I just read the transcript of Biden’s address on the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, which has gotten generally favorable reviews. I thought the speech highlighted an inconsistency in Biden’s approach to politics that has served him poorly.
Biden has emphasized bringing the country together, working with Republicans, and returning the country to “normal”. This was obviously never going to happen. Of course, it was possible that the epidemic would end and the economy would recover nicely, and that this would boost the Democrats politically. But there was no guarantee of this. And it was clear that McConnell would lead an obstruction campaign that would remind people how much they hate politics and politicians and create a political backlash against Democrats.
The only hope for avoiding this – and it’s only a hope – is to educate people about how our democracy actually works. Voters need to understand why it is so hard to pass legislation, how Republicans are obstructing at every turn, etc. Unfortunately Biden’s emphasis on normality and bipartisanship is completely at odds with doing this. Biden has taken on responsibility for doing something – making American democracy reasonably functional and bipartisan – that is literally impossible, while at the same time obscuring the real causes of our dysfunction.
There is an important place for consensus-building and bipartisanship in a well-functioning democracy, but this is not where we are today. I hope Biden’s speech reflects a recognition of this and signals a new approach to politics.