Democrats Won. Now, They Need To Go Big.

Natalie Gontcharova
·5 min read
STONECREST, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 28: Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock greet each other onstage during the “Vote GA Blue” concert for Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at New Birth Church on December 28, 2020 at New Birth Church in Stonecrest, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
STONECREST, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 28: Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock greet each other onstage during the “Vote GA Blue” concert for Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at New Birth Church on December 28, 2020 at New Birth Church in Stonecrest, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

If there’s a single word that Democratic politicians like to repeat — again and again, whether on the campaign trail or in speeches to constituents — it’s hope. From Barack Obama to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and all the way back to JFK and FDR, Democrats like to focus on our potential to be better and the possibility of better days to come.

Right now, a lot of that hope has been dashed after a mob of domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday in an effort to overturn the election results at the behest of President Donald Trump, resulting in several deaths and heavy injuries. But there has been one bright spot so far this year: Democratic organizers rolled up their sleeves to work on the promise of the New South, and ushered in Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s wins in the runoff elections in Georgia, which means Democrats have the U.S. Senate majority, the U.S. House, and the presidency.

This is a moment to celebrate their achievements. But it’s also a historic opportunity to make good on some of the promises they have been making during the Trump presidency, while Sen. Majority Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was obstructing every policy decision that could have bettered people’s lives. Particularly in light of yesterday’s attack on democracy, it’s high time for Democrats to act like they have nothing to lose when it comes to defending the ideals so many in this nation hold dear.

This means, for instance, being bold when it comes to the next stimulus bill. After millions lost their jobs and lives due to the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, people desperately need aid. Both Ossoff and Warnock promised $2,000 stimulus checks during their campaigns, and it looks like, with Democrats in control of the Senate, Congress will make good on that. The measure has overwhelming public support, and politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders have led the charge on making it happen. But while it’s much better than the paltry $600 agreed on with Republicans, it’s still not nearly enough. The country needs recurring checks, more money for small businesses, guaranteed paid leave, and guaranteed healthcare. It all needs to be on the table.

It’s time, across the board, to pursue a policy agenda that not only helps people get their lives together temporarily, but truly fixes the long-term crises our country is facing, from climate change to criminal justice to the affordability of healthcare. Democrats need to not only dream big, but act big. Part of dreaming big means killing the legislative filibuster and passing a big, bold agenda, instead of trying to make deals with Mitch McConnell. It’s also time for necessary democracy reform, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would offer federal protection against voter suppression.

Of course, because of conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin from West Virginia, the majority will not automatically get all of the necessary legislation passed. But a lot can be passed through budget reconciliation, a process that only needs a majority vote. Through this process Democrats could enact another crucial COVID relief bill, an infrastructure bill, a bill improving the Affordable Care Act, and a lot more.

One of the most dire issues facing the country is the caregiving crisis; during the pandemic scores of people, mostly women, were forced to leave their jobs in order to care for children, older family members, and family members with COVID, thereby losing wages. President-elect Joe Biden’s sweeping $775 billion plan for caregivers proposes universal pre-K, boosting pay for care workers, and adding an estimated 3 million care jobs, framing it as an economic imperative to help the country recover. Because as it stands, the U.S. is the only rich country without paid family leave and universal child care.

This is a proposal that already has overwhelming popular support — 88% of voters say they are for it — so now Congress needs to serve the will of the people. In this runoff, we have seen how two candidates who spoke openly about not just the principles of unity and equality, but race in America and the effects of COVID, who were full of not just promises but real talk, could win. This is a sign that Democrats can move forward on a progressive platform. And while it’s true that neither Ossoff nor Warnock say they support progressive policies like defunding the police, Medicare for All, or the Green New Deal, that might be in part because they both had to adapt their progressive messages while campaigning in Georgia.

No matter what, their elections are certainly a path forward for life-changing policies that can’t wait any longer.

“As Senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff have rightly pointed out, a Democratic Senate means that families across the nation will receive $2,000 survival checks,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. “But it also means that Congress can finally act to pass bold climate legislation that creates jobs, saves our planet, and helps frontline communities. It means that we can pass COVID-19 relief that meets the scale of the crisis — with robust aid for the unemployed, families on the brink of eviction, healthcare for everyone in the midst of a pandemic, and aid for state and local communities. It means we can finally fix our broken immigration system, raise the minimum wage, begin to dismantle structural racism, and restore power to the hands of workers. It means we can strengthen our democracy by ending corruption and protecting access to the ballot box. It means we can finally address the real racism that exists in our institutions, and pass bold policies that help us achieve justice in policing.”

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