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As a nation waits, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey's message is simple: count every vote. The Massachusetts senator is cautiously optimistic that, when all is said and done, Joe Biden will be the next president. And Markey is hopeful that Biden will be able to lower the temperature of partisan rancor in Washington.
"I'm very confident that the Biden magic working with Republicans will play a big role in our ability to pass laws that will help every American family," Markey told WBUR. "I'm looking forward to partnering with him. He's a long-term friend of mine."
These are uncertain times in a starkly divided nation, though election results were more straightforward across Massachusetts. Voters here sent all of the incumbents in the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation back to Washington. That includes Markey, who easily defeated Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
Defeating Trump would be a huge win for Democrats; but the down ticket election was also a disappointment for them. Instead of the predicted blue wave, Democrats lost seats in the House — though they are on track to maintain a majority — and likely will not win control of the Senate.
A divided nation will get a divided government. Yet Markey is hopeful that lawmakers will come together to address the pandemic and pass another relief package.
"It's not going away," Markey said. "The science is very clear. We're having a huge resurgence in Massachusetts right now, and these families will need help. And so I would hope that this is an area where we can cross the aisle, work together, and get get relief for the families and the medical system in the country."
Beyond the immediate priority of confronting the pandemic, Democrats will begin a period of soul-searching, asking themselves what exactly happened to their party on election night.
"Well, clearly the polling was off," Markey said. "Every pollster in the country missed what happened on election night. I do think [the polls missed] a hidden Trump vote out there. The same thing happened in 2016."
Following their disappointing results in House and Senate races, Markey said Democrats need to step back to re-evaluate which races they focus on.
"Because it made a big difference in terms of where the Democrats allocated their resources in 2020," Markey said, referring to decisions by party leaders to spend millions of dollars trying flip congressional seats deep inside red states. Many of those efforts didn't pan out, while a number of vulnerable House Democrats fell to Republicans. According to The Hill, this has revived frustrations among moderates who say it's time for new leadership in the party.
Markey will return to a Senate where Mitch McConnell will likely still be in charge and capable of blocking a Democratic agenda. But Markey says that, if Trump is no longer President, the Senate could change.
"I am hopeful that with Trump gone it will allow Republicans to reflect their actual views on racial justice, on climate, on ensuring that everyone in our country has health care," Markey said.
As a leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Markey has advocated for Medicare For All and the Green New Deal, which he co-sponsored. Despite disappointing results for Congressional Democrats on Election Night, Markey said he will continue to make a case for the kind of big structural changes favored by the progressive members of the party.
"We've changed the discussion in the country about climate change," He said. "We've changed the discussion about ensuring that everyone has access to health care, and we've done the same thing on racial justice."
Even so, Markey acknowledged that progressives might find themselves "more constrained" in the immediate future.
"But it doesn't mean that I'm going to retreat from the argument that these big changes are necessary," he said.
This segment aired on November 6, 2020.
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