How to make progress in the next four years

Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa during the Democratic primaries. (Photo by Gage Skidmore for Wiki Commons)
Jeff vonKaenel

To move the country forward, we’ll need to find common ground

The election is over. The results are in. And the outcome is painfully clear. Our country remains deeply divided.

Joe Biden received 81 million votes, but Donald Trump received 74 million votes. In a time when a president needs a clear mandate to create change, Biden and the Democrats do not have it. The Senate is currently in Republican hands, the Democrats barely have a majority in the House and the Supreme Court is controlled by right-wing zealots.

So what to do?

I am a very liberal Democrat. I support increasing taxes on the rich, making serious environmental changes to reduce climate change, enforcing antitrust regulations, breaking up the tech companies, reforming the criminal justice system, recognizing systemic racism, reducing our defense budget, legislating gun control and giving women control over their reproductive choices.

This election did not give either side a mandate for their policy positions. Rather, if we want to accomplish anything in the next four years, we need to find common ground with people who have a radically different vision of America and who clearly felt betrayed by a political and social system they believe is indifferent and even hostile to their interests. If we want our country to come together, then we need to find those issues that are both important and that can be supported by a majority on both sides of the political divide.

Here are a few such issues:

Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. This was supported by 60% of Florida voters, who also backed Trump.

Pass legislation to prevent drug companies from charging more in America than they charge overseas. The Democrats must overcome their fear of Big Pharma.

Repeal tax breaks for the rich and hedge fund operators. The vast majority of Americans support increasing the taxes on the rich. So let’s do it. With the money this will raise, we can support infrastructure and green energy projects that will create blue-collar jobs.

The left needs to revise our political priorities away from issues that increase polarization and look for issues where we can get majority support. We need to build coalitions. We need to listen to and understand the issues of the disenfranchised people who voted for Trump.

White voters without a college degree favored Trump over Biden by 35 percentage points, according to exit polls. This election should be a wake-up call for the left, encouraging us to find common ground with these angry Trump voters. If we can’t do that, we’ll face another four years of divisiveness and stalemates. I don’t think either our country, or my stomach lining, can take another four years of polarization.

Without Trump, many of his 74 million voters will be looking for the party that is looking out for the little guy, that believes the system is rigged against the working class, that isn’t controlled by corporate interests.

I don’t think they are looking for the party of Sen. Mitch McConnell. It can be, and should be, the Democratic Party.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.

2 Comments on "How to make progress in the next four years"

  1. I don’t disagree with your priorities, and there are issues that can achieve consensus, but I ask that you remember what happened last time we had a centrist president, Obama. The Republican party stonewalled progress during that time, particularly refusing to allow filling of judgeships. There is reason to believe that it will be much worse this time, with our new centrist president, Biden.

  2. Jeff Von Kaenel is calling for compromise between the right and the left. Or more accurately, he is calling for us to “find common ground with people who have a radically different vision of America…”
    But what does that mean? Who is he addressing in this article, and what are these other visions we need to kowtow to?
    Von Kaenel paints a picture of these poor disenfranchised Republicans who voted for Trump because they truly believed he was going to be responsive to their interests (and not because they simply hate that non-white non-male people have a right to vote). Democrats have the opportunity to be the avenging angel, if we could just see things their way.
    His plea is simple. “The left needs to revise our political priorities away from issues that increase polarization…” because his stomach lining can’t take another four years of it.
    Well, Mr. Von Kaenel, we’re so sorry things have been hard for you the past four years. It must have been really sad for you to hear about people dying in the streets, either at the hands of cops, exposure to the elements, or simply because they couldn’t get health care during a global pandemic.
    But these issues are a priority, and they shouldn’t be polarizing. And we’re not going to keep our voices down to spare your feelings. If I have a wish for the next four years, it’s that people don’t lose hope to demand answers to questions we’ve had for too long.
    So I have a request for you, Jeff Von Kaenel. You can step back, because there are people who are willing to step up. And it ain’t the fucking Democratic Party.

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