- Richard Ojeda
While the victory in the midterm elections was not as definitive as some had expected, the Democrats did secure a majority in the House of Representatives and with it a much-needed firewall to Trump’s policies. Assuming the Democratic caucus stands firm, additional deficit-exploding tax cuts for the 1% are off the table. Legislative paths towards criminalizing abortion, legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans and repealing Obamacare have also been blocked.
For the many who have been endangered by Trump’s bigoted policies, the ability to finally play defense should provide some sense of relief, but it is not enough. Since they did not gain a majority in the Senate, Democrats have no way to block Trump’s judicial appointments. This will certainly result in the judiciary being stocked with judges whose sole qualification is a willingness to engage in judicial activism to push a conservative agenda. We cannot rely on the courts to protect the historic progress that our country has made in the last half-century of civil rights battles or to provide the check on the Executive Branch that our Constitution mandates. Have no doubt, the condition of our country will worsen in the years ahead.
To steal a strategy from Mitch McConnell, the Democrats’ top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President [Trump] a second term. However, unlike the Republicans under Obama, they should not obstruct the government from properly operating. If Trump stumbles across a policy that will help the American people, the Democrats should embrace it and provide the votes for passage. However, they must do so without compromising their own values. Trump already proved with immigration that he cannot be trusted to keep any deals that he makes with the Democrats so negotiation should be off the table. Instead, they should let him propose legislation and give it an up or down vote.
While waiting for Trump to show some kind of leadership, the Democrats need to pass lots of bills. Instead of repeating the Republican strategy of voting 70 times “to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act”, the Democrats need to show Americans why they deserve to lead from the White House. The significant portion of the Republican electorate supports Medicare for All, tuition-free public colleges and universities, and marijuana legalization. The House should, therefore, pass bills giving them what they want. A bill to eliminate tax deductions for corporations would line up with the GOP’s goal of flatter taxes. Bills that fulfill Trump’s promises to get rid of the carried interest deduction and invest in infrastructure improvements should also be passed.
Without control of the Senate, these bills have no chance of reaching the President’s desk and becoming law. However, their passage will set a clear marker as to which side represents the interests of the American people. Candidates, including those for President, will have a clear record to stand on.
The other task that Democrats can not complete without controlling the Senate is removing Trump from office through the impeachment process. This does not mean that the House should avoid impeaching the President, but that they should do so in a strategic matter. First and foremost, this means that they must perform a thorough investigation. A case must be sent to the Senate only when it is airtight and involves significant issues so that the Republicans pay a political price when they acquit Trump.
In order to be successful at implementing this strategy, the Democrats need a leader who knows how to fight at Trump’s level while still maintaining integrity. In my opinion, Nancy Pelosi is too much of an establishment figure to get this done. Instead, they need to think outside the box. Actually, they need to think outside the House.
In the just concluded election, Richard Ojeda fought a race for a congressional seat in a district that elected Trump by almost 50 points. He closed that gap by 31-points with hard-hitting ads that took on the establishment from both parties and the corporations who keep them in their pockets. He took on Trump in a way that those without his working-class, military background could not. Someone like Ojeda would be the perfect person to be the face of the new majority as they embark on a battle for the White House. Selecting this type of person would prove that the Democrats are ready to fight to represent those who have been left behind by both parties.