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People are fed up — and to fix that, don't count Joe Biden out

People are fed up — and to fix that, don't count Joe Biden out
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From the moment he entered the 2020 Democratic primary race until the general election and Electoral College vote affirming his victory, there were plenty of people — Democrats and Republicans alike — who counted out Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Ex-Trump appointee arrested in Capitol riot complains he won't be able to sleep in jail Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE

But as we’re taught where I’m from in South Carolina, when people count you out, you must teach them that they don’t know how to count. That’s exactly what “Scrappy Joe” from Scranton, Pa. — or, as Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnHouse Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal Clyburn reintroduces legislation to close 'Charleston loophole' Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-S.C.) likes to call him, “the Joe we know and the Joe who knows us” — has been doing his entire life.

Now, as we shift gears from campaigning to governing once he takes the Oval Office later this month, there are those — Republicans and Democrats alike — who believe that Biden’s approach to leading our government is outdated and poorly suited for our ever-evolving system.

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For some, the idea of wanting to work with folks who didn’t vote for him, and perhaps never will appreciate him — whether it’s reaching across the aisle to Republicans or integrating our chorus with those in our own party who do not sing the exact notes of the political hymnal — seems idealistic at best, and dangerously naive at worst. But let’s not count Joe Biden out just yet.

Yes, it is possible that Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock both will win their U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia to give Democrats paper-thin majorities in both houses of Congress. But it’s also possible that the Georgia elections and the Jan. 20 inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will produce a split government — one with slim Democratic and Republican majorities in the House and Senate, respectively, and a Democrat in the White House.

Both scenarios present a Washington that looks a little different, but one whose dysfunction isn’t a foregone conclusion, even with the challenges we face as a nation. In fact, given Biden’s long political career, stormy waters may provide him a unique opportunity to get things done; he is practiced in navigating difficulties.

With major issues still looming from 2020 — stopping the surging COVID-19 cases, distributing the coronavirus vaccine, repairing and expanding the Affordable Care Act, rebuilding our infrastructure, addressing climate change, providing relief from student debt and real criminal justice reforms — the American people are eager for action and tired of by-the-numbers ideological gridlock that too often hallmarks a divided government.

In other words, people are fed up. We want our leaders to stop blaming the other side and do their jobs.

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Obviously, the ferociousness of COVID-19, a response to the virus’s spread and distribution of a vaccine, along with the economic problems that have arisen from the pandemic, must be the Biden administration’s top priority. But in addition, Americans want their leaders to address problems that affect their everyday lives, including expanding access to broadband and assuring access to health care. They don’t want their leaders to forget the big issues that motivated so many people in 2020, including police reforms. The data show us some of what American people believe are important issues:  

  • In June, a CBS poll found 67 percent of Americans thought the nation was on the wrong track, a high that was topped only during Watergate and the Vietnam War.
  • A majority of Americans believe the federal government’s COVID-19 response was less effective than in some other countries, and that some state governments too quickly lifted pandemic restrictions.

What does all of this mean? It means that Americans are thirsty for the government to work for everyone again. Joe Biden’s is positioned to do just that — because of his institutional knowledge of the Senate, its workings and personalities, his pragmatic yet principled approach to politics, the goodwill he has built among everyday Americans, and the diverse and talented team that now surrounds him. 

Will Biden fix all of the issues we face overnight? Of course he won’t. Will he continue to face opposition from demagogues and obstructionists? Of course he will.

His plan for making changes will adapt as we move forward, as it should, because that’s how true leadership works. 

I’m not saying that fixing what ails America will be quick or easy. But we should remember that not only do we know Joe, but Joe knows us … all of us.

So whether we’re white or Black, Democrats or Republicans, doe-eyed idealists or hardened cynics who gave up on government a long time ago, we shouldn’t count out Joe Biden — or Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump sued by Democrat over mob attack on Capitol Harris speaks with Netanyahu amid ICC probe Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill MORE — because they’ve beaten the odds time and again throughout their lives and political careers. They see who we are and who we can be, as a nation. They know what America needs and how to get things done. That should give us cause to believe that our best days lie just over the horizon.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.