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A new beginning with old challenges

My mother voted for every Republican president since Eisenhower. This year, she proudly displayed a Biden Harris yard sign in front of her home in suburban Detroit. On Saturday, she wept when she heard that Joe Biden would be the 46th President of the United States. “He is a good man,” she said. “If anyone can bring our country back together, he can.”
It will be a daunting challenge and many of us who advocate for affordable housing will be on the front lines. On Wednesday, Joe Trippi, a political consultant who worked on the campaigns of Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Dick Gephardt, Jerry Brown and Howard Dean, tweeted “Joe Biden will get the 270 he needs. But the ‘socialist’ attacks worked—while we rolled our eyes.” This election is a “rejection of elites. People don’t want to hear it – but we have to come out of our silos and talk to GOP voters,” he said.
In an election where both candidates had more votes cast for them than anyone else in history, unifying our country will not be easy. The Democrats’ House majority may actually shrink; and the Senate is most likely to teeter between a 50 to 52 vote majority, which could be held by either party. We won’t know that until January. This in the face of a massive recession caused by an historic pandemic that has killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans, the severity of which, according to many leading epidemiologists, was exacerbated by the incumbent President.
The challenge of our generation is how can we work together as one nation, despite deep disagreements on important areas of policy like racial and social justice. How should we define American culture and the role of government in our lives? How should we address a rising trend of violent crime? And how can we ensure the availability of housing and health care for all Americans? Based on your political affiliation, you may have bristled at the wording of at least one of these issues.
This election presents us with existential dangers and historic opportunities. The pendulum, which has swung from right to left and back again multiple times, can be slowed. Within days of his inauguration, President Biden is sure to roll back many of the Trump administration’s Executive Orders and regulations, but he cannot sustain that change by himself. Should Republicans hold the Senate, President Biden will have to work with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The lost art of compromise will have to be revived.
NHC and our members are uniquely positioned to help encourage this movement away from the cliff at which we stand. Housing is often the place where Democrats and Republicans converge. Not on every issue, but on many. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit, for example, has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for 35 years. A new approach to building and rehabilitating lower cost single family homes, the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act has a richly bipartisan list of cosponsors. And rental assistance for those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic is currently in both the Democrats and Republicans economic stimulus proposals being negotiated between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Keith Richards, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, was asked who was better, him or lead guitarist Ronnie Wood. Richards’ response was that “neither of us are, but together we are better than any two other guys.” That attitude, from the most unlikely of philosophers, is our path forward. You have my commitment that the unlikely coalition known as the National Housing Conference will do everything in our power to contribute to moving forward, together.

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