Arvanitakis on American politics: Platforms and stages

| February 6, 2021

It has been just on a month since the inauguration of President Biden and the new Administration has wasted little time in attempting to overturning the Trump agenda and set a new course.

In fact, in his first two weeks in office, President Biden signed nearly as many executive orders as Franklin Roosevelt signed in his entire first month – and Roosevelt holds the record.

These executive orders range from returning climate change as a priority, ensuring the definition of ‘Made in America’ includes all components and manufacturing are actually ‘made in America’, and action on the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Biden Administration technically can control both the Senate and Congress, the President and the leaders of both houses are keen to find ways to negotiate with the Republicans. This is driven Biden’s promise to negotiate as well as the fact that the Democratic majority in the Senate is technical only.

This is because many Democrats are far apart politically – with that some moderates actually aligned with the Republicans while others are supporters of the Bernie Sanders agenda.

Navigating this complexity is not easy for President Biden, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer – the Senate Majority Leader.

Repeating the same mistakes?

While this is all happening, the Democrats need to avoid making the same mistakes they have in the past. While many have argued that impeaching Trump is important even though he has now left office, others feel this is overreach.

The problem, however, is that the impeachment is giving the former President a new platform – and the Democrats seems to have made one significant misstep and possibly a second.

The first was invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President. The 25th Amendment (ratified in 1967) is also known as the Disability Clause, and states that if president is unable to determine his own decision-making capacity, it is possible that the vice president, independently or in consultation with the Cabinet, would determine if he himself assumes the role of acting president. Importantly, this is an untested area of law.

The problem here was that the Democrats tried to embarrass the Republicans who supported Trump to invoke the 25th Amendment but only forced many to stand behind their Party even if they detested the former president. It was never going to work and only used up some of the goodwill and comraderies that followed the events on 6 January.

The second misstep could well be more significant. Following the Capitol uprising, Trump’s political career was all but over with many significant supporters walking away and disowning their relationships with him.

The impeachment now buys into Trump’s narrative and begins to look like a vendetta against both him and his supporters. It is one thing to hate Trump but another to hate those who voted for him: this is 74 million Americans – eleven million more than voted for him in the previous election.

Few doubt Trump’s actions and words were deplorable – but as Simon Jenkins from The Guardian asks, ‘why give him another platform?’

The Republicans

Meanwhile the Republicans are also struggling with their strategies: to align with Trump and rally his base – especially now that he is again in the spotlight – or to move away and recast the Republican party.

The former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has moved to distance himself from Trump and the fringe elements of the party. This was highlighted with McConnell attacking Republican Rep. Marjorie Greene who has praised QAnon and called on open violence against Democrats. McConnell described Greene as part of the ‘loony’ fringe stating:

“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

With the establishment of the Party turning on her, the House voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments. The vote tally was 230-199 with 11 Republican House members voting with Democrats to remove Greene from her committee assignments.

This has been described as a battle for the ‘soul’ of the Republican Party: The Establishment against Trumpism.

The problem for the Establishment, however, is that they were happy to ride the wave of Trump’s success when it suited them – and walking away now is not that simple.

For the Democrats, the problem is that they are using this moment to try and wedge the Republicans. No one is sure if that will eventually work. It may prove to be good politics but will do nothing to bridge the partisan divide.