Democrats have run smack into political reality, and it isn’t pretty. They spent months convincing themselves that a presidential election decided by 42,000 votes in three states, a tied Senate, and a 220-212 House (with 3 vacancies) is the same as FDR’s and LBJ’s supermajorities. Now they are just figuring out that the coalition that put them into office doesn’t agree on much of anything besides the idea that Donald Trump shouldn’t be in the White House.
Now the autumn of 2021 is turning into a reckoning for a Democratic Party that wanted to leverage a squeaker election into fundamental change. Like their predecessors in 1993 and in 2009, frontline House Democrats have to decide whether supporting a liberal agenda is worse for their careers than denying a president of their own party a legislative win. Either way, they lose.
Chance, guile, and missteps put the Democrats in this position. They hardly could believe their luck when Trump’s sour grapes cost the GOP two winnable seats in Georgia and handed Vice President Harris the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. What they forgot was that full control of government is a mixed blessing: Your partisans expect the sun, moon, and stars, while independents have no one else to blame when things go wrong. A Republican Senate might have given Biden a foil, and a reason to govern as the centrist he pretended to be during the campaign. Instead, he has no wiggle room. Thanks, Trump.