What Ted Said

No Blue Wave

Ted Van Dyk is an author and former government official with a long history of involvement in public policy and international affairs. His career includes work as an intelligence analyst at the Pentagon; as director of the Washington, D.C., public affairs office of the European Communities (now the European Union); and as a policymaker in the Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter administrations, where he coordinated U.S. foreign assistance programs. He is a lifelong Democrat currently living in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. With his permission, we occasionally feature his Facebook posts.

Nov 14, 2020

President-elect Biden will need to get his “first hundred days” agenda ready for presentation quickly—-the first 100, you recall, being the time usually granted a new president in which his initiatives can succeed before his wave of initial approval recedes.

Deciding on first steps, he no doubt will assess the current political mood nationally.

Biden won by successfully making the campaign a referendum on a generally disliked Trump. But, at congressional and state-legislative levels, Dem candidates fared less well although having big campaign-spending advantages–mainly by leaving a perception that they were drifting ever further away from the party’s former Middle American base. Two words exemplify the drift: Defund Police.

Bernie Sanders a couple days ago said he fully expected Biden to follow through on pledges to support a joint agenda he endorsed at the end of the nominating season. He may be disappointed.

The coronavirus is foremost right now in the minds of most citizens. They will respond to any Biden proposals to get ahead of it. When he takes office, the first vaccines will be on the verge of public release. Then, as always, citizens will be concerned with the health of the economy. Biden will need to reassure that the virus can be contained while at the same time economic normalization can be achieved. Tightenings and shutdowns taking place now could make that difficult. Fresh stimulus spending—even in the face of rising deficits and debt—-no doubt would be accepted.

Where else might bipartisan consensus be possible after the inaugural? Immigration reform came close to passage during the Twig Bush years and could pass now: Border security along with a path to citizenship for illegals already here. GOP is striking out in attempts to repeal Obamacare. But cost and coverage fixes nonetheless are necessary and could get bipartisan congressional support. Biden could return to the Paris Climate Accords and get broad support for it—even though the action would be largely symbolic (the Accords have no enforcement mechanism). New investments in urban employment, job training, and economic renewal, public schools and infrastructure modernization also would draw broad support.

To be avoided in the first 100 days: Forgiveness of student loan debt; racial, gender, ethnic quotas in employment or public contracting; initiatives to end the filibuster and Electoral College and to add two new states (and four new Democratic Senators); proposals to pack the Supreme Court; abrupt actions to reduce domestic energy production. Voters’ rejection of Trump should not be read as approval of these initiatives.

Biden properly has spoken of reconciliation and his intention to work across partisan and ideological lines. Coming up in Delaware and the Senate, those were his instincts as a mainstream liberal/moderate Democrat. His first task will be to stick with his instincts and reject demands from his party’s present activist wing. He should start with seeking action where it can be supported within his own party and by a respectable number of congressional Republicans. The latter, freed of Trump, are likely to respond in January as they would not now.



by Ted Van Dyke
Nov 7, 2020

Attention understandably is focused now on the Trump challenges in several closely contested states. But, if history holds, few will be upheld and Biden will indeed be inaugurated in January. What will the situation be in January and in the year ahead?

First, and perhaps most importantly, if current Senate, House, and state legislative outcomes are confirmed, we will find that—after four turbulent Trump years and polarizing actions in both political parties—our political culture has taken neither hard Left nor Rightward turns. Voters as always want strong national and neighborhood security, good public schools, a solid domestic economy, public policies supporting the elderly and vulnerable, and leadership not veering too far on either side of the center line.

No street disorders, no police defunding, no racial quotas, no militias, no changes in basic institutions such as the Electoral College, Supreme Court, Senate. Positive environmental policies but not through immediate and wrenching changes in the energy economy. Immigration policies providing border security but also
a path to citizenship for non-citizens already here. Necessary stimulus spending to keep the pandemic-damaged economy afloat but, afterward, attention to the huge long-term public debt burden which will cripple us if unchecked. America’s basic ideology remains pragmatism and practical, non-ideological problem-solving measures remain what most Americans want.

Elected officials and candidates must recognize, however, that the public skepticism and impatience which led to Trump’s 2016 nomination and election—and to Sanders’ near nomination in the Democratic Party—will still be there. Voters impatient with interest-group politics, polling organizations, both traditional and new media, institutions they see as having too much financial and economic power, and leaders they see as primarily self serving. A shorter public fuse when it comes to performance in office. Sensitized BS detectors in the electorate. A quick hook for politicians who disappoint.

Despite all the drama of the past four years, the basic America still exists out there. Millions of honest people slugging it out day by day, trying to provide for their families, basically tolerant and bearing no ill will toward others, wanting government to provide safety-net measures but otherwise to give them leeway. Still pursuing the American Dream and seeking opportunity in a free and open country. They refuse to be conned and have more common sense than many of their would-be political and opinion leaders. As Twain put it, “You can fool some of the people…” etc.

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