Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Stunning Majority, A Massive Crisis, An Historic Opportunity


I believe that the Democrats will probably run the table in November, taking the Presidency by a landslide, increasing their majority in the House, and taking the Senate by about 54-46. Who knows, but that's what I think. The election will constitute a massive rejection of Trump personally, and Trumpism, and the Republican party as it is now constituted. Not only will the united Democrats have complete control, but their Republican opposition will be divided and thus even less able to obstruct than the numbers will indicate.

They will take over in the midst of a huge, mishandled, dangerous, ongoing pandemic health crisis, and in the midst of the associated huge, dangerous, ongoing economic crisis. These two singular crises will take the major part of the attention of the public and the top administration. That is where the drama will be.

At the same time, however, the crises that Trump had precipitated even before the pandemic will still be there, ready to solve. These Trumpian crises are of two sorts. One is Trumpian policies – the tax policies, the destruction he has caused throughout the government agencies in their objectives as well as their ability simply to function. The other is the Trumpian trampling of the laws and norms of how the government does its business. To make a medical analogy, you might think of these two separate areas as the bones and the muscles of government. The bones would be the laws and norms, the stable structure necessary for the muscles to attach to and to operate. The muscles would be the policies themselves.

(I have discussed this in three previous posts focusing the the laws and norms – the bones, if you will – on Post Trump Reform, Post Trump Reforms Executive Summary, and Post Trump Reforms David Frum Commentary, with comments on David Frum's excellent book, Trumpocalypse. I have also discussed one specific important suggested reform that refers back to the paper that David Levine and I wrote recommending that the power of the presidential pardon be constitutionally amended to require that each pardon receive the co-signature of the Speaker of the House.)

So you have to wonder, if the Democrats take over as I have outlined, or something close to that, would the necessity of concentrating on COVID-19 and the attendant recession/depression completely suppress and delay all the other necessary actions of post Trump reforms? After all, you might think, their hands and the congress's will be more than full.

Maybe so. That will certainly be the argument of the disorganized rump Trumpian/Republican minority. But I have a different view. I am optimistic that the Democrats will find it possible to walk the COVID-19 and economic support walk, and at the same time to chew the gum of post Trumpian Reforms. And in fact, with COVID-19 and economic support at center stage, I would posit that, (switching metaphors here!) like a magician who has focused the audience's attention on his right hand doing the pandemic/economic juggling, the Dems could push the post Trumpian Reforms even faster and more completely than if everyone's attention were on them.

You never know until you get there, but it's possible. But, it will only be possible if the Democrats are prepared. It's all in the preparation. You have to rehearse the hell out of that left hand, or the chewing of the gum, take your pick of metaphors. If you're not ready for the opportunity, you won't be able to take advantage of it.

So here is what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that the Democrats construct a detailed battle plan right now. Even if the plan never survives the battle intact, you still have to have it ready so you can act with the knowledge of what you have planned. What are your major steps and how are you going to accomplish them?

I would divide them up into policies and laws/norms, muscle and bone. I won't deal with the muscle here and now, but first would probably have to be personnel; I would have them ready. Then there would have to be all the policies and rules and regulations that have been changed – just change them back and make them better – Build Back Better, the man said. Then, as the Republicans squawked about the cost of the economic support program, I would reverse the Trump tax cuts and say, you're right, we need the money, and guess how we're going to get some of it.

For the laws/norms, the bones of government, I think David Frum hit it on the nose. I would start with getting rid of the filibuster first thing, then vote in DC as a state before they can say Jack Robinson. As Frum reasons succinctly, just do it, you can do it with simple majority votes in both houses and a presidential signature. They'll never know what hit them.

I'm not sure what the professional Democrats would plan to do next, but there would have to be a list. I would take the Frum tactical line and just get it done. Invite the opposition in, allow cooperation and amendments – but not obstruction. If they howl, excoriate them. Respond – no more obstruction! No more emasculation of the legislative branch! But whatever, the crisis atmosphere and the rare Democratic predominance should not to be wasted.

I would start the planning, slowly and quietly, but bringing in the major players inside and outside of government, right now. Have your list ready. And have your playbook ready on how you are going to educate the nation to what you are doing. (Learn from the great missed opportunity and cautionary tale of the Obama administration – how to sell it. Personally, I would put Donnie Deutsch on the case, and the Lincoln Project people, and James Carville, but that's personal taste.)

You've got to be ready. This will be your chance. As my wife told me when I got Stanford's offer to buy my practice, as she very wisely advised me, and as she directed me, let me say now to the Democrats – Don't fuck it up!

Budd Shenkin

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