Vote a sign of healthy democ­racy

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

The Democrats’ re­turn to con­trol over the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is much more than a vic­tory for one party. It is a sign of health for Amer­i­can democ­racy. Distrust­ful of un­tram­meled ma­jori­ties, the au­thors of the Con­sti­tu­tion fa­vored checks and bal­ances, in­clud­ing, cru­cially, the check that the leg­isla­tive branch might place upon the ex­ec­u­tive. Over the past two years, the Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate have failed to ex­er­cise rea­son­able over­sight. Now the con­sti­tu­tional sys­tem has a fresh chance to work as in­tended.

The Demo­cratic vic­tory is also a sign of po­lit­i­cal health, to the ex­tent it is a form of push­back against the ex­cesses, rhetor­i­cal and in terms of pol­icy, com­mit­ted by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­pounded by Pres­i­dent Trump dur­ing this fall’s cam­paign. Turn­ing against the dom­i­nant party in Wash­ing­ton even in a mo­ment of eco­nomic pros­per­ity, vot­ers from Key West to Kansas re­fused to ac­cept the con­tin­ued degra­da­tion of their na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. Repub­li­cans re­tained con­trol of the Se­nate, where the map this year fa­vored their de­fense. But vot­ers na­tion­wide re­fused Mr. Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to vote on the ba­sis of fear of im­mi­grants; they did not re­spond to his de­pic­tion of his op­po­si­tion as dan­ger­ous en­e­mies.

Now the House will be in a po­si­tion to in­ves­ti­gate any num­ber of po­ten­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion trans­gres­sions and de­mand ac­count­abil­ity: the aw­ful sepa­ra­tion of mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents; the du­bi­ous de­ci­sion to add a ques­tion about cit­i­zen­ship to the 2020 Cen­sus; the pres­i­dent’s ha­rass­ment of spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The new ma­jor­ity also has an op­por­tu­nity to of­fer a pos­i­tive leg­isla­tive agenda. The Democrats achieved their vic­tory Tues­day night in large part by promis­ing to pro­tect health-care coverage, es­pe­cially for Amer­i­cans with pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. Though ef­fec­tive in win­ning over mod­er­ate vot­ers, the cam­paign did not es­tab­lish a clear man­date for much beyond that — em­i­nently valid — ob­jec­tive. And of course, even if the Democrats set forth a list of spe­cific pro­pos­als for the House, be­fore or af­ter Elec­tion Day, the Se­nate and Mr. Trump’s veto pen could block it.

Still, the party can out­line an al­ter­na­tive pol­icy di­rec­tion for the coun­try. It can be­gin with mea­sures to shore up the Af­ford­able Care Act but then move to re­forms of fed­eral gun laws. Where the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity has de­nied sci­ence, the Democrats can of­fer an ap­proach to cli­mate change. They can pro­pose re­lief to the “dream­ers” and, ide­ally, other un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, along with gen­er­ous but not un­lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for fu­ture le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. They should pro­pose to re­store the United States to its right­ful place as a wel­comer of refugees; to end the dis­grace­ful de­nial of con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion to cit­i­zens in the District of Columbia; to re­peal the most egre­gious give­aways to the rich in the 2017 tax bill.

Tues­day was a good day for Democrats. It may also be a good day for Repub­li­cans, if they take the lessons of their House de­feat to heart and re­con­sider the devil’s bar­gain they have made with Mr. Trump. In­deed, if the results help lead to a reemer­gence of that party’s bet­ter angels, then it will have been good day for Amer­ica as a whole.

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