(Sept. 29) If President Joe Biden were wiser and more honest, he would reboot his presidency to govern as he campaigned: a man of the center-left, eager to work with Republicans in the name of national unity.

Throughout the Democratic nomination campaign, Biden presented himself as the candidate who believed “we have to reach across the aisle, get things done. No other way to get anything done in this country.” During the general election campaign and in his inaugural address, he repeated the word “unity” as a mantra that would solve almost every ill while insisting he would “be a president for Democrats and Republicans ” — for all voters rather than just his party’s hardliners.

Yes, Biden made clear he was liberal — but he pretended to hold more centrist views, rather than hard-leftist personal inclinations.

Yet, there is not a single major policy area in which Biden has attempted to govern from the political center. Likewise, he has made no effort to work with Republicans. Rather, he tries to steamroll them.

This failure is important not just to assuage gauzy “let’s play nice” sensibilities. It’s important for the very reasons to which Biden gave (insincere) lip service. This nation’s political system has become dangerously polarized, full of anger and mistrust, and astonishingly loath to compromise. The vast majority of the public now believes the system doesn’t work.

Indeed, many believe it cannot work without a radical, extra-systemic purge, either of basic constitutional norms or of whichever group each citizen believes to be “the other side.”

The political system desperately needs a return to what once was considered normal. Lawmakers battled over very real and significant differences, but they also stayed within certain ideological and procedural limits. They did not give off the sense that each political battle is Armageddon. When the bulk of the electorate is close to giving up entirely on the political system, that’s a crisis….

[… later in the column….] Biden should do what Bill Clinton did to save his presidency after Democrats suffered disastrous midterm elections in 1994, except with a somewhat more liberal tilt: play the middle against both extremes. Clinton called it “triangulating.” …. [The full column is at this link.]


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