Let’s talk vision and plans, Mr. Biden

See DisclaimerThis article is part of “Letters to our future President,” the parallel series to “Letters to an unfit president.”

You and Mr. Trump represent two sharply contrasting Americas. Your America meets my criteria of honor, decency and empathy. Mr. Trump’s does not. Based on that alone, I proudly voted for you. To enable you to govern most effectively, I also voted for Democratic candidates down the ticket.

But, as essential as it is, moral compass is not your only merit. Your vision and plans on key issues are patriotic and implementable, threading the fine line between bold and pragmatic. No, they are not going to please everyone on every issue—myself included. But they can and will make a real, positive, difference.

To set the contrarian context first, I no longer believe that a two-party system serves our country well. Even before the exceptional debacle of the last four years, we have too much history of partisanship-fueled dysfunctional governance. I wish that your plans included a profound, fundamental reform of our politics, with a true multi-party system in mind. They don’t.

To your credit, though, you have a plan “to guarantee [that] government works for the People,” with specific, legitimate strategies to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics, to  restore integrity and ethics to the Executive Branch, to rein-in financial conflicts of interest, and to add bidirectional accountability to lobbying.

More recently, you have also proposed a bipartisan commission to reform the Supreme Court and federal judiciary. In doing so, you are acknowledging that the judicial system is (your words) “getting out of whack,” and also that any lasting solution requires consensus beyond a single party. This collaborative style of problem-solving fits you naturally, is much needed, and will make us a better country.

Health care exemplifies how governance is hurt by lack of broad consensus. A UN human right, affordable health care should be available to all Americans. You plan to build on, and expand, the Affordable Care Act, which reduced the number of uninsured Americans from 40 to 27 million (your numbers). But ACA was passed along strictly party lines, and has since been opposed on the same basis, plus by an unfit president.  As a consequence, ACA has been weakened, with over a million people going back to the uninsured rolls.

Your proposed blend of public and private options and incentives will (in your estimate) cover over 97 percent of Americans. Three percent (or roughly 10 million) uninsured is still too many, but it is important to keep making progress. A progress that—together with you willfully listening to scientists and public health professionals—will in particular be essential to beat COVID-19.

I also expect that your health care plan will pass with bipartisan support in Congress, and will thus have the stability that Americans and markets need for proper planning. Why the optimism? Because bipartisanship and consensus building are in your DNA. Because you will benefit from a public opinion tired of the empty promises of a Republican president and party that still have no plan. And also because you might be spared the vicious opposition faced by an activist first lady (proposing universal health care in the early nineties) and by Barack Obama (when ACA became law in 2010.)

I find it natural—but essential!—that you recognize and address discrimination and social injustice in its many forms. In reviewing your plans, I applaud the specific strategies you have to address inequity due to factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, wealth and more. As I applaud your plans to both uphold the U.S.’s trust responsibility to Tribal nations, and secure our values as a nation of immigrants—Tribes and immigrants being, each on its own way, integral parts of America’s history, strength and future opportunities.

From a grandparent to another (and an oceanographer to a politician), I fully agree with your assessment that there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world than the climate emergency. I appreciate that you outlined a bold plan – your ‘Clean Energy Revolution’ – to address this grave threat, nationally and as a world leader. And I applaud you for thinking about environmental sustainability and economic opportunity as peas of the same pod—rather than as opposing goals.

On the response to the climate emergency, as in so many other areas of governance, I also applaud you for bringing to the table people with different, yet synergistic, perspectives. Naming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and John Kerry co-leads of your Climate Task Force will bridge divides on the Democratic side, and will likely lead to creative, science-based and implementable solutions to a problem over which we tragically procrastinated for way too long.

Neither you nor your plans are perfect, Mr. Biden. But your vision and strategies are thoughtful and sound—and they convey the sense of urgency, competence and balance that the country and world need and should expect from a US President.

You earned my vote, and my respect. May you be the one being inaugurated on January 20, 2021. For our sake, and for the sake of the next generations.

— Antonio Baptista


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