Turmoil in '21?
Why 2021 may not be the relaxed political year we think it will be, and that’s okay.
On the morning of Wednesday, January 6th, history was made in the state of Georgia. Democrats swept the state with both a presidential victory and two senatorial ones. This had not happened since 1981 when Democrats were still known as “Dixiecrats” for their segregationist and racist views. For the first time in Georgia’s 231 year history of electing senators, a black man was chosen by the people to represent the state. However, more history was made that fateful Wednesday. On that day, the Capitol was breached, vandalized, and congresspeople were evacuated from the building, effectively halting a vote to certify election results. The events that transpired on the sixth of January at the Capitol building are sure to go down as a disgraceful failing in the peaceful transition of power Americans hold sacred as a measure of a healthy democracy. This surely had to be a fluke of some kind, right?
There’s no way that this could happen again, not with the deescalating efforts of Joe Biden and many other politicians. Not with an aggressive political figure like Donald Trump leaving office soon, people will go home and calm down, right? The optimist in me wants to agree, to say yes, of course, this was just a one-time thing. The realist in me, however, says no. No, far-right conservatives will not back down, especially not with what’s coming. Every time a political party has held complete control over the legislative and executive branches, they have pushed through policy. As Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said: “When you’re in the majority, you have the chance to really play offense,” and Democrats are sure to do so.
The congressional majority of Democrats will approve Joe Biden’s political appointments without a problem, and more aggressive policies like expanding the Affordable Care Act and overhauling immigration laws are more likely. The President-elect will need to be cautious, though, that he doesn’t get too aggressive with his policy, lest he lose the trust of moderates like Joe Manchin and Jon Tester. They will determine a lot of what will pass due to the slim majority Democrats hold in the Senate. Democrats must also unify and keep everyone on the same page, which will fall to the Senate and House whips. As James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said, “When parties get control of all three branches, they start to fight within the party in ways that you might not expect.” Ultimately, the Democrats’ task is to stay together on policy and work on a realistic agenda to pass. What then, you might ask, is the goal for Republicans? Republicans, like all minority parties amid a majority takeover, must do their best to reign in policy that they feel is too liberal and try to work with moderates to keep the country right where it is and not allow any significant changes. Of course, during the last few years, anyone could see that American politics is trending towards party-line votes on almost everything. With the way our Congress is set up, it can be near impossible for one politician, or even several, to break away from the majority, as seen most recently with the vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice. The few moderate Republicans that resisted her confirmation were, for the most part, realigned with the Republican Party to successfully pass the vote.
Overall, there is an atmosphere of anticipation in America right now. Everyone is on edge in a pandemic that has proven more controversial than any other disease in U.S. history, an election mired by claims of fraud, and an economy that continues to go downhill. All of this causes fear. Fear in everybody, but now especially in conservatives who are seeing their world turned upside down. It will take strong Republican leadership to get these conservatives to stop supporting Trump, and, as John Thune of South Dakota said, “I think our (Republican) identity for the past several years was built around an individual, we (have) got to get back to where it’s built on a set of principles and ideas and policies.” That will be a challenge, especially after the unilateral Republican support of Trump for over four years. Right-wing voters may not be so easily swayed to stop supporting Donald Trump, a man many see as a savior rather than a destroyer of the Republican party.
All this is just the foreseeable future of 2021 politics, and there is sure to be unexpected events and obstacles in this year of hope. However, ultimately, we as Americans need to see that politics in this country is not something to be avoided or something that should be feared. Instead, we must take control of our fate as a nation and as people and participate in this democracy, we set up for self-governance. Don’t allow politics to control your time and freedom. Use that time and take advantage of your freedom as an American to control politics. As Marian Wright Edelman said: “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” and you have to get involved if you want to see your vision of this United States come true.