On May 10, 1940, German armed forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. That evening, the chairman of the UK’s Labour Party, Harold Laski, wrote “We are at a turning point in the history of the world.” Less than a week later, Winston Churchill, newly installed as Prime Minister, and Clement Attlee, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, announced an agreement to form a coalition government in order to prosecute the war. Unity was the watchword. David Low’s famous cartoon from that time vividly illustrates the fierce resolve of the leadership and, indeed, the public.
A New York Times headline, “Roadblock to a Biden-Warren Ticket: Decades of Policy Disputes” (May 23, 2020), brought that historical moment to mind because we are surely at war, a time in which it is incumbent upon thoughtful leaders to come together. Churchill and Attlee had indeed had “decades of policy disputes,” the Conservatives and Labour constantly jousting about the direction of government. But they joined forces and successfully waged the war against the Axis powers. War now needs to be vigorously waged against the forces of authoritarianism, foreign and domestic, that would destroy democracy. We are in a life-and-death struggle now not only against a global pandemic but the economic havoc that it has wrought. The climate crisis is yet-another existential threat.
There is, at the same time, first the Herculean struggle to win back the democracy of the United States from the Republican Party that has led a decades-long effort, successful in far too many respects, to undermine it. November 3rd this year will be a “turning point in history.” Next, if the voters are allowed to have the full and free expression of their will – and that seems very much now like the voters wanting to restore sane, honorable people to the federal government, according to many polls – the task will be to clean the Augean Stables of the incredible muck that the present administration in Washington, working hand-in-glove with Congressional Republicans and the oligarchs who fund them and, to a very great extent, control them, have piled up. We have had for 3½ years what John Brennan and Paul Krugman have called a “kakistocracy” – government by the worst people. (Trump, Kushner, Barr, Pompeo, Moscow Mitch, DeVos, et alia. Q.E.D.) It may take decades to clean up the mess they’ve so willfully created.
Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren both understand the depth and breadth of the multiple crises we face, and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work together. They have complementary strengths. Their differences are negligible compared to their common cause. They, like Churchill and Attlee before them, are willing and able to fight the good fight and, together, with the full force of the Democratic Party and the scores of millions of Americans who care about decency and smart, fair public policy standing behind them, win. Biden, Warren, and those millions of us who have our sleeves rolled up are “activist patriots.”