by Josh Marshall · June 11, 2019
TPM Reader CR is baffled at what people’s problem is about Joe Biden’s comments on Republicans. I will say I both get why people are going bonkers and also don’t think it is a big deal – unless it’s actually Biden’s political take on the current situation.
What’s weird is that past comments suggest it’s not. Back under Obama he was saying over and over: this isn’t the old GOP we could negotiate with. The reality is it’s a solid general election message and my assumption/hope is that that’s why Biden’s saying it and that he wants (for good reasons) to shift now to a general election posture. My concern is that he might believe it.
Here’s CR’s take …
I’m simply at a loss as to why otherwise intelligent people are getting “pissed off” at Biden’s statement that Republicans will change course once Trump is gone.
There are a couple of angles to discuss:
First, the statement itself lends itself to boilerplate “I can work with the other side” political statements that we normally see from the more centrist candidates.
Second, going deeper into the idea of whether Republicans can be worked with or cannot be worked with, what is the alternative? There are some absolutely solid facts to indicate that the Dems are not going to have a filibuster proof majority in the senate, starting with a simple look at the senate election map. Dems currently have 47 seats, and the best guess so far is that, if 2020 is a good year and they win the WH, perhaps they might get to 51 seats. 51 is well short of 60. So unless these “pissed off” people are advocating for a further escalation of senate warfare and the elimination of the filibuster entirely, the Republicans will have to be part of the conversation. This reality is a big part of the reason why Bernie Sanders has never written a piece of impactful legislation that became law – he is a true believer in his positions, and is unable to recognize that roughly half the country disagrees with him.
The biggest presidential landslide in modern history was Nixon’s 1972 win, when he won 61% of the vote. And that was unusual. Most elections have the winner in the 52-54% range. Trump “won” in 2016 with just over 46%. For any of the progressives on the left to believe that all of a sudden the roughly 50% of the country that at least leans conservative is going to disappear is insanity.
Many of the things that Republicans are supporting right now are diametrically opposed to the things that they supported in years past, such as the issue of free trade that they’ve now jettisoned in favor of Trump’s tariffs. This says to me that they are simply supporting him out of political fear. Once he’s gone, that political fear will not be there. In addition, if he loses in 2020, they will have just been spanked at the polls, which will give them further incentive to change their ways. While there are certainly many Republicans on the far right that might actually believe in Trump’s new approach, there are also undoubtedly many that are not comfortable with it and will come back to the middle, at least somewhat.
The reason for the filibuster is not because the majority has wanted to be nice to the minority. It’s because the majority recognizes that they will be the minority at some point in the future. It’s why we give diplomatic immunity – not to protect the other country, but to protect our own people. It’s a basic rule of warfare. And when the clear front runner of the party can get attacked for merely the idea of being able to work with the other side, we’re in a very bad place. Dems criticized republicans for years for not being willing to compromise on anything, and now we’re turning into that which we criticized.
talkingpointsmemo.com · by Josh Marshall · June 11, 2019