Mr Harrison goes to Washington

Mr Harrison goes to Washington

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Politics in America today can easily be reduced to the stand-still in a never-ending confrontation between the two political parties where bipartisan efforts on burning issues has mutated into ice-age procrastination

Looking down on the opposite league as bigots, as dreamers, as ‘deplorables’ and as radicals, political discourse becomes more extreme by the day, as each party adopts the other party’s confrontational tactics

Because good conscience permeates strongly-held opinions on both sides, attempts to bridge the widening gaps between warring tribes end up looking like forlorn and gratuitous demonstrations of intent

Going nowhere

 

Mr. Trump's keen perception of America's anxieties and his party's astute highlight of their opponents' internal divisions leave the Democrats in the uncomfortable position of underdog, with much to prove 

Moderation will be of the essence and the incoming Administration has signaled its commitment with nominations putting expertise at the center 

However, coming under many guises,  moderation could easily leave the party to defend some watered-down half-measures for only record two (and four) years from today, with the Democrats' reputation in tatters

To avoid this dismal ending, cutting short the presidency of Mr. Biden, a focus on the common ground between the progressive discourse and the holders of tradition within the party is of the essence

Because the challenge is not one of compromising on strongly held opinions but of shifting the Democratic message to themes resonating across all of America, the onus is on the party's ability to abandon the trenches and to voice policies redressing the neglect and the high-handedness befalling the 'common man'

 

A recipe for success if...- and only if - the party rediscovers the virtues of unity and the centrality of the cause

The Democratic Party's leaderhship has its work cut out - and the incoming chair may be the man of the moment ...

As a new Administration prepares to take office, to the sound and fury of the departing president, the ways to shift the political discourse onto new grounds will be the main Democratic challenge in government, and in fact the only one that matters

Failing this test will prove costly at the next general election, in 2022, with the potential loss of the party’s majority in the House of Representatives (already the smallest held by Democrats since 1942, after conceding 12 seats to Republicans in 2020) – to say nothing of the next presidential election in 2024

 

Tuned in to the heartland's insecurities

The sensitivity of the issue is a humbling prospect for the Democratic leadership because their failures to account for the demands voiced in America’s heartland are compounded by Mr. Trump’s success in doing precisely that…

Molding the Republican Party to his keen perception of the dark future many voters sensed for themselves and for their children, Mr. Trump tailored a message which, for all its coarseness, resounded deeply

Accused of kowtowing to the president’s fantasies, mainstream Republican politicians have – mostly – found religion in tactics which were successful in welding their party’s many shades of conservatism into a single block

No small achievement and a tall order for the Democrats

 

A House divided

The second arrow of Republican politics has been to drive a wedge in the electorate of their opponents

A number of star-struck young politicians unwittingly abetted Mr. Trump’s handiwork of tarring the progressive, mostly urban, wing of the Democrat party as "radical socialists", and their mentor, Mr. Sanders, in all likelihood embittered by the bruising Primaries of 2016, might have underestimated the acumen of Mr. Trump

Whatever the progressives might stand for, they hardly are a revolutionary crowd with their water-down inspirations of decades-old European and Asian social security systems

However, the split running down the party has become glaring

For the Democratic leadership, none of the options seem palatable – neither the caving to proposals perceived as ‘radical’, nor the hankering for old times’ sake – and weak compromises might reduce the party’s ambitions in government for 2022/2024 to 'running the clock'

The auguries are hardly encouraging – with progressives eager to reassert their political influence and an incoming Administration readily tarred with links to Wall Street (taboo…) or to right-leaning think tanks or worse...

 

Mr. Harrison goes to Washington

This is how the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee came to be the most difficult job in Washington, probably holding the key to the Party’s future

The front-running candidate to the position is Jaime Harrison, who lost with panache his run for Republican Lindsay Graham’s Senate seat in South Carolina

While Mr. Graham has won for the fourth time by a wide margin, Mr. Harrison’s campaign tactics, which pressured the Republican unexpectedly, chart the road the Democratic leadership will travel, if indeed Mr. Harrison is selected

From his early 'rough-and-tumble' life in impoverished Orangeburg County  (South Carolina), Mr. Harrison, aged 44, learned lessons of pragmatism and the value of compromise to achieve, in his own words, 'positive movement' 

The 'movement' will not be just to mend a few bridges between the progressive clientele and the traditional center of the Democratic Party, but to find common ground of the most definitive sort

Although Mr. Harrison has impressed some supporters by his ability to raise top-dollars for his Senate run ($57 million), fund-raising being a standard responsability of the National Committee chairman, much will in fact ride on his ability to establish a united front of the party in government 

The assignment may be a tall order but the momentum is unmistakable

 

Triangulation revisited - blending and transcending

Raised to the status of political fine art by Mr. Clinton in 1996, triangulation was the latest reinvention of the age-old practice of borrowing the ideas of a political opponent to update one's own electability

And there can be no doubt that the incoming Administration will weigh its strategy mix in ways neither Mr. Trump (who did not need to) nor Mr. Obama (who did not want to) sought to publicize

While the announcements for Cabinet positions signal a blend of expertise and moderation, the responsabilities confided to proeminent senators not included in the slate of nominations also speak for themselves

This is how Senator Coons of Delaware, who was on the shortest list to become Secretary of State, will not leave the Senate but moderate the middle ground on the Senate floor and in the key Senate panels, on behalf of the incoming Administration and of the President

In apparently most unauspicious times, the background of the incoming Cabinet, the trust build on cross-party relationships in the Senate, and the political carrier of Mr. Biden himself, aim at reinventing a political center

As good as it can get, given the circumstances, Mr. Biden's approach to power, and the agenda on which his party will be judged within two years, hinge effectively on full, unerring support by the party's representation in Congress - an incontrovertible prerequisite

 

A test of wills

Rather than seek a showdown with the progressive wing, the Democratic leadership will need to demonstrate that flexibility in political choices, which will satisfy no one initially, generates the 'positive movement' on which Mr. Harrison stakes his political future

A hard sell, undoubtedly, further complicated by the fact that, to regain lost ground, Democrats have to address issues far from the immediate concern of educated liberal city-dwellers, such as rural poverty, poor Internet connectivity, collapsing healthcare services in large swaths of the country and failing education in disadvantaged boroughs

Many of these issues have been over-promised, by politicians of both parties and by Mr. Trump himself in fiery speeches, leaving the field wide open for effective action - engaging  Democrats at every level in ways hard to resist by Republican politicians, at both state and federal level

This is why Mr. Harrison's new responsabilities could be seen as symbol of resurgent policies, focused on amending some of the inequalities and part of the hardships suffered by too many Americans

By building awareness, by compelling its vocal minority of city dwellers to confront pressing social problems of globalization and of under-investment in education and in healthcare, a new generation of politicians might find their voice to bring the party together on policies marked by pragmatism and patience

A test of wills and not a sure bet, of course, but not an improbable one ...