WASHINGTON (May 12, 2021) – Political commentator Van Jones and NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson discussed political division and a legislative outlook for the 117th Congress at an event held today by the National Association of Realtors®. Jones and Liasson were invited to address some 14,000 Realtors® and real estate industry stakeholders as part of the 2021 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings' Federal Legislative & Political Forum.
In the wake of George Floyd's murder last spring, the nation, the real estate industry and NAR are in the midst of reevaluating how to more effectively address racial bias and discrimination in America. In many ways, these conversations have spurred positive, tangible change, but the panelists at Wednesday's forum also analyzed how the past year has left the nation more divided — political and otherwise — than it's been in quite some time.
"We have diversity like you've never seen before in the country, technology is changing things, culture is changing. And change is hard," said Jones, who has in the past been named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. "I think those of us who are trying to hold the country together and move it forward need to do a better job of pointing out how everybody can do better when everybody does better. That's a fact."
NAR's Federal Legislative and Political Forum Chair Matt Silver hosted today's discussion alongside Vice Chair Ennis Antoine. Citing recent Census data indicating that red states will gain Congressional seats heading into the next election, Antoine asked how pending reapportionment will impact Democrats' chances of retaining the majority in 2022 and questioned how such changes could impact the Biden Administration's approach over the next 18 months.
"I think it's going to be very, very hard if not impossible for the Democrats to hold onto the House," said Jones while noting that the sitting president's party historically suffers Congressional losses in midyear elections. "The only question I have for Biden is ‘is he willing to pull apart some [elements of his agenda] that are popular with Republicans and let [those] go through regular order so that he can get some bipartisan points on the board?'"
Liasson, who is the national political correspondent for NPR and a FOX News contributor, accentuated the challenge facing President Biden in his effort to unify the nation while appealing to his political base.
"I think we're at a really incredible moment in American politics," she said. "Joe Biden has a very ambitious agenda; I can't think of a President who's had a more ambitious agenda with a smaller majority in Congress. He's trying to basically put a very large antelope through the python.
"So, we're going to see if he can keep his Democrats together," Liasson continued. "He ran on somehow recreating bipartisanship, which many people think is a thing of the past. I have a lot of question marks about what's going to happen going forward, but I do think we are at a real hinge point in American politics."
While Jones is perhaps best recognized for his political commentary and election analysis on CNN, he carries with him a history of bipartisan policy advocacy. Perhaps most notably, as the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, Jones worked alongside the Trump White House as a vocal proponent of the FIRST STEP Act, legislation which was eventually signed into law and called the most substantial breakthrough in criminal justice in a generation by the New York Times.
"You can disagree with somebody on 99 issues, but if you have one that you agree with them on, I think your obligation as a citizen is to fight hard on the 99 where you disagree, and to work equally hard on the one where you do agree," Jones said.
"The things I'm most proud of in my career are those things that I've reached across the aisle [on and] took some heat on my own side," he continued. "But none of the almost 20,000 people who have been safely released from federal prisons as a result of the FIRST STEP Act… are giving me any heat."
The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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