Former Vice President Joe Biden ran a campaign based on bridging the nation’s political rifts and working across party lines. The Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States made such an issue of finding common ground, when possible, with Republicans that he upset a lot of his party’s left-wing activists.
Biden will get his chance. Unless the unexpected happens, Biden will be the next president of the United States, and he will have to work with a Senate that very likely will be under Republican control.
That means, to get anything done, Biden will have to find common ground with at least some in the GOP. But, again, Biden knew this from the beginning, even if the Democratic base did not.
“Biden was running a backward-looking campaign that many observers, including me, found puzzling and unlikely to work,” wrote The Atlantic magazine’s David A. Graham in September. “We were wrong, and Biden was right. That sunny, nostalgic pitch helped power his come-from-behind primary win.”
As Graham notes, “The return to this theme is evidence of Biden’s sincere, long-standing belief in bipartisanship.” Yet he still calls on Biden to be more confrontational in office, and here is joined by many in the party’s activist wing.
But that was when Democrats expected a “Blue Wave” that would not only deliver them the presidency, but also the Senate and sweep Trumpism from the political stage forever.
That “Blue Wave” never emerged. Democrats lost seats in the U.S. House, and they have failed to take the Senate, although two races in Georgia won’t be decided until runoffs in January. (Georgia really should consider instituting ranked-preference voting, like Maine, or an “instant runoff.”)
Indeed, this is why baseless claims of election fraud from President Donald Trump and from some of his supporters are so absurd on their face. Why would the Democrats wage an elaborate, multi-state conspiracy to rig the vote and then fail to give themselves the Senate? It beggars belief, and that’s without even getting into how such a conspiracy would be orchestrated in the first place.
Americans appear to have voted for divided government. It seems clear that a large number of Americans were both tired of President Trump but distrustful enough of Democrats not to give a Democratic president free rein.
A look at ballot measures that passed shows a lot of Americans simply want to be left alone: Measures legalizing marijuana use passed in several states, while California voters made sure they can still catch rides from Uber and Lyft despite the opposition of labor unions. You can’t fit all of these into a simple left-right divide.
If Democrats and Republicans insist on intransigence, divided government will mean gridlock. If they give Biden’s promise of consensus a chance, however, they might be able to do for the American people instead of merely doing to.