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Op-Ed: Trump is out, whether he admits it or not. But will governing be possible?

President Trump waving
One way or another, President Trump will have to say goodbye to the presidency. But that doesn’t mean government will suddenly function smoothly.
(Associated Press)

JENNINGS: Well, Robin, it’s all over but the shouting. Joe Biden will be the next commander in chief, and President Trump should immediately engage in a helpful transition that gives his successor the best chance to succeed. We’ve indulged Trump’s claims of a stolen election for a week now, and no evidence has been offered that will overturn this election. And Trump has some work to do before leaving office. The economy is already rebounding (last week’s job’s report was stellar, and it looks like we are closing in on a vaccine), and the president and Congress need to keep that momentum going. Before the end of the year, they need to fund the government, pass the defense authorization bill, and secure another COVID relief package. President-elect Biden has called for cooperation across party lines, and it looks like bipartisanship is going to be necessary to accomplish anything in Congress. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois called for exactly that on Thursday, saying that “what we need [is] a bipartisan approach that really does something now, that is helpful now … let’s get something done [and] do what we can achieve now.” What will that mean? A targeted package that spends only on what is germane to the pandemic, such as funding for schools, hospitals and suffering businesses and their workers.

ABCARIAN: Yeah, I know, Scott. Trump’s done. But all his shouting and intransigence sadden and anger me. That behavior not only tarnishes the American ideal of the peaceful transfer of power, but also inspires autocrats around the world. I think Biden’s approach has been pitch-perfect; he is proceeding as if Trump were a mosquito buzzing around his head (though, let’s not forget, mosquitoes are apex predators). I’m of course very happy about the vaccine, and Biden’s intense focus on the pandemic is — forgive me — just what the doctor ordered. The jobs report was indeed good news, though unemployment claims remain sickeningly high. I, too, hope Congress can get some things done — another government shutdown right now would be disastrous — but I think the Democrats are absolutely right to hold out for a COVID-19 relief package that includes those $1,200 checks for individuals and enough money for testing, too. But of course, Trump has completely lost interest in all of it. Some leader. On another subject, I’ve got Georgia on my mind. What do you think will happen with those two Senate races?

JENNINGS: Robin, I know you have the internet at your house, so you certainly have access to Google, which means you can look up all the stories about Chuck Schumer filibustering COVID relief twice, including most recently in October. That is one of the reasons Republicans begin as the favorites in the Georgia races. Despite Biden’s narrow win, more voters across the country chose conservative candidates than liberal ones in the November election. The GOP will now deliver a simple message to Georgians: If you want a check-and-balance on Nancy Pelosi, Schumer and radicals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who helpfully said Thursday that Democrats must win so they “don’t have to negotiate” with Republicans) vote Republican. Neither Republican Sens. David Perdue or Kelly Loeffler is particularly offensive to the suburban voters who were turned off by Trump in November. Regarding these races, and campaigns in general, I saw something today that concerned me greatly. Music superstar John Legend tweeted: “I get that politics is annoying and contentious, but the bottom line is that the Senate flipping would be far more impactful than a food bank donation…. Charity isn’t sufficient.” Do liberals really believe that political contributions are more helpful to the poor than donations to food banks?

ABCARIAN: I’ll answer that in a moment, but first, Scott, I took your advice and consulted the internet. My Googling confirms, as I suggested earlier, that Schumer is holding out for a better deal for Americans than Republicans are willing to give. But moving on, I wonder if you would be so devoted to the importance of divided government and checks and balances if Democrats had lost the House and Trump had beaten Biden. I mean, did you argue in 2018 that turning the House blue was a good thing for the body politic, because it provided checks and balances on Republicans? I am hopeful about those two Georgia Senate races, given how neither Republican incumbent was able to garner more than 50% of the vote, but I don’t know enough about Georgia politics to predict anything. I mean, just how much magic can Stacey Abrams be expected to work? As for Legend, he’s absolutely correct that charity is insufficient to end hunger. Charities are a beautiful expression of human generosity, but they can’t assume the obligations of government. Flipping the Senate would be far more beneficial to hungry Americans than an individual donation to a food bank.

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JENNINGS: Funny you should mention Abrams, Robin. Isn’t there a good Trump comparison to make with her? She lost her race for Georgia governor by 55,000 votes in 2018, and Trump lost there by 15,000 votes. Yet neither will concede in the state. I don’t understand why one gets treated like a martyr and turned into a celebrity, while the other is vilified. I don’t mind divided government, nor would I mind a fully Republican government. Either is fine with me, honestly, because in neither case would policymakers grow government, encroach on my freedoms, raise my taxes or jerk the country too far to the left. The third alternative, a government run fully by Democrats, would be an unmitigated disaster. We know their agenda — add Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as states to pack the Senate; pack the Supreme Court by adding more justices; enact massive tax increases; appoint liberal judges and institute electoral “reforms” that are nothing more than an unconstitutional attempt to benefit one party. You live in a state fully run by Democrats. It has obscenely high taxes and a terrible regulatory burden, causing company after company to flee for greener pastures. The homeless crisis is a national disgrace, according to your own governor. Do you see California as a governing model for the entire country?

ABCARIAN: I think Abrams became a celebrity because she did what no other Black woman in the history of this country had done: came very close to winning a Southern governorship despite well-founded claims of voter suppression. Yes, she refused to use the word “concede,” but, unlike our grumpy president, she acknowledged she had lost and moved on. I have no problem with higher taxes for corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000, as President-elect Joe Biden has proposed. Even the Wall Street Journal has proclaimed Trump’s 2017 tax cuts a failure. They haven’t paid for themselves, will dramatically increase the national debt and provided only a modest, fleeting benefit to middle-class families. I am not sure what freedoms you are worried about losing under Democrats. The right to control your own body? The right to marry whom you choose? I know California is a favorite target for conservatives, but the attacks are pretty tired at this point. I agree that our homelessness problem is a disgrace, and many more families are one lost paycheck or one unexpected medical bill away from the streets. But we have the country’s most vibrant economy, our farmers feed the world, our artists entertain the world, and we are the beating heart of technological innovation. All that, and in the winter, you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon.


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