Writing 233 years ago, the primary architect of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, recognized the pernicious effect factions could have on the body politic. But, he reasoned, that it was because of their great numbers that factions and diversity would prevent tyranny. Groups would be forced to negotiate and compromise, thus arriving at solutions that would respect the rights of minorities. Moreover, the large size of the country would make it more difficult for factions to exert too much power, enabling “the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views…render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice.” (Federalist #10, 1787.)
The 2020 election displayed contentious factional debates, ranging from the extreme right to ultra-left and all points in between. But as Madison would have prophesized, the center held, as Trump was defeated by more than 4 million votes, with Biden picking up more votes than any candidate in history. But the projected blue wave did not transpire, as Republicans gained seats in the House and are projected to hold the Senate.
While most Americans were appalled at President Trump’s behavior and were critical of his handling of the covid pandemic, he still received the greatest number of votes in history after Biden; he exceeded Hillary Clinton’s record-breaking total in 2016.Was this, as Tom Friedman simplistically conjectured, the last gasp of the white majority in the body politic? How then do we explain Trump’s success with Hispanics, garnering a third of their vote, or his smaller inroads into the Black vote?
The best answer comes from Biden’s kingmaker, the venerable South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, who tipped the first domino in the Palmetto State, generating the momentum for Biden’s eventual nomination. It was the ruinous prescriptions of the radical left of the party, “defund the police” and the “Green New Deal,” he said.
While police reform and combatting global warming are critically needed, the idea of devaluing the police, a huge percentage of whom are minorities themselves, who prevent crime in the most crime-ridden neighborhoods where minorities reside, was preposterous. And the “command and control” Green New Deal, costing trillions, would mandate retrofitting tens of thousands of buildings, ban fracking, and end our reliance on fossil fuels too quickly, while destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. That’s why Biden pivoted to transitioning off of fossil fuels by 2050 and restricting fracking only on federal land.
And what about the Jewish vote? According to several polls, 70 percent of us voted for Biden and 30 percent for Trump. That’s a 5 percent gain from the last election, but less than the Hispanic vote for Trump of 32 percent. Analysts have opined that this increase was due to Trump’s unambiguous support for Israel, as manifested by the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, the Golan Heights annexation, withdrawing from the Iran deal, and recognizing the territories as not illegal but disputed.
And what about the Israelis? According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, more than 70 percent of Israelis would have supported Trump over Biden. Why is this so? As Israel is within the range of Iran’s missiles, let alone Hizbullah’s and Hamas’, security is not an abstraction but a daily reality, and the Iran agreement is the sword of Damocles over Israel’s neck. And Israelis haven’t forgotten UN Resolution 2334, which the U.S. allowed to be passed by its abstention. That bill considers the Kotel to be “occupied territory.” Most recently, the U.N. declared the Temple Mount to be an exclusively Islamic site, erasing any trace of Jewish history from it. So I guess American Jews are from Venus, and their Israeli cousins are from Mars.
Even though President-elect Biden was intimately involved in both the Iran deal and Resolution 2334, he is viscerally a friend of Israel, while Obama viewed Israel in transactional terms. To their credit, Obama and Biden did provide the arms Israel requested, funding for Iron Dome, and the commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge. Unlike their Democratic rivals, both Biden and Harris refused to condition aid to Israel on perceived progress with the Palestinians.
Biden has a 40-year history of forging compromises with Republicans, which he touted during the course of the campaign. At 78, he will be the oldest president by far to occupy the White House, and he is unlikely to run again. Because the country is so divided but also primarily in the centrist camp, there is much room for compromise on the important issues of our days. Biden should not be dragged down by the ultra-left of his party, which, after all, helped prevent the media driven all-but-inevitable blue wave.
We need a united front on overcoming covid 19 and distributing the vaccine when it is developed. Let the best public health practices be balanced equitably with the needs of the economy. Let’s provide additional support for small businesses and the unemployed without recklessly blowing up our debt. Let’s invest in our badly needed infrastructure, which will create jobs and facilitate access to health care, particularly for those who are in danger of losing benefits.
People of good will, the enlightened representatives highlighted by Madison, should be able to navigate this for the betterment of our country.
As Biden mentioned in his victory speech, he will govern as much for those who didn’t vote for him as for those who did.
Let Biden be Biden.