The press is hard at work speculating why the current truce among Democratic factions is more apparent than real. That may of course turn out to be true, but the real story seems the other way around—how the Covid crisis has improved the prospects for party unity. I’d even go beyond that. It has forced a common Democratic program that is more complete than anything we’ve had before.
This is necessarily theory, but there is logic to it. Consider a few topics:
– Magnitude of the effort.
Any meaningful approach to Covid unemployment and climate change will be massive. The scale is so large it’s hard even to formulate rational differences among factions.
Previously the left wanted tariff protection and the center wanted retraining and support. The answer now is something else—federal jobs. Lots of them. We still need to worry about trade, but that can become a matter for the WTO, where there is a real opportunity to go after all the factors that need to be taken into account. We’ll still need retraining, but now we’re talking about real, waiting jobs better adapted the people we’re trying to help.
This is not just a temporary issue. With Covid we’ve seen the limits of what the private sector can do. There’s no question about the magnitude of our needs, and people must be hired to meet them.
After Covid, it’s clear that an employer-based system is no solution. Everyone wants to cover the whole population with a program that somehow or other grows out of Medicare. The discussion is now about tactics, not policy. Since this new form of Medicare is a non-trivial change, it seems reasonable to start with something less than a full flash-cut. So we’re down to the size of the initial population group. Is it really worth fighting about the 60-65 starting age group?
The Federal Government has stiffed the states and punted on federal help for the overwhelming job of reopening the schools. Fixing this is real work. We need Covid help, adequate state funding of K-12, keeping colleges and universities afloat, paying off student debt, and more. At this stage you can’t really talk about factions, just a hope to make it right.
– Climate change
The current Biden proposal is the best I’ve seen yet. It even recognizes the importance of the international aspect—we need a new model for international cooperation or we will all fail. There have been past differences of approach, but at this stage we need all of the above.
– Racial justice and national unity
This is obviously more than a Covid item. But in any case events have made it an aspirational item for the party and even the country as a whole. Differences may come, but for now there is commitment on all sides.
In all of these areas the biggest issues are actually planning and management—not partisanship. These programs are not make-work precisely because there is so much that needs to be done. We have to be the diametrical opposite of the corruption and self-dealing of the Trump people. That’s a challenge all right, but one that all sides should be ready to embrace.