This stuff is too important. So I revised, polished and added and I now count on YOU to help spread word on these opportunities that our heroes will - alas - almost surely miss.
With each new administration — Democrat or Republican — I publish my own list of possible actions that would step around the lobotomizing “left-right axis,” scoring immediate points by doing some non-partisan good. Despite my purported “fame and influence,” none of my proposals was ever acted upon, or even widely discussed, perhaps because they are off-axis, without established constituencies. Though I am also grownup enough to admit another possibility — that these ideas are only compelling to the self-important delusions of a sci-fi author.
Still, I’ll do it yet again, offering maneuvers to skirt the determination of this generation’s Republican leaders — stated openly by Dennis Hastert, all the way to Mitch McConnell — their vow to prevent the American federal legislature from doing anything meaningful, ever again.
A few of these notions won’t wait! They’d have maximum effectiveness if undertaken before the inauguration or the convening of the 117th Congress.
1) An Inaugural Twist. Planning for a ‘minimalist inauguration,’ as announced by appointed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, would be a terrible mistake! Yes, Joe Biden must set a healthy example for the nation, on his first day in office. But accept that tens or hundreds of thousands will come anyway. Nothing will stop them.
So, what’s needed is a way to get them to spread out, safely masked. Besides, why deny America’s enthusiastic majority their day? Oh, and a final consideration; given the vast number of serious threats, should Kamala and Joe go anywhere together? Shouldn’t they stay apart?
Here’s a simple solution: have the new Vice-President -- Kamala Harris -- take her oath at the far-opposite end of the Mall, on the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Symbolically, it'd be a huge way to say -- with both Lincoln and MLK gazing down -- 'we've come a long way, baby!' And the swearing-in by Sonia Sotomayor would be a good offset to spotlighting John Roberts.
Picture Harris giving her speech, then waving down the long Mall at the Capitol, calling "Over to you, Joe... I mean Mister President!" past a vast crowd that now has plenty of room to spread out!
Pass out a bazillion flags and white-star masks and say, "Use the flag to make a social distance circle. Let America's flag protect us, as we mean to protect and reclaim the flag!"
An added way to space them out further? Big screens hung from the flanks of the Washington Monument. A way of saying – we can use ingenuity and technology and good sense to keep safe and have some fun.
The images would be spectacular, denying the fox-o-sphere any "crowd size” yammers. It would establish Kamala as a star and a voice of her own, not just a warmup act. … And then there's that added, paranoid reason. Keep her away from Joe. Especially that day.
2) Pelosi pushing these quick mini-bills might achieve wonders… even if blocked!
While much attention goes to Biden’s appointment picks, until inauguration, actual action is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hands. She should immediately put forward a few short bills that might even pass the Senate, over objections by Mitch McConnell!
How could that be, now that today's GOP is the most tightly disciplined political force in the history of the republic? Simple. Trap them into publicly opposing extremely simple things that would be wildly popular with voters!
- I’m pleased to report this has already started. The recent House passage of a bill decriminalizing and taxing marijuana is long overdue, and it will chip away at support for the opposing party of troglodytism. Yes, the bill took up more than a sentence… or a page… but it’s simple enough to come across as distilled common sense, while reaching out to some wavering political faction – in this case libertarians.
So let's start with these quicklie bills that both are sensible reforms and would rebuke Donald Trump, implicitly-but-devastatingly:
- How about a one-sentence bill clarifying that Secret Service agents aren't personal servants! The implied rebuke of Trump would be eviscerating. And the target constituency is a good one to make happy.
- A bill requiring that the Air Force be paid in advance for political or private use of Air Force One, including a fair share of maintenance and depreciation? Another telling dig, since Trump and his campaigns have stiffed the taxpayers! Biden’s willingness to live by this would be another declaration of maturity.
- Establish a civil service post of White House Manager, who must come from civil service ranks in the GAO. All non-appointment, non-policy and non-political members of the White House staff - from housekeeping to secretarial - report to her and not to the President or aides. Purely service staff need not obey orders unrelated to their official duties. They may safely report verbal or other abuse, and may transfer out without penalty. Think of how such a one-page bill would both declare "adults are now taking over" and implicitly rebuke the previous administration of screeching bullies and toddlers.
- Rules ending the travesty of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel 'advising' that sitting presidents cannot be sued or indicted or even investigated! Instead, ensure that Presidents can be "slow-indicted" or "slow-sued," without destroying their ability to perform vital functions, and establish that they are not totally above the law. Would GOP senators dare not to defect, break ranks, to hem in Joe Biden with such rules?
And here are more exquisitely simple bills that Pelosi, Schiff etc could rush through the House in time to make a real difference. With Biden consenting to them, these measures will make Dems look like non-partisan reformers. And wouldn’t this put the two GA senators seeking re-election — Loeffler and Perdue — on the spot, at just the most inopportune moment?
- End the insanely evil ban on refinancing student debt; folks are now forbidden from doing what anyone with a mortgage can do, such as take advantage of low interest rates to re-adjust their debt burden or discharge their loans in bankruptcy. (Those who established that rule were vile people, whatever their formal ideology.) It’s key that this could be achieved with a bill that amounted to one sentence, making it harder to bottle in committee.
(Okay, this isn't the massive student debt forgiveness that so many want. That’s for later; you need a full Congress. These are simple, blatantly obvious zingers.)
- A COVID relief bill? Sure, try that, although Mitch is unlikely to face defections in this area.
- A bill immediately giving Medicare coverage to all CHILDREN, a move with parental enthusiasm guaranteed. Simply amend all other Medicare legislation so the age boundary "65 and over" is appended with "and 25 and younger."
Anyone opposing this would face a toasting. It's a win-win, if we demand that those Georgia senators decide now, risking ire from either parents or Mitch. As a secondary benefit, it might persuade the democratic left to give Biden a month or two of honeymoon, before launching in on him.
Many of these reforms don't have to wait for inauguration! They'll either get Senate defections to pass and get Trump's grudging assent... or they’ll make Republican Senators look rotten.
3) A blackmail warning. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, Putin's agents are all over DC right now, setting up hotel rooms with one-way mirrors, just like in the Borat movie!
Possibly the greatest thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did will be that scene, where even Cohen’s crude methods lured Rudy Giuliani into embarrassing and compromised behavior. For decades I have inveighed that blackmail traps — executed far more skillfully by Russian agents whose traditions go back to the czarist Okrahna — await almost every male who rises to any sort of power in the USA… and females too, especially those with careless male relatives.
(Seriously, can’t you name a dozen recent political figures — senators and administration officials — whose behavior could not be explained by greed or ideology alone, only by absolute obedience to masters who can coerce them insatiably? Blackmail — unlike money and ideology — has no limits.)
Unpersuaded? Well, I made the argument long ago, here - https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/blackmail.html.
Nothing has changed. It is vital that incoming legislators and officials be warned about this kind of thing and armed by our security services with tools to turn the tables.
Even more important is…
4) Get the light flowing! There is nothing Joe Biden could do, across the entire coming administration, that will upend and transform U.S. politics more than establishing a Truth & Reconciliation Commission that brings together America’s greatest sages … and randomly nominated citizens from all regions and all walks of life… charging them with drawing all crimes against the Republic into the open. Methods already exist, as in the drafting and charging of federal Grand Juries.
Of course, there must be carrots and sticks. Like a promise to follow recommendations to trade clemency for truth… with extra points for those who bravely come forward first! And yes: “I know this will wind up shedding uncomfortable light on some Democrats and allies, and who knows how close it will come? But the nation needs this, desperately! I’ll just take that chance.”
Get some friendly zillionaire to offer cash prizes and legal expenses!
This could be done immediately, even before inauguration. And nothing is more likely to nudge the national mood of fact-distrusting paranoia to more toward a consensus.
Accompany this soon with bills limiting the power to enforce NDAs! (Non-disclosure agreements.) And let the nation judge for itself which party’s partisans howl louder!
(Addendum: this concept could critically matter if some U.S. elites are so frightened of a return to law that they plan rash actions to prevent it. By offering clemency in exchange for revelation and light, Biden might forestall something truly awful, even before he takes the oath.)
There’s much more! But I’ll set aside those further proposals that can wait for January. The ones offered here have urgency of timeliness.