Once the dust settles, and after all legitimate votes have been counted, America's democratic system will survive. This past election cycle offers several lessons for both Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats have seemingly failed to gain support (and likely lost some voters) by promoting more liberal policies, including components of the Green New Deal, repealing the 2018 Trump tax cuts, proposing radical ideas like packing the Supreme Court and adding states (D.C. and Puerto Rico). At the very least, Democrats should carefully reconsider their platform before continuing to push America leftward. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris should look for opportunities to bring a rebirth of compromise — particularly if Republicans end up maintaining control of the Senate.
If a Biden-Harris administration does push for more radical leftist policies, it may result in a more obvious rejection of these policies in 2022 Senate and House races, while opening the 2024 presidential race to a moderate Republican candidate.
Several of my traditionally conservative colleagues had high hopes for a blue wave that would send a clear message to the Republican Party: They need to rebuild after the wake of destruction left by President Donald Trump. However, this election, with seemingly disappointing results for Democrats in both the House and the Senate, seem to give credence to the idea that Trump's support flows deeper with the 70 million or so Americans who voted for him. I suspect that many of these votes were not in support of President Trump's rhetoric and demeanor, but a recognition of many of his policies.
Similar to his 2016 campaign, President Trump ran in 2020 on a more positive platform, promoting the idea that America is indeed a great country and should focus on ideas that perpetuate that greatness. Alternatively, Biden and Harris were more concerned about America's flaws by highlighting the continued existence of systemic racism and insisting that cases of inequity can only be resolved through "equality of outcome" solutions.
During the final presidential debate, Biden also repeatedly held President Trump responsible for every death caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and alerted Americans of an impending "dark winter." Most Americans seemed to recognize that the Trump administration's response was far from perfect — particularly with regard to the president's rhetoric and irresponsible disagreements with respected health officials. However, Americans also recognize the high death tolls in many other countries that make it hard to assume that a different administration could have had a significant impact on the overall death toll.
Aside from plans to convince governors to implement statewide mask mandates and requiring masks on federal property, Joe Biden's overall strategy to tackle the pandemic will not substantially deviate from the course we're on. This is why his messaging on this topic was entirely focused on criticizing actions of the current administration. This theme seemed to ring true throughout the campaign: take the opposite side of any policies proposed by the Trump administration, whether they are good or bad.
Unlike Barack Obama's historic 2008 campaign, which ran on a positive message of "hope" and "change," Biden embraced some extremely progressive ideas, while offering no clear destination on where he planned to take the country. This is a large reason why Democrats were disappointed when they realized Tuesday that the "blue wave" was a mirage.
But there's no arguing that the most obvious losers were the various pollsters, pundits and talking heads who largely predicted the Democrats would handily take the presidency, gain seats in the House and retake the Senate. Pollsters will need to revamp their methods for future elections if they are to maintain any credibility.
After Jan. 20, 2021, there is an opportunity to return to compromise between the two parties that have led to so many historic and beneficial policies of the past, including the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Medicare and Medicaid acts (1965) and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996). America welcomes a return to civility and a rejection of rancor and division. Joe Biden can get us in the mood for change if he'll be true to his post-election rhetoric. Donald Trump also has an opportunity to allow for a smooth transition to help heal our nation. ♦
George Nethercutt represented the 5th District of Washington as a Republican in Congress from 1995-2005.