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For a political commentator, the past few years have been a gold mine.So, Matt Lewis had plenty of nuggets to share with Dairy Strong conference attendees who watched a virtual question-and-answer session on Jan. 21. From views on the tumultuous years of the Trump administration to predictions about President Biden’s effect on the dairy community, Lewis ran the gamut.
“I think Biden has a mandate to not be Donald Trump,” Lewis, who is an author and a senior columnist for the Daily Beast, said. “Most people who voted for Biden didn’t need climate change or immigration bills; they want him to heal the country. He might have said the same thing other politicians always say, but it felt fresh because we haven’t heard it in such a long time.”
While it remains to be seen how Biden will govern, Lewis believes it will either mimic the way he campaigned – slowly and incrementally -- or Biden will try to hit a home run immediately. Pressure will be intense from some Democrats to do big things right away, such as immigration reform.Other observations from Lewis:Immigration reform Immigration reform is a dangerous issue for any politician, Lewis said, and has long been weaponized for political reasons. Even if it wasn’t dangerous, he isn’t convinced Biden has the momentum to deal with the issue.
Climate changeLewis said not to expect any major legislation on climate change anytime soon. Such a controversial topic won’t help Biden reach his unification goals, so lawmakers will likely avoid major proposals. Instead, Lewis said, “I think every piece of legislation is going to sneak in little bits of climate legislation.”
Biden and unificationIn his inaugural address, Biden promoted the need for America to come together. Lewis believes it’s more than rhetoric for the new president; it’s at the core of his agenda. For Biden to succeed, Lewis said, it’s crucial that he be the opposite of Trump. That means being a healer, cooling down tensions and clearly understanding voters’ motivations for electing him.
Return of Tom VilsackRural Americans are cautiously optimistic about the return of Tom Vilsack, former agriculture secretary under President Obama, to the White House, Lewis said. To be successful as agriculture secretary under Biden, Vilsack would need to reach out to rural Americans, build personal relationships and be a resource. “It’s hard to hate somebody you’ve had a grilled cheese sandwich with,” Lewis said.U.S. Capitol riotDonald Trump’s communication tactics weren’t always effective, but people were watching every time he spoke, tweeted or held a press conference. After seeing a tweet from the then-president bashing opponents the night before rioters stormed the Capitol, Lewis wasn’t surprised to watch the violence unfold. “I believe in the power of words. Trump has said a lot of things we might be able to laugh at, but words matter.”
Donald Trump’s futureTrump’s ban from Twitter will dramatically affect his ability to remain relevant and influential, Lewis said, but he’ll still make his presence felt.
That could mean Trump starting his own political party or simply trying to persuade voters to continue voting for Republicans.
“Whether Trump is allowed to use (Twitter) or not,” Lewis said, “he will always be involved to some degree.”