Former President Barack Obama addressed freshman U.S. House Democrats Monday, giving them advice about how to act as policymakers. Importantly, Obama noted representatives should not be afraid to be “bold” with their ideas.
Many freshman Democrats, especially BU alumna Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have been outspoken advocates for these types of bold, progressive ideas. These proposals, like the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all, are major policy ideas that encompass many of the new Democratic members’ ideas.
The idea that a politician needs to be a “moderate” to be successful is a fallacy. To be frank, former President Barack Obama acted as a moderate for most of his tenure in the oval office. His signature policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was a moderate compromise to expand healthcare coverage.
Still, even though it was a compromise, the Affordable Care Act did better the lives of millions of individuals. Thus it should be considered a success, even with its imperfections.
However, it is unlikely any policy as aggressively progressive as the Green New Deal will ever become law in full. Given that Republicans control the Executive Branch and the Senate, big progressive ideas are unlikely to be even given a vote until 2021, at the earliest.
But this doesn’t mean Democrats have to stop proposing or pushing their ideas on how to better Americans’ lives. Democrats should push for smaller victories, like passing legislation that would make EpiPens more affordable. And what’s more, there are many elements of the Green New Deal that could be morphed into smaller-scale policy changes themselves.
Congressional Democrats must not focus too much on the 2020 presidential campaign. There is a government in power, right now, that should be serving the American people. Endless campaigning leads to endless tribalism, and politicians should not be so concerned about power that they forget they can affect change in their current positions.
Obama recognized this in his speech Monday. He told House members to make sure they stay in touch with their constituents, according to The Washington Post. The former president also pushed for bipartisanship, but at the same time, discussed that they should not be afraid to stick up for what they believe in.
Many of these freshman Democrats need to realize that while bold policy important, it is also important to help pass lower-profile, less headline-grabbing progressive policy.
These new representatives hail from a younger group of Americans who tend to have either an apathetic or negative view about politics, and they must bring their enthusiasm to policies as grand as Medicare-for-all and as small as restricting irritating robocalls.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi must not crowd out the voices of this new generation of policymakers.
It is unfair that seniority plays such a significant role in committee assignments and, thus, the relative powers of congresspeople. Someone who has been in office for 20 years should not automatically be preferred to someone with four years of experience. After all, isn’t the whole point of our House that every state’s representation is proportional?
Pelosi’s latest bill to improve the Affordable Care Act is a great example of a rational and reasonable change that will benefit many people’s lives. It would expand coverage to more middle-class people, increase aid to lower-income individuals who currently qualify and reverse the Trump administration’s actions that expanded less comprehensive health insurance plans.
Big ideas, like universal health care, are important and need to be discussed. At the same time, though, Democrats can and must push for smaller policy measures that will still improve the healthcare industry.
And if we’re going to talk about 2020 — because let’s face it, we can’t avoid talking about 2020 — then we must move beyond the idea that a presidential candidate has to be a moderate.
Yes, moderate candidates have traditionally appealed to the most people. But if 2016 taught us anything, it is that tradition doesn’t matter in presidential politics anymore. So why not try to elect a strong progressive to the White House?