Don’t mess this majority up, Democrats

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the Editorial Board
·3 min read
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On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three new members of the U.S. Senate, including the two Democratic winners of the recent special election in Georgia. For the first time in a decade, Democrats occupied the White House and controlled the U.S. House and Senate.

We think that’s a good thing for Washington — and for the country — after four years of mostly Republican rule.

So we mean this the most affirming way: Don’t mess this up, Democrats.

History is strewn with political parties, both state and national, overreaching as soon as they have a legislative majority. Too often, lawmakers treat it as some sort of grocery game show, stuffing their cart with as much legislation as possible before the buzzer sounds. Inevitably, that backfires. Voters recoil. The pendulum swings back toward the minority party. An opportunity for real, sustained change is lost.

We do believe President Biden should undo the damage that Donald Trump inflicted, particularly on the environment and immigration. The president took steps toward that on his first day, ordering agencies to review and reverse more than 100 of Trump’s actions on the environment. Biden also reversed Trump’s ban on travel from Muslim countries, and his administration should quickly move to restore legal immigration, including H1-B visas, back to pre-Trump levels.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. President Biden, vowing to restore environmental protections frayed over the past four years, has ordered the review of more than 100 rules and regulations on air, water, public lands, endangered species and climate change that were weakened or rolled back by his predecessor.
President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. President Biden, vowing to restore environmental protections frayed over the past four years, has ordered the review of more than 100 rules and regulations on air, water, public lands, endangered species and climate change that were weakened or rolled back by his predecessor.

But for those who see a Democratic Congress as an opportunity to push the progressive pedal to the floor, we’d like to remind you of North Carolina’s 2020 Blue Wave.

That’s right, there wasn’t one. Democrats thought there might be, and Republicans feared there would be, but after the blue wave of 2018 broke the GOP’s supermajority in the N.C. House and Senate, the momentum didn’t carry over. In part, that was because N.C. Republicans benefited from voters turning out for Donald Trump in unprecedented fashion. But Republicans also pounced on voters wary of progressive policies, particularly regarding Defund the Police, a conceptually worthy but poorly branded notion that hurt Democrats across the country.

It was a reminder that voters — especially in purplish states like North Carolina — prefer incremental change over fundamental, systemic transformation. True or not, Republicans will be poised to paint Democratic proposals as radical change over the next two years. Democrats should be strategic about what ammunition they provide.

A note to Republicans: Donald Trump will not be on the ballot for the 2022 midterm elections. The last two times he wasn’t — in the 2018 midterms and in Georgia’s special U.S. Senate election — Democrats rolled to surprising victories. Republicans should realize that on issues including immigration and healthcare, they’ve moved further to the right than most independent voters. It’s not 2012 anymore. Attacking the Affordable Care Act and making boogeymen out of immigrants doesn’t pay off at the polls like it used to.

But Republicans who are despairing this week can also take heart: There’s sometimes nothing better for a political party than to have the other party in charge for a stretch. Because that party will surely overreach.

So don’t mess this majority up, Democrats.

We hope and expect President Biden to govern from the middle, and his first concern should be dealing with the public health and economic crises the pandemic has inflicted upon Americans. Polls also show broad support for some progressive issues, including a $15 minimum wage. But Biden will be pushed left on other issues, such as Medicare for All and the makeup of the Supreme Court. Those may or may not be worthy of exploration eventually, but if Democrats want a four- to eight-year opportunity at policies that benefit all of the country, they should be careful how to approach the next two.