This Is Not the End

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga., January 11, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The world keeps stubbornly refusing to end.

Joe Biden is going to be a very bad president, but it appears at the moment that the worst of his excesses are going to be stopped by a couple of moderate members of his own party and general Republican opposition. While Democrats certainly have their cynical reasons for making their No. 1 issue right now trying to change the rules for future elections to serve their own interests, much of this is also the familiar, tedious redirection game: There are important things the Biden administration and its congressional allies should be doing — on Covid-19, on the very serious troubles of air travel and seaports and other sectors subject to close federal regulation, on the short-term Russian threat and the long-term Chinese threat, on inflation, etc. — but Democrats are unable or unwilling to undertake serious action on these. And so it must crank up the hysteria and summon the ghost of Jefferson Davis.

The Biden administration is making a critical error by bending so deeply to the angrier wing of the Democratic Party, which is likely to be relieved of its congressional majority in the coming elections. Biden is cutting himself off from the main stream and will end up with very little to show for it. If Biden had any sense at all, he would be building a consensus agenda right now with the Republicans who will very likely control Congress next January.

Democrats can see what is coming, hence their slide into an even deeper than usual hysteria. They are making things worse for themselves than they had to be, demonstrating to Americans that they are not the grown-up and responsible alternative to Trumpism but only its mirror image. It is likely to occur to Americans who are not committed party cultists that the Supreme Court is neither “compromised” nor simply “gone,” as the Salon headline insists, that Senator Sinema is not a “traitor” for staking out a more moderate position than that of Senator Sanders or Vice President Harris, that ordinary political disagreement is not treason, etc.

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Republicans have already gone pretty far down that road, and it ended in disaster: the fiasco of January 6 and handing the keys to the city over to the triumvirate of President Biden, Senator majority leader Chuck Schumer, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi while Donald Trump goes down to Palm Beach to sulk about his lost Twitter account. You can shout “Elections are binary!” until you are red, white, and blue in the face, but all that means in practice is that the best the “Party of Lincoln” can say for itself today is that it isn’t quite as bad as the other party — and damn the voters who disagreed in 2018 and 2020.

Somewhere, somehow, at some time, there must be room for a party or a leader who is willing to say that the world is not ending, but that the country faces some very serious problems that require some very serious responses and responsible long-term management, and that any plausible program for mitigating the public debt or developing a coherent geopolitical strategy will have to be, to at least some extent, bipartisan, a matter of compromise and broad consensus. Without that, any substantive program is doomed to instability and sure to be short-lived.

The United States has not gone over the cliff and is not on the edge of the cliff, but it is proceeding in a dangerously cliffward direction and needs to be stopped and turned around. That will be a difficult task, based on the numbers: There are 332 million Americans, and there is no practical way for 48 million Democrats or 36 million Republicans to govern them effectively on a party-line basis. American politics needs a better sort of man and woman than American politics lately has been able to produce. Forty responsible adults would serve this nation better than 536 aspiring god-kings and utopian fantasists.

Keep that in mind — because all this hysteria will, if left to fester long enough, turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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