If Joe Biden wants to unite America, he must do this immediately

Barring a series of court decisions favorable to the Trump campaign, Joe Biden will be America’s next president.

Biden has repeatedly claimed, as he did during an address on Saturday, that he will “serve as a president who seeks not to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states or blue states, but only the United States.” 

Forgive me for being a little skeptical. Biden has done little in his career to show that he is interested in bringing the country together or addressing the concerns of “red states.” In fact, during the 2020 campaign, he spent far more time trying to alleviate the worries of the socialist wing of his party than reaching out to conservatives and Americans in “flyover country,” who mostly rejected Biden on Election Day.

The most obvious example is Biden’s misleadingly named “Unity Task Forces,” which he formed with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after capturing the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.  

Numerous socialists and leftwing Democrats served on one of Biden’s “Unity Task Forces.” Conservatives were suspiciously absent. Why? Because the only unity Biden sought was within the Democratic Party.

Biden didn’t try very hard to bring the country together during the presidential campaign. But let’s assume he sincerely wants to bring the country together. How can he go about doing that?

The only way Biden can restore a sense of national unity and alleviate the legitimate fears of conservatives, libertarians and others that a Biden-Harris administration will try to expand the power of the national government and limit individual rights is to finally put an end to the century-long strategy of attempting to force a single party’s will over a vast and diverse nation. 

The United States is a massive country that features 3,141 counties, more than 19,000 cities and towns and an endlessly complex and gigantic economy. A one-size-fits-all approach to most policy issues has been tried for decades, and it has failed.

Not only is the United States still facing severe societal and economic problems despite numerous attempts by the federal government to fix them, most Americans are dissatisfied with the performance of Congress, and more divided than ever over presidential candidates.

There is no reason to believe Joe Biden has discovered some magical secret to policymaking that will reverse these trends, and his policy agenda is very progressive and thus unlikely to ever win the support of the “red states” Biden claims to be concerned about.

There is a solution, though, one that would garner support from people of all political persuasions. Instead of trying to pass gargantuan, partisan laws in Washington, D.C., that at least half the country will hate, Biden should pursue an agenda that grants to each state the ability to chart its own course. This could be done by only supporting legislation that block grants most federal funding to states, so that each can decide how best to craft policies that will fit the desires and needs of its residents.

So, for example, instead of trying to fix the health care system by imposing a “public option” and some expanded version of ObamaCare, Biden should back legislation that would allow states to create their own policies. 

In Oregon and Vermont, such a strategy might result in something akin to Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” plan. In Texas and Wyoming, policymakers would likely take a much more conservative approach. In Florida, Ohio, Colorado and other “purple” states, a more mixed strategy would likely be utilized. 

By giving states the ability to make their own policy decisions, everyone can win. Under such a system, not only would public policies more closely align with the desires of the entire electorate. It would also give the country an opportunity to see which policy ideas work and which fail. States could then learn from the mistakes and achievements of their neighbors and continuously improve public policy.

This does not mean individual liberties should be defined solely by states. The Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution that protect personal freedoms must be maintained and in some cases strengthened. But so long as individual rights are protected by the federal government, states should be given substantial power to pursue their residents’ policy preferences.

Not every decision can be made at the state level — immigration, for example, is clearly something that must be addressed by the federal government. But most of the policies that affect Americans on a day-to-day basis could and should be controlled by states.

If Joe Biden is serious about uniting America, giving more power to states is the only strategy worth pursuing. Failing to do so would continue moving the country toward greater division and frustration. 

Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.orgis editor-in-chief of StoppingSocialism.com and the editorial director of The Heartland Institute.

Tags 2020 presidential election Bernie Sanders Biden transition Federalism in the United States Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign

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