Time to Get to Work

President Trump is Gone

I spent much of yesterday glued to my television. Emotions of joy, relief and hope coursed through my veins. The following are some of my reflections from a very cathartic day:

President Trump is gone. The troll has been pulled out from under the bridge and exiled to his cave. So, it is now time for us to get to work.

Arguments and recriminations and gloating will not bring healing or progress. People instead need to hear a positive vision of a nation committed to economic, social, racial, and gender justice….and they need to see tangible success in turning that vision into law.  Next, they need to experience the implementation of those laws as concrete programs that touch the lives of all Americans, particularly those who live on the margins and suffer from discrimination, poverty and injustice.

I do believe that if partisan politics were subtracted from the equation there would be a large majority of Americans in favor of the Biden platform. To get from where we are to where we want to be, however, will be a difficult journey. First, we who support the agenda must unite around it rather than argue among ourselves about whether particular areas are radical enough.

One thing the Republicans do well is to get their folks on the same page by hashing out differences behind closed doors. They simplify complex issues by reducing them to one-line talking points, which are then consistently repeated by their members—over and over and over again.  The goal is not to enhance public knowledge about an issue but to build support for their proposals.

That process is not in the Democrat DNA. We tend to fight out our differences in public. It is now imperative that we come together around a clear, understandable agenda, and for every member to broadcast that agenda over and over and over again. The margins in both houses of Congress are so slim that Democrats will not maintain majorities if we are divided. Remember the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Our diversity is our strength, and our unity is our power.”

I believe that the opportunity for building those majorities is there. For instance, many of the MAGA folks who feel unheard, isolated and in economic peril are not motivated by partisanship but by the desperation and fear that permeates their daily lives. It will take a clear, positive and consistent vision that is accompanied by results to win them over.

Our goal should be to hold and move the vision rather than to argue about it. We Democrats must have the patience to stay together and not allow ourselves to get lost in frustration and anger as inevitable partisan opposition gets loud and persistent. And whenever we can, we should seek common ground with Republicans by being receptive to their ideas and problems. As MLK, Jr. told us, we need “keep our eyes on the prize.” In this case the prize is common good.

Six Crisis That Are Interwoven and Interrelated

In his inaugural address President Biden listed six crisis that are challenging us: The virus, climate change, increasing inequality, racism, America’s standing in the world, and organized, consistent attacks on truth and democracy.

The president emphasized that all six are urgent and we cannot afford to take them on one at a time. It is essential for the Congress, the Executive and the body politic to work together to confront them simultaneously as a package. It is a huge and difficult challenge, but one we cannot afford to shirk. This will require a coalition of Republicans and Democrats willing to put the country first, something we as a nation have consistently failed to do for at least the last decade.

The Oath

I was surprised to be deeply moved by the oaths that President Biden and Vice President Harris swore to. Those oaths are not merely rituals. They express an unbreakable commitment to a daunting task, a task that is bigger than the individual.The event conjured up a 55-year-old memory:

On March 10, 1966 I took my first binding oath: “I, William Stukey Jamieson, Jr. do hereby accept the appointment as anOfficer in the grade of Ensign in the United States Navy; I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter; so help me God.”

My second binding oath came three years and six months later: On September 6, 1969 in a Danville, Virginia Presbyterian church. There amongst family and friends I promised under God that I would love, honor and cherish Kennon Barksdale, “forsaking all others” and that I would “be faithful to her as long as I shall live.” I consider both oaths to be a life-long bond.

 

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