Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling (right). Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.

Phil: First and foremost, congratulations to our new President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Although I did not vote for them, here’s hoping for an uneventful transition. He’s our next president now, and their success is our success.

Ethan: I feel a “but” coming?

Phil: But I do think it would be good for us to begin debating some of the tax increases, big government spending and business regulation that were promoted on the campaign trail. 

Ethan: I think you meant to say, “we should start debating the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes, universal health care and a cleaner environment.”

Phil: Therein lies the debate. And since Republicans will likely hold control of the U.S. Senate, there will actually be a debate instead of force-feeding us “time to get revenge” liberal ideology.

Ethan: Not so fast, we still have two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia to resolve in January. A state that went blue for the first time in 30 years.

Phil: You do know that Democrats rarely win runoffs in Georgia, right?

Ethan: While it is true that Georgia’s runoff was designed specifically to keep white people in power, and hence Republicans have dominated these runoffs in recent decades, I have a feeling that these two races will be very competitive.

Phil: By “competitive,” you mean “extremely well funded” by Chuck Schumer’s money people who have likely never set foot in the beautiful state of Georgia.

Ethan: I expect both sides will generate ample dark money.

Phil: As Biden would say, “here’s the deal.” Can he resist being pulled to the hard left by Nancy Pelosi, AOC and Schumer? Or can he truly be a president for all Americans, as Harris said in introducing him for his acceptance speech Saturday night?

Ethan: Yes. And representing all Americans means being bold. For instance, on health care he should follow through with his promise to create a public option; reduce the age for Medicare to 60; and ensure that protections for pre-existing conditions are never repealed.

Phil: The current eligibility for Medicare is unaffordable, the public option will cost $700 billion, and it will be the Supreme Court that decides whether the government should be interfering with free market principles in regard to personal health insurance?  While you and I agree on pre-existing conditions, your other examples are what many of us are afraid of.

Ethan: Be not afraid. Medicare has been “10 years from insolvent” almost 20 tiimes, and it has never come true. The public option will actually save middle income Americans money in the form of reduced premiums. And if the Supreme does throw out pre-existing condition protections, Biden will re-institute them through legislation. 

Phil: People still need wrap-around insurance because Medicare has so many gaps in coverage. You do also know that Biden wants to impose huge spending on environmental technologies and he supports a stimulus “a hell of a lot bigger” than the original $2 trillion.

Ethan: We could debate the merits of these forever, but you have to accept that these are the issues he ran on and the people elected him with more votes than any American president has ever received.

Phil: Correct. But Donald Trump also received more votes than any previous president and all over the U.S. voters rejected new taxes. If he wants to govern for everyone, he will need to heed their voices for less government, not more.

Ethan: Hearing their voices, versus acquiescing to their demands, are two very different things. When a party loses an election, it is also incumbent upon them to realize the other side has earned the right to govern from their set of beliefs.

Phil: Of course, but that doesn’t mean the losers should just go home. You certainly didn’t when Trump became president.

Ethan: Of course not. But I never expected Trump to move progressive policy forward, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million. He got to move his right-wing agenda and, thankfully, that agenda was rejected soundly at the polls.

Phil: Biden didn’t ride a blue wave, indeed we are still a closely divided country. If he dives left, I am sure his agenda will be rejected, too.