Congratulations on your election, President Joe Biden.
Barring some unlikely, drastic alteration in the vote totals once the states officially certify their results, the new normal — the long wait for the outcome of our presidential election — has ushered in a major change in the leadership of the country.
True enough, Republicans gained dramatically down ballot in state legislatures, and also in the House of Representatives. Republicans may retain control of the US Senate. But when all is said and done, it is a new day, if for no other reason than the contrasts between President Trump and President-elect Biden are transparent.
The Democratic Party contested the 2000 election more than 30 days after the election. President Trump has the right to do the same — if he has any evidence of fraud, which seems more unlikely with each passing day, if it ever seemed likely to begin with.
What was not foreseen as likely but which turned out to be reality was the closeness of the presidential race, far closer than pollsters anticipated. Trump polled much stronger than anticipated among minorities and other groups that were seen as a lock for Biden.
Which means that the country remains deeply divided.
We look to President Biden for healing, for the wisdom to govern in a bipartisan way that Trump does not. It will not be enough for President Biden to be civil in a way that Trump is not, yet also promote the most extreme progressive policies. That would have the same effect as Trump’s language: deep division.
The country needs to find a way to come together. If the edges on each side of the political spectrum hold sway, the country will not come together. Most of the country does not want to sustain the political chasm that has characterized this country at least since 2008.
The late community leader Jordon Perlmutter told friends in 2008 that he had not supported Barack Obama for president, but now that he has been elected, Perlmutter said he hoped that Obama would succeed. That is the spirit we all need, however we voted.
This civic duty of good will to a new president was not extended to Donald Trump in 2016 by the person and the party he defeated. We bring this up because of what we call the first rule of political health in a democracy: remain loyal to the procedure, even against your partisan interests. Current case in point: Everyone needs to get behind President Biden for the welfare, the cohesiveness of our society. Why? Look at a contrasting case in point. It illustrates the long-term detriment to one’s partisan interests when short-term advantage is gained — but at the expense of procedure.
The case in point is President Trump’s success in seeing three of his picks to the Supreme Court confirmed.
This was not because of Mitch McConnell. This was not because of a Republican supermajority in the US Senate. This was not because Republicans dismissed Democratic concerns or because Democratic concerns included non-starters. This was because of one man.
Former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.
He deviated from the procedure.
He eliminated the 60-vote filibuster for federal judges in 2013 in order to push through three Obama nominees, thereby gaining a short-term advantage —but handing the rationale on a silver platter to Mitch McConnell to do the same for Supreme Court judges. Harry Reid initiated and routinized “the nuclear option.”
What guaranteed that Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, once nominated, would make it to the Supreme Court? Harry Reid’s short-sighted deviation from the procedure of democracy, enabling a simple majority to do the trick.
This likely result was pointed out to Reid at the time. He didn’t listen. The short-term advantage to be derived from deviation from procedure blinded him to the long-term damage to his partisan interests.
We bring this up now because it would be similarly short-sighted today for Republicans to deviate from procedure by not accepting the results of the 2020 election, by not welcoming President Biden, by not wishing him success. Such a move by Republicans will come back to haunt them, the same as Reid’s move came back to haunt Democrats. It is a sign of our polarized times that we even to need to say this.
This does not mean that Republicans should abandon their policy agenda any more than Biden should abandon his. However, it has become all too clear in our politics that the partisan rancor exceeds policy differences.
Our political culture has been filled with vitriolic language, threats of pay back, meanness, imputation of bad motives, stunts and abuse of process, on both sides of the aisle. Enough! We now have an opportunity to turn this around. Let us embrace it.
Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News