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2020's Lesson Is Clear: Bold Policies to Improve People's Lives Are Broadly Popular

What a Biden-Harris administration should prioritize on its first day.

A Biden-Harris administration can begin to rebuild trust in government by issuing the strongest ethics and anti-corruption standards for executive branch personnel ever.

A Biden-Harris administration can begin to rebuild trust in government by issuing the strongest ethics and anti-corruption standards for executive branch personnel ever. 

As Democrats celebrate the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, we need to have an important conversation about building a 50-state party that can win up and down the ticket. But with a hobbled economy, an international health crisis, a vanishing middle class and widespread racial inequities, we also need to answer another important question — how to deliver on our campaign promises and improve the lives of the American people.

The Biden-Harris ticket accomplished something historic — unseating an incumbent president for the first time in a generation and likely flipping states that haven’t voted for Democrats in decades. They did it with the support of the candidates from our contested presidential primary, all of whom urged our supporters to back Joe. They did it thanks to years of grass-roots organizing in the Latino and Native communities in Arizona. They did it thanks to the extraordinary work of Black women in states such as Georgia. They did it with young voters turning out like never before.

The Biden-Harris ticket accomplished something historic — unseating an incumbent president for the first time in a generation and likely flipping states that haven’t voted for Democrats in decades. 

They also did it by running on the most progressive economic and racial justice platform of any general election nominee ever. They ran on explicit plans to create new union jobs in clean energy, increase Social Security benefits, expand health care, cancel billions of dollars in student-loan debt, hold law enforcement accountable, make the wealthy pay their fair share, tackle climate change and provide for universal child care.

And it wasn’t just the top of the ticket. Progressive ballot initiatives won across the country. Florida became the eighth state to pass a $15 minimum wage. Arizona voted to increase taxes on the wealthy to fund public schools. Multiple states — red and blue — passed ballot measures to legalize marijuana. And Colorado said yes to 12 weeks of paid family leave.

The lesson is clear. Bold policies to improve opportunity for all Americans are broadly popular. Voters recognize that these reforms are necessary to fix what is broken in our nation.

Now, Democrats need to deliver for the American people — those who voted for us, those who did not, and those who were too disenchanted or disenfranchised to vote. We need to deliver, even as Republican leaders can’t acknowledge the election outcome and plan to grind Congress to a halt.

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The good news is there are lots of big changes that a Biden-Harris administration can achieve through executive orders and agency action on day one. The president-elect has already committed to reentering the Paris Climate Accord, reinstating DACA and ending the travel ban against certain Muslim countries. Here are more bold steps the new administration can take using existing legal authority.

  • Cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt, giving tens of millions of Americans an immediate financial boost and helping to close the racial wealth gap. This is the single most effective executive action available to provide massive consumer-driver stimulus.
  • Lower drug prices for millions by producing key drugs like insulin, naloxone, hepatitis C drugs and EpiPens at low costs using existing compulsory licensing authority that allows the federal government to bypass patents for pressing public health needs.
  • Issue enforceable OSHA health and safety standards for covid-19 so giant companies don’t escape accountability for workplace conditions that expose workers to serious harm and even death.
  • Raise the minimum wage for all federal contractors to $15 an hour.
  • Center racial equity by building on Biden and Harris’s commitment to establish a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force by collecting and reporting covid-19 data and reviewing racial disparities in pandemic funding.
  • Declare the climate crisis a national emergency to start marshaling resources toward addressing this challenge.
  • Restore balance and competition by prioritizing strong anti-monopoly protections and enforcement.

Finally, a Biden-Harris administration can begin to rebuild trust in government by issuing the strongest ethics and anti-corruption standards for executive branch personnel ever. Biden has already embraced aggressive steps, and with a single order, he can padlock the revolving door between jobs in government and industry, reduce the influence of lobbyists, and eliminate conflicts of interest.

These proposals are broadly popular among all voters. Even so, we know that Washington insiders and their establishment allies are ready to declare that unity and consensus mean turning over the governing keys to giant corporations and their lobbyists — the exact opposite of what voters want. Democrats must resist this pressure. Acquiescing to an unpopular and timid agenda that further entrenches the wealthy and the well-connected will lead us to more division, more anger, more inequality and an even bigger hole to climb out of.

Instead of allowing insiders to hijack the message sent by voters in both parties, we should listen to those voters and deliver real solutions to the problems we face. Doing so won’t just strengthen the Democratic Party. It will strengthen America.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is a US Senator representing Massachusetts. She is the author of  "A Fighting Chance" (2015), and "This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class"(2018).

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