that 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, and more than two out of five interstate roads and highways over capacity, which is consuming too much 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 a 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.

The Democrats’ focus on these four major national projects 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, and Democrats must pursue this 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 these 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. They must clearly demonstrate that 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. He can be reached at alon@alonben-meir.com.

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