It is interesting to consider how triangulation has evolved in the last two decades. If his first week in office is any indication, Joe Biden, like Barack Obama before him, intends to reverse the Clintonian dynamic, securing progressive support by taking the right position in the culture wars while holding fast to the center-right consensus on economics and foreign policy.
As far as I can tell, it is likely to work. Just as Republicans were secretly pleased to find the unpopular repeal of the Affordable Care act voted down in 2017, Democrats will be only too happy to blame the GOP instead of themselves or their party’s sitting president when no public option for health care emerges from a divided Senate, when Donald Trump’s tax cuts remain in place, when there is no Green New Deal and no ban on fracking, when (as Biden announced on Monday) coronavirus relief bills are means tested in keeping with center-right priorities in both parties.
In the meantime, has Biden not declared that biological men have a human right to participate in women’s sports? Has he not announced a nationwide “recommendation” in favor of masking, one that rather conveniently mandates nothing, imposes no penalties, and does not impinge upon the prerogatives of the states, rendering it immune from legal challenge? Has he not restored federal funding for abortions, both at home and abroad, shoring up the revenue of Planned Parenthood for the foreseeable future with the stroke of a pen? Has he not symbolically rejoined a mostly symbolic climate treaty? Has he not already announced that he is reversing the immigration policy that Trump himself had reversed? These are the things that progressives, including sincere ones like Sen. Bernie Sanders who should know better, are already telling themselves.