The Democratic Party has little power in the U.S. right now. Its rival, the GOP, controls all three branches of the federal government as well as most of the statehouses. This situtation is not unprecedented, and in fact it might be exactly what one would expect after 8 years of a Democratic president; opposition parties typically gain seats, like Democrats themselves did during the latter half of the George W. Bush presidency.
While we can probably count on the normal ebbs and flows of American political cycles to deliver a Democratic majority in one or both houses of Congress by next year, we can’t take for granted that Democrats will pursue an optimal agenda once in control. Let me present a few ideas that I think should be front and center in 2019 and beyond:
- Expansion of the Affordable Care Act, with a public option, risk corridors, and federalized Medicaid services, along with Medicare buy-in for Americans 55-64.
- Federal legalization of marijuana for all purposes.
- Statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C., even if it means abolishing the legislative filibuster to get it through.
- Higher taxes on corporations and the super-rich (basically anyone making $400k or more a year). In addition to higher marginal rates, loopholes such as the one for carried interest (which is a windfall for Wall Street) need to closed.
- More legal immigration to offset a stagnant birth rate and ensure the sustainability of programs for the retired and elderly; fewer arbitrary rules for deportation, such as making trivial errors on paperwork.
- The abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). These agencies were created during the post-9/11 hysteria of the Bush administration and they have become ethnic cleansing police organizations committed to a nativist agenda that materially benefits no one.
- The impeachment of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Thomas is a known harasser who never should have been seated; Gorsuch was appointed by a president who handily lost the popular vote, in place of the nominee of a previous president who never even received a Senate hearing.
- Hell, maybe even the rollback of judicial review itself, which Thomas Jefferson famously opposed after Marbury v. Madison.
- National legislation for maternity leave.
- Prohibition of right-to-work laws.
- Prhobition of voter ID laws, as required by both the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.
- Make Election Day and the Monday preceding it federal holidays.
- Expansion of Social Security benefits.
- Trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending, without much reliance on public-private partnerships.
- Aggressive environmental policies, including carbon taxes on big polluters and the preservation of national monuments and parks from drilling/exploration.
This is just a start. Democrats are facing an ascendant right wing that is more powerful and extreme than at any time since the 1920s. They can’t afford to shy away from decisive actions and big visions.