Even without the Senate, Democrats can get a lot done

Joe Biden speaks at a rally in Columbia, S.C., after winning the South Carolina primary.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Many moves and policies that would make the world a better place do not require the Senate’s approval.

Joe Biden is going to be president.

Donald Trump is not.

A huge part of America is relieved. Much of the world is relieved.

There are, of course, about 70 million Americans who are disappointed. Many of them furious. In terms of political power, they may well be represented by the senate.

There are 100 seats in the Senate. The Republicans already have 50. The Democrats have 46, plus two Independents who vote with them.

That leaves two. They will not be decided until January. They are both in Georgia. If the Republicans win even one, they control the senate. If the Democrats win both, they control the Senate because in the case of a tie, the vice-president, Kamala Harris, will get to vote.

It is reasonable to presume that if the Republicans have control they will do all they can to cripple Biden’s presidency.

Mitch McConnell, who has been and will continue to be their leader, sat down with his fellow Republicans on the day Obama was being inaugurated and conspired with them to do everything possible to make him a one-term president, to oppose everything he proposed, even if they believed it was good for the country.

McConnell is the guy who would not let Obama put a justice on the Supreme Court. Which is why Trump ended up with three new Supreme Court justices.

McConnell is the guy who stopped a second rescue package from going through. Even though the nation needed it.

In sum, McConnell is very good at controlling his team. He is excellent at wielding power. No form of hypocrisy is beyond him. He is ruthless when it comes to putting his party’s power ahead of patriotism.

At this point it is impossible to really predict what will happen in Georgia in January. It is, sadly, at least reasonable to expect at least one Republican to win. David Perdue needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off. He got 49.7 percent (as of an almost complete count). His opponent got 47.9 percent. While a fellow running as a Libertarian, who will not be in the run-off, got 2.3 percent. In the other race, two conservative white candidates split the Republican vote. Together they got 40 percent of the vote, while the Democrat got 32 percent.

Let us hope – for the sake of Biden and America – that the Democrats win both.

If McConnell is majority leader once again, should Democrats throw themselves down the nearest stairwell in despair?


Donald Trump proved that there are lots of things that are strictly within the executive sphere.

The Justice Department to start with. A return to a belief in the rule of law. Which is very much different than the political call for “law and order.”

If the House wants to return to the investigations, like Mueller’s, the Impeachment issues, Trump family finances, and the like, this administration will hand over documents and not keep people from testifying. Imagine the winds of truth that could blow through the country.

A return to environmental protection as an actual US policy through the enforcement of existing rules, restoration of the Obama rules that Trump dumped, new and improved ones, and a return to the Paris Agreement on climate change. A switch from supporting carbon fuel to supporting renewable energy.

The range of executive departments is vast:  Education – Betsy Devos out! Replaced with someone with an education who believes in education not privatisation. Energy – light not carbon. Health and Human Services – no longer run by a Big Pharma lobbyist. Homeland Security – willing to look at white supremacists, unwilling to put children in cages. Labour – becoming pro-union. State – restaffed, and supporting our allies. Interior – save the parks and public lands. Treasury – with a pro-people attitude. Transportation – actually building infrastructure.

Then there are the Sub-Agencies, the Independent Agencies, Boards Commissions and Committees, and the Quasi-Official Agencies. There is the CDC, CIA, FBI, the Armed forces, the Postal Service and the weather service.

There are issues surrounding labour relations, prisons, the police, civil rights, cyber security, housing, rural development, social security and border control which can be resolved solely by the executive. Gathering and publishing statistics, supporting arts and culture, encouraging all sorts of research also do not require the Senate’s approval.

Foreign policy has always been considered a domain of the executive. Expect a return to supporting democracy and opposing autocracy. Reaffirming NATO. Not suspecting that the president leaned on a foreign country until his son-in-law got a loan from there. Perhaps a return to the Iran nuclear agreement.

Pundits are speculating that Biden can actually work with McConnell. After all, Biden was in the senate for 36 years. He has – everyone says – good relationships, even across party lines. He was effective there. He knows how the arcane rules and peculiar levers of power work. So there are reasons to argue that he can convince a couple of Republicans to vote with the Democrats and break the Red Wall of the Senate.

Trump was truly charismatic. This does not imply that he was good or smart or sensible. It just says that he had the ability to get people to cheer him, be devoted to him, and vote for him, while he committed a multitude of errors, each of which would have sunk anyone else. He demanded lickspittle loyalty. He was notoriously, and very publicly, vengeful. Republicans feared him and feared his voters.

Trump is gone.

Though we should note that there’s already some noise about him attempting a comeback and running for president once again in 2024. However, there’s a bunch of other Republicans already figuring it’s their turn, including Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and quite a few more. They’ll argue that Trump will have already proved he can lose, therefore, it’s time for someone new. Each time the Republicans lose the presidency, there are internal reviews that say they need to broaden their base. In practice, they swing further right. So much so, that what had been the loony fringe at the start of the process becomes their centre. By the time of the 2016 primaries, virtually all their candidates had gone full Tea Party. The next step – with Trump already shuffling toward it – is full Q-Anon. The other astonishing – but somehow unremarked – feature of those primaries was that whoever told the most lies rose to the top. Some of the candidates will try to compete by moving even further into Q-Anon land and telling even more falsehoods than Trump. Others will fight for a return to euphemism. A few, perhaps, toward realism, forgetting the greatest insight into American politics, as expressed by Stephen Colbert, “Facts have a liberal bias,” and that the essence of Trumpism is hatred of liberals. A Trump re-run will plunge the Republicans into a civil war. It will begin with vicious battles. If Trump wins, the remaining Republican establishment figures will follow the many who left the party this cycle. It’s hard to imagine anything better for the Democrats.

Either way, it’s every Republican for themselves.

Twenty-two of the senate Republicans are up for re-election in two years. Some of them in purple states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Iowa, and Florida. Will they want to run on a record of being anti-health care, anti-infrastructure, anti-help for everyone in the pandemic, and letting states and towns go bankrupt?

Democrats have not yet gotten the easy, golden staircase to liberal Nirvana. But even without the senate, there is much they can do to make the world a better place.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.