“Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Suddenly, former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE’s Ohio rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds on June 26, 2021, sounded like any given night of 2016 presidential election as then-candidate Trump campaigned across the country maligning Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports MORE for phantom crimes and riling up a rage-filled base.
As I watched Trump air 2020 election grievances in his signature stream-of-consciousness way, it became clear to me that this is not the time for Democrats to move on from the Trump years. We don’t need to take the proverbial high road or ignore the continued, powerful influence of the twice-impeached Trump. He is not a figure of the past or a closed chapter of a disastrous book that lasted four long years.
Trump remains the ringleader of a GOP circus that espouses the same “America first” agenda that President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE defeated. And we can win again in the 2022 midterms, but Democrats’ electoral fortunes very much depend on keeping Trump’s memory and legacy alive and center stage.
Turnout records — on both sides — were shattered because Trump was on the ballot. We have to recreate that mood and sense of urgency.
There are three key ways to keep Trump’s name “on the ballot” for 2022: establish a Jan. 6 commission, pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill with a separate reconciliation add-on, and approve substantive health care reform.
It came as no surprise that only six Senate Republicans joined the Democrats to support legislation to establish a commission to investigate the Jan 6 Capitol attack. GOP Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (S.D.) commented, “A lot of our members … want to be moving forward. Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections is, I think, a day lost.”
“A day lost” is not how much of the American public sees it. YouGov found that 56 percent of Americans support a Jan. 6 commission. It follows that the decision by House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.) to name a select committee is in line with the American appetite for answers, while some prominent Republicans maintain that those who breached the Capitol were on a “normal tourist visit” or “patriots.”
Further, there’s new reporting by ProPublica that Trump and his White House orbit likely understood what kind of danger they invited to D.C. “Stop the Steal” organizers reportedly gave the Capitol Police a fake name, “One Nation Under God,” and posed as “radical feminists” to get a permit because the police didn’t want them there. They invited far-right speakers Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, the organizer of “Stop the Steal,” to speak on the evening of Jan. 5 because they were “deemed too extreme” to speak at the Ellipse. They chanted “victory or death!” at that event and Trump himself reportedly asked if there was a place for figures such as Alexander and Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRoger Stone served with Capitol riot lawsuit during radio interview Lawyer for 17 Jan. 6 defendants says he's been released from hospital Democrats' Jan. 6 subpoena-palooza sets dangerous precedent MORE to speak. Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpHouse panel tees up Trump executive privilege fight in Jan. 6 probe Mary Trump doesn't see her cousins connecting with GOP Rubio: Biden's new child allowance is 'first step toward a universal basic income' MORE reportedly called the Capitol assault an “optics issue.”
It’s imperative we establish the truth about that day, who was involved, the sequence of events, and the role that Trump and his inner circle may have played for the annals of history — and the next series of elections.
President Biden has a piece of seminal legislation under his belt with the American Rescue Plan, which enjoys over 70 percent support, including over 50 percent of Republicans. The opportunity to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has remained an elusive goal for decades, would be another feather in his cap. Plus, he’s got the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) to move ahead with an infrastructure bill unattached to a spending bill.
“The infrastructure deal is part of my economic strategy that, taken as a whole, will help create millions of jobs for years to come and add trillions of dollars in economic growth,” Biden wrote in an op-ed published Monday. Democrats can’t say no to that opportunity. And with another reconciliation bill addressing critical climate initiatives that are priorities to progressives, Democrats again can deliver for the American people.
Imagine the campaign ads comparing the American Rescue Plan and American Jobs Plan with Trump’s 2017 tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the wealthiest of Americans.
Health care — whether it be related to COVID-19, the Affordable Care Act or health care costs — has been the top issue for Americans in the past two elections. Democrats were able to pick up 40-plus seats in 2018 by framing their message almost entirely around the need to protect ObamaCare and the White House and Senate in 2020 with thorough plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases, Republicans, led by Trump, failed to offer a viable alternative. In fact, their policy proposals left more Americans uninsured.
It’s easy enough to keep harping on the inadequate GOP policies on health care — and Democrats absolutely should — but it isn’t enough to promise to protect health care without making some necessary improvements. Continuing to expand Medicaid, as we’ve seen in 39 states at last count, would mean more Americans receiving quality care. Lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 would reduce the cost of health insurance and lower the number of uninsured. The Biden’s administration’s first step to subsidize private insurers in order to expand coverage is a good one, but they’re going to have to face the political and public appetite for a viable public option, sooner rather than later.
Americans will want to see substantive action on health care and though it’s always a fraught process, we have control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time in a good long while. We must put it to good use. Progress on health care — more than any other issue — will be another reminder that the GOP, and Trump, dropped the ball on such an important aspect of all our lives.
There are undoubtedly other areas, such as voting rights, that Democrats can emphasize to keep Trump and those in the GOP who follow him front and center. But, as a baseline, hammering home the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, getting another “big deal” to benefit the American people, and improving access to health care are great places to start — not only to improve our quality of life but also to serve as a reminder that Trump and his supporters don’t offer nearly as good a deal.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.