But today’s Democrats don’t offer expressions of conciliation toward Republicans as a gesture of generosity and fairness to the vanquished. On the contrary, they are motived by something close to the opposite: a skittishness about their capacity to prevail in a fair fight against their ideological opponents. Biden, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke think that they need to woo Republicans over to their side in order to win, and they think the best way to achieve that goal is to play nice, engage in flattery, and downplay the importance and intractability of what separates the two sides.
They’re not wrong to think they should try and appeal to the broadest possible segment of the electorate. That’s democratic politics 101. But it’s foolish to try and reach that goal by denying what everybody knows, which is that there is no longer much meaningful overlap between the parties. Republicans are increasingly defined by their white-hot hatred of the left, and Democrats by their unrestrained loathing of the right. That makes bipartisan boilerplate sound silly — and places the politicians who utter such bromides right smack in the middle of the very nearly empty space between the two parties.